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One in four Toronto wards are bike lane dead zones

Wards in North York, Etobicoke and Scarborough have huge gaps without any bike lanes.

Ward 35 cyclist Jonathan Schmidt stands on the corner of Birchmount and Danforth Ave, in Scarborough.

Eduardo Lima / Metro Order this photo

Ward 35 cyclist Jonathan Schmidt stands on the corner of Birchmount and Danforth Ave, in Scarborough.

One quarter of Toronto's wards – all in the suburbs – don't have any on-street bike lanes, prompting criticism from cycling advocates that council is failing to build its cycling network across the city.

"The original 2001 plan envisioned that every Torontonian would live within one kilometre of bike lanes," said Jared Kolb, executive director of advocacy group Cycle Toronto.

"That vision has not been realized," he added. "We haven't seen the leadership from local councillors."

Of Toronto's 11 wards without bike lanes in them, three are in Etobicoke-York, three are in North York and five are in Scarborough.

Many of these gaps could be filled with council's 10-year bikeway plan that was passed in 2016. But Toronto has seen extensive cycling plans before that never came close to meeting their goals.

Some local cyclists don't want to see that happen again.

For the past 10 years Jonathan Schmidt has commuted from Birchmount and Danforth in Scarborough's Ward 35 to his job at U of T's downtown campus.

"When I started biking to work I was terrified," he told Metro.

With more experience he felt safer on his commute, especially when the local Birchmount bike lane was installed. But following the 2010 municipal election, that bike lane, along with one on Pharmacy Avenue, was torn out.

Today there are no bike lanes in a ward where half the residents don't own a car and street safety is a concern – more pedestrians were killed in traffic fatalities over the past decade in Ward 35 than any other part of the city, according to a Metro analysis of Toronto Police statistics.

Local councillor Michelle Holland was unavailable for comment on the issue on Thursday.

Schmidt was disappointed with the council decision but said he understood the political reality.

"A lot of my neighbours wanted them out," he said, adding that the community wasn't prepared to accept and embrace cycling infrastructure.

"What we need is a culture shift," Schmidt added.

The ward could see bike lanes in the future, depending on the implementation of the 10-year bikeway plan. Phase two of the proposed Midland Avenue bike lanes could go into Ward 35 as could the proposed Kingston Road-Danforth Avenue bike lanes.

While he's starting from zero, Schmidt has some hope.

"If we had bike lanes in Ward 35 that were connected to other bike lanes, I think we would see an explosion in cycling," he said.

Wards without lanes:

While all of Toronto's wards have some form of bike infrastructure, like trails that go through parks or ravines, big parts of the city still lack bike lanes. Here are the 11 wards that don't have bike lanes in them.

Ward 1: Etobicoke North

Ward 7: York West

Ward 12:York South-Weston

Ward 16: Eglinton-Lawrence

Ward 23: Willowdale

Ward 26: Don Valley West

Ward 35: Scarborough Southwest

Ward 36: Scarborough Southwest

Ward 39: Scarborough-Agincourt

Ward 40: Scarborough-Agincourt

Ward 43: Scarborough East

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