News / Toronto

What you need to know about the Bloor Bike lanes

What the city report showed and what happens next.

City transportation staff have given the Bloor bike lanes the stamp of approval and recommend they become permanent.

Eduardo Lima / Metro

City transportation staff have given the Bloor bike lanes the stamp of approval and recommend they become permanent.

In August 2016, the city put a 2.4-kilometre stretch of separated bike lanes on Bloor — from Shaw Street to Avenue Road — as a one-year pilot project following years of advocacy from cyclists. The goal was to make the corridor safer for everyone.

So what happened today?

City staff delivered their verdict, based on tons of data, that the lanes should be kept permanently. Mayor Tory has already come out in support, citing all the supportive data in the long-awaited report. Council still has the final say, but the stamp of approval gives cycle advocates a lot of ammunition.

So did the lanes draw more cyclists?

Big time.

According to the city's new official numbers, the pilot bike lanes have increased cycling on Bloor Street by 49 per cent — with 25 per cent of that being new riders — as of June 2017 compared to June 2016.

Looking at just the stretch of Bloor where the lanes were installed, cycling is up 56 per cent, with an average of 5,220 weekday cyclists. That's slightly less than what cycle advocacy group Bells on Bloor found when they did a video count over a five-day period, tallying an average of 6,000 a day.

Bloor Street W. now has the second-most used bicycle infrastructure in the city by volume. The first is at Adelaide and Richmond streets.

I thought the lanes increased driving times?

A fall 2016 study from the city found that car travel times during the afternoon peak period increased by eight minutes and 25 seconds and by just over four minutes in the morning peak. But the new report says the increased travel times have been cut in half, following signal timing tweaks.

What about safety?

The city admits there isn't that much data in only a year, but preliminary numbers show near-miss collisions are down and both drivers and cyclists feel safer. Conflicts between bikes and motorized vehicles dropped by 61 per cent.

And businesses?

There were rumblings from businesses owners that the lanes would hurt them. But the report found the opposite to be true.

The city worked with the Bloor Annex BIA and the Korea Town BIA on an economic impact study. A door-to-door survey of businesses and pedestrians found most businesses actually reported an increase in the number of customers.

Most visitors reported spending more time and visiting more often since the lanes were installed. The city also looked at data from Moneris, a company that processes debit and credit-card payments. Total customer spending in the bike-lane area has increased more than the area surrounding the lanes and in the Danforth Avenue control area, according to that data.

How much is all this going to cost?

The city spent $500,000 installing the lanes. Ripping them out would cost the city about $425,000, and there's no money for that in the current budget.

What else should I know?

The report doesn't say the lanes are perfect. It recommends additional tweaks including green area markings in conflict zones and/or intersection modifications for right turns at Bedford Road and Christie Street.

What happens next?

This doesn't mean the bike lanes are here to stay. The city's recommendation, with the data in the report, goes to the public-works committee next week. Council is expected to vote in November on the final decision.

But staff's endorsement gives a data-driven stamp of approval that will be hard to ignore.

Bike advocacy groups such as Cycle Toronto and Bells on Bloor are already mobilizing public support as the final decision nears. A petition is availble on Cycle Toronto's website.

Why does this matter?

Bloor is one of the busiest cycling corridors in the city, and the pilot's success provides a good case for building more bike lanes and a model for how to make it happen. The city said it's done "the most comprehensive performance evaluation undertaken for a cycling project in the city of Toronto."

The report also says separated bike lanes should be considered for the full length of the Bloor/Danforth corridor, with more study.

More on