'Staggering': Cycling rates spiking in downtown Toronto neighbourhoods
Jared Kolb of Cycle Toronto says anecdotal evidence suggested that cycling rates were on the rise— but few anticipated the “staggering rate of growth” revealed by the 2016 census.
|Report an Error|
Share via Email
Cycling rates are surging in some Toronto neighbourhoods, and bicycle advocates say the city needs to accelerate construction of new bike infrastructure in order to keep up.
In a report issued Monday, advocacy group Cycle Toronto said the results of the 2016 census show that while citywide the number of residents who bike to work remains a small minority, in some downtown neighbourhoods more than 30 per cent of people now report they commute by bicycle.
Topping the list was Cabbagetown, where 34 per cent said they rode their bike to work. Close behind was Bloor-Spadina, with 33 per cent, followed by Gerrard-Coxwell, with 26 per cent.
According to Cycle Toronto’s analysis, the figures have skyrocketed since the 2006 census, when just 9 per cent in Cabbagetown and 6 per cent in both Bloor-Spadina and Gerrard-Coxwell rode to work.
The split of cycling commuters citywide remains low but it has also jumped, from 1.7 per cent in the 2006 census to 2.7 per cent last year.
Kirsten Dahl is one of the persistent pedalers contributing to the spike in cycling rates. The 36-year-old commutes by bike daily from her home in Cabbagetown on the east side of downtown to her job at an environmental charity at King St. West and Bay St.
She said it’s not surprising she and so many of her neighbours are riding, because Cabbagetown is connected to separated bike lanes on Wellesley, Gerrard, and Sherbourne Sts., and is just north to the Richmond-Adelaide separated lanes.
“I have bike lanes basically at my door step that go straight to my workplace,” said Dahl, who said she’s concerned about safety and chooses her route according to whether it has bike lanes.
“So I think certainly the bike infrastructure goes a long way to encourage residents to pick up cycling.”
Jared Kolb, executive director of Cycle Toronto, said anecdotal evidence had previously suggested cycling rates were on the rise, but few anticipated the “staggering rate of growth” revealed by the census.
He agreed one likely factor is the city’s construction of separated bike lanes downtown. There has also been substantial uptick outside the core in areas such as New Toronto at Islington Ave. and Lakeshore Blvd. West, where there is modest bike infrastructure and the cycling rate is now 11 per cent.
According to Cycle Toronto, that “suggests there is a relationship between cycling mode share and presence of cycling facilities.”
“When we have gone out and built cycling infrastructure, we see an incredible return on investment when it comes to people riding,” Kolb said.
Although its bike network lags behind those of other comparable cities, Toronto has been gradually adding new bikeways. In what was seen by some observers as a tipping point, in November council voted to keep separated bike lanes on the major downtown route of Bloor St. W. following a contentious pilot project.
In June 2016, council passed a $153.5-million, 10-year cycling plan that would add 525 kilometres of cycling facilities to Toronto’s streets. But the plan was watered down when council voted to defer some proposed studies of bike lanes on major streets until the 2019 budget process.
Kolb argued given cycling’s rising popularity, council shouldn’t wait to build more bike infrastructure on major streets, and called on council to revisit the studies.
“I think Torontonians are further ahead than our politicians on this one, and they’re ready to ride more often. But what we need to see is that leadership from Toronto city hall,” he said.
Councillor Jaye Robinson (Ward 25, Don Valley West), who chairs the public works committee responsible for the bike plan, didn’t return a request for comment Monday.
The Ontario Liberal government announced Monday it would spend $25.6 million on Toronto bike projects this fiscal year as part of a province-wide commuter cycling program.
A city spokesperson said it was too early to provide details, but some of the money would be used to accelerate aspects of Toronto’s 10-year plan, while a portion would be used on new projects like a major expansion of the Bike Share system that would double the number of bikes and stations.
More on Metronews.ca