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Your Ride: Toronto

Glyn Bowerman is a Toronto-based journalist and theatre artist. He's a regular contributor to Spacing and writes about transportation issues in Metro every Tuesday.

Bike lanes on Bloor makes sense for small businesses

We’ve kicked the idea around for many, many years, with almost as many false starts and scrapped studies, but the advocacy group Cycle Toronto is mounting a serious push to finally make it happen.

As the city embarks on phase two of its Cycling Network Plan consultations, asking citizens like yourself to help set cycling infrastructure goals for the next 10 years, Cycle Toronto is peddling a petition naming Bloor Street a priority candidate for bike lanes.

The petition calls for a pilot project to begin next year which would test lanes on Bloor from Shaw Street to Avenue Road. Supporters can rally on social media, using the hashtag #bloorlovesbikes.

It’s a clever call, since these types of projects tend to inspire predictions of doom and traffic chaos which, when the plan actually implemented, fail to be the end of the world. Often, they’re a blessing to the neighbourhoods and businesses they affect.

Bike lanes on Bloor have long had the support of groups like the Bloor Annex Business Improvement Area. But some business owners balk out of fear that bike lanes will mean a reduction in lanes for cars and space for parking, which could scare off customers.

In fact, countless studies in cities all over the world have shown the addition of bike lanes tends to benefit businesses, and cyclists are good shoppers. Many neighbourhood businesses that originally demanded loss of space for cars have had to sheepishly admit that business had never been better than after the bike lanes were added.

A pilot project on Bloor is just what we need to show people that adding bike lanes won’t be the end of the world.

As it stands, while many cyclists use Bloor, riding it can be a harrowing experience. It is one of the most likely places to be “door prized,” as unaware motorists fling their doors open, into your path, in a hurry to grab some froyo (presumably).

A predictable argument against Bloor bike lanes is “congestion.” It’s been made before, when the idea has been floated.

To that I say: Bloor isn’t a highway. Arguing that major thoroughfares like Bloor are already too slow ignores the character of these streets.

Bloor is lined with small, independent businesses. Boutiques, looking to pique a passerby’s interest, line the strip. They’re looking to attract customers. You drive to the Ikea on the outskirts of town. You don’t drive to the artisanal cheese shop.

Streets like Bloor rely on a slower pace. If you’re in a hurry, hit the highway.

Glyn Bowerman is a Toronto-based journalist and theatre artist. He is also a regular contributor to Spacing Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @Banquos_Banquet

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