Kassa Dabreo on the Danforth. "The Danforth is a rough ride. A lot of bike people use this road – there are too many potholes and no bike lanes," he says in our Spring 2011 issue. Photo by Nana Arbova.
Changing Lanes: Envisioning safer cycling in our community
This is a forthcoming article for On the Danforth magazine's Summer 2012 issue. On the Danforth is a student-run publication affiliated with Centennial College's Book and Magazine Publishing program.
Story by Vanessa Pinto and Lindsay Ulrich.
There is a lot to take in on the streets of Danforth Avenue. Aside from a new menu item at that great Japanese restaurant or a growing bestseller list in a favourite bookstore, one might also notice an increase in something else: the number of cyclists on the road. Riders are entering the neighbourhood from Bloor Street across the Prince Edward Viaduct; others are setting out for a leisurely ride along the Don Valley trails. Our community is active, health conscious, and cycle-eager, and it makes one wonder: how would we benefit from bike lanes?
After discussing the issue with several knowledgeable sources, the staff at On the Danforth has cut through the misconception that bike lanes are a hassle for motorists and businesses, and uncovered three ways that bike lanes would benefit the community.
Bike lanes support local business
It is a common assumption that losing street parking will negatively affect local business. A study conducted by Clean Air Partnership, however, reveals that the majority of patrons of small businesses arrive by transit, bicycle, or on foot and found that non-drivers were more likely to spend more money in the area and visit more often.
Bike lanes ease road congestion
By keeping traffic moving, freeing up lanes previously blocked by parked cars, and encouraging city-dwellers to leave their cars at home during shorter trips, bike lanes can do a lot to ease traffic congestion.
As a member of the Danforth cycling collective Ward 29 Bikes, Val Dodge remarks that increased traffic congestion is largely the result of street parking. “On Danforth outside of rush hour, fully half of the traffic lanes are taken up by parked cars. Danforth already has more parking spots available to drivers than any similar commercial strip in the city of Toronto.”
“It’s a fallacy that bikes add to congestion woes,” says Tammy Thorne, Editor-in-Chief of the cycling magazine dandyhorse. “It’s well documented that cities with more cyclist commuters have less congestion.”
Dodge feels much the same way on this issue. “The simple answer is that bikes don’t cause congestion―cars do. You certainly can’t eliminate congestion by encouraging more people to drive.”
More cyclists on the road increases cyclist safety
Most cyclists feel safer when there are other cyclists on the streets with them, and there is documented truth to the matter. A report conducted in 2003 by researcher Peter Jacobsen identified a “safety in numbers” effect, which indicates that motorists adapt their behaviour and drive with increased awareness when there is a greater number of cyclists on the road.
Thorne says that “bike lanes make people feel safer―and that increases the number of cyclists on the road. There is safety in numbers. The more cyclists there are, the more motorists and policy makers take notice.”
A matter of planning
The drive to plan our city streets according to the needs of all those who share the roads is known as the “complete streets” approach, one that Thorne advocates, as well as Toronto-Danforth Councillor Mary Fragedakis.
Fragedakis explains how “complete streets” is a method of urban planning that keeps all citizens in mind. “A complete streets policy ensures that city planners and engineers consistently design and operate the entire roadway with all users in mind―including bicyclists, public transportation vehicles and riders, and pedestrians of all ages and abilities.”
Fragedakis emphasizes that she did not vote in favour of the Mayor’s Bike Plan in July of 2011, as it included discarding the plans for the Bloor-Danforth bike lane corridor. “I felt that taken as a whole [the Mayor’s Bike Plan] would mean less cycling in Toronto and would decrease safety in comparison to the bike plan in existence at the time.” Fragedakis finds hope in the dedication and ingenuity of cycling enthusiasts in Ward 29 and across the city.
Dodge offers a confident view of the Danforth with bike lanes. “Congestion would ease for those who still choose to drive, businesses would see more visitors, patios would be busier, and street life would improve.”
Toronto cycling facts:
- Cycling is on the rise in Toronto
- Toronto has the highest number of bicycle accidents in the country
- 25% of bike crashes involve a motor vehicle
- Two of the most common types of cycling accidents are being sideswiped by cars and cyclists crashing into open vehicle doors
- In Toronto there are 19,000+ cyclists in the downtown core on a typical week day (Source: City of Toronto 2010 Bicycle Count (downtown/"screenline" count) http://www.toronto.ca/cycling/reports/pdf/bicycle_count_report_2010.pdf )
Related on the dandyBLOG: Red Tent Sisters eco-friendly sex shop supports safe rides