Photo by Martin Reis. Contraflow lane on Montrose. The aim of the bike lane was to provide a safer route for kids to get to the park and swimming pool.
Sign the petition to support the installation of new contraflow lanes in Toronto
By Tammy Thorne and Sarah Greene
Photo by Martin Reis
Last Wednesday, November 28, Jonah Schein, NDP MPP (Davenport) announced a petition asking the Minister of Transportation to support contraflow bike lanes in Toronto. Since then, over 800 people have signed it.
Contraflow lanes are bike lanes that run opposite to the direction of car traffic on one-way streets, often they are separated from traffic with bollards or barriers and/or a yellow stripe. These lanes often allow cyclists to remain on quieter side streets and to take a direct route to a destination. One-way streets are usually designed this way on purpose to slow down vehicular traffic. Contraflow lanes are legal, and Toronto (like many cities) already has a number of them (including the one on Montrose, pictured above) but the installation of new contraflow bike lanes here has been stalled in recent years, partly because of differing interpretations of the Highway Traffic Act.
dandy publisher Tammy Thorne asked Jonah Schein about his experiences biking in Toronto and what inspired him to start the petition.
Photo of Jonah Schein on his bike courtesy of his staff
Q&A Jonah Schein MPP Davenport
Why did you start this petition?
As a Toronto cyclist, I know first-hand that we need to improve cycling infrastructure and make cycling safer in our city. I met with members of Cycle Toronto in late spring to discuss the status of the 13 delayed contraflow lanes in our City. I wrote a letter in May asking the Minister of Transportation to clarify that these lanes are allowed under the Highway Traffic Act, but I found his response unsatisfactory and I knew more could be done. Toronto cyclists have been waiting for almost five years for these bike lanes. I started this petition to show the Ministry that there is strong consensus in our city: cycling advocates, City councillors, and local cyclists all want to see immediate action from the provincial government. It's time to get Toronto moving and cycling and active transportation is part of the answer.
Why is it necessary for the province to clarify the rules for the City of Toronto? Can't a by-law be updated or, conversely, isn't it something that would fall under the jurisdiction of Transportation Association of Canada?
There is a clause in the Highway Traffic Act that is causing the delay. The City of Toronto is concerned that under the Highway Traffic Act, contraflow lanes are illegal. Interestingly, the City of Ottawa has installed contraflow lanes under a different interpretation of the same Act. What we're asking from the Province is pretty straightforward – we just need the Ministry to clarify its position so that our city can move ahead with its bike plan.
Does your commute route involve any streets that need a contraflow lane?
I live on a one-way street that has a proposed contraflow lane, and I look forward to when it is finally installed. And yes, like most cyclists, my bike route will sometimes include cycling the wrong way down a one-way street. As cyclists, we want to choose routes that are convenient and safe, and it’s the municipal and provincial governments’ responsibility to make sure we have those options.
What would be the first new contraflow lane you'd like to see in Toronto?
Let's start with the 13 approved [contraflow] lanes. After those are installed, it's up to Toronto City Councillors to consult with local cyclists and community members and move ahead with more bike lanes.
Why is cycling important for cities?
Cycling is vitally important for cities. Cycling and walking are obviously good for our health, but they also help us relate to our city at a more human level. The cycling community in Toronto is strong, because we connect to each other differently when we're on our bikes. More people will choose to get out of their cars and onto their bikes if they feel that biking is an easy, safe option. The Ontario government has a role to play in promoting cycling, but the current government has been letting us down. It's not just the lack of clarity over contraflow lanes that has delayed cycling infrastructure in our cities. For the past two years, my party has been calling on the provincial government to release their draft cycling strategy. We need the Ministry of Transportation to show some leadership and commitment and get working to encourage more cycling in Ontario.
dandyhorse supports more contraflow lanes in Toronto, there were many proposed with the West-End bikeways project (map detail below) and both Seaforth in Parkdale and Denison in Kensington Market are used regularly by cyclists going both ways. We need to make these streets safe for all the people who use them on a regular basis. We will be following with more stories on existing and proposed/suggested contraflow lanes in Toronto soon.
Sign the petition here
Related on the dandyBLOG:
West-End bikeways project summary here.