What's Up Bloor Bike Lanes
By Albert Koehl (This story is in our new issue of dandyhorse. Buy it here.)
Toronto’s cyclists may not be impressed by City Hall’s long inaction on providing a safe cycling network, but they can’t help but be impressed by the creativity of excuses for that inaction.
Let’s say, for example, you want a bike lane on Bloor-Danforth. You don’t want to seem unreasonable or be too hasty – after all, the 25-year fight is short by some measures. Instead, how about a simple pilot project along a 1.5 km stretch of Bloor that is used by thousands of cyclists in the Annex and University of Toronto areas?
Surely there could be no excuse to reject such a modest proposal?
How about: “you need more consultation with the community?”
No. In this case, The Annex Residents Association did a public consultation that showed overwhelming support for bike lanes on Bloor. A similar consultation by Toronto Public Health found that a bike lane was the top active transport priority for residents. And, all five neighbouring residents associations signed a letter to the local councillor calling for the proposed bike lane pilot.
How about: “you need an environmental assessment?”
No again. It turns out no EA is needed for any bike lane that is constructed within the existing roadway. In fact, Dan Egan, a senior official with Toronto’s Transportation Services, finally acknowledged this point at a recent meeting. The law is actually clear, but only available to the public on payment of a fee. For years, City officials showed little interest in clarifying the point.
How about: “businesses don’t want to give up any parking?”
Not this time. In fact, last year, the then chair of the local Business Improvement Area (BIA) said — based on their recent AGM — people are more than willing to give up parking for bike lanes. This wasn’t surprising, a study for the area showed that motorists account for only 10% of the business at local shops. (The new BIA chair is also willing to give up parking although he and the local councillor — based on nominal community engagement — favour street patio boxes in that space.)
How about: “there’s no money in the City budget”?
Nope. In fact, the City will be taking almost $300,000 from the cycling budget to pay a consultant to study the environmental impacts of a bike lane on a much longer stretch of Bloor Street. In any case, a pilot would only require re-striping of the road – a relatively minor cost.
This time the excuse for rejecting a pilot project on Bloor Street is…Transportation Services doesn’t have the staff resources because they are too busy with other bike lane projects.
I’ll bet you wouldn’t have guessed that one.
Albert Koehl has been an environmental lawyer for 25 years. He has been recognized by NOW magazine, I Bike TO, and Toronto Centre for Active Transportation (TCAT) for his cycling advocacy. In 2012, alongside Patrick Brown, he called for and then served on the Ontario Chief Coroner's active transport reviews for pedestrian and cycling safety. Albert is currently a candidate for Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina in the upcoming municipal election.
Albert's group, Bells on Bloor also put this video together about the Bloor St. Bike Lane Project.
This story is in our new issue of dandyhorse. Buy it here.
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