Educators and students gather to ask City Council to keep and extend the Bloor Bike Lane
Story by Cayley James
Photos by Jun Nogami
On a perfect blue-skyed morning students, teachers and trustees gathered at the northwest corner of Christie and Bloor to urge the city to not only keep the bike lane on Bloor but extend it further east and west. Students from five schools -- University of Toronto Schools, Central Toronto Academy, Bloor Collegiate Institute, Harbord Collegiate, and Ursula Franklin Academy -- said they benefit from the bike lane.
Organized as part of the fourth annual Bike to School Week which runs this week from May 29 to June 2, more than 430 schools across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area are registered to participate in Bike to School Week. All four districts of Toronto are represented, demonstrating the promise and potential for cycling across the city.
As with the Bike to Work Day and the launch of Bike Month across the GTHA - the celebration of all things two wheeled is marred by a council that seems unable to commit to taking the next step of ensuring safety for cyclists and growing bike culture in our city.
From left to right: Claire Hunter, Natalka Bowley and Rhianne Whittaker.
With two high-profile cycling incidents on opposite ends of the city within the past week it seems like ensuring the safety of our young people on the road should be a no-brainer for city decision-makers.
“The Bloor street bike lanes are really effective because they physically segregate cyclists from traffic. I feel that if protected bike lanes are installed on more main streets, cycling volume will increase significantly. As a student who regularly bikes, I strongly urge Toronto City Council to support the Bloor Street bike lane project,” said Mariam El-Tayeb, student at Central Toronto Academy.
From left to right: Shwetabh Mohapatra, Ali Mahmandzadehniknam, and Mariam El-Tayeb of Central Toronto Academy.
Central Toronto Academy, located on Shaw St, is home to the largest Bike to School club in the city and is run by Culture Link. With their green T-shirts they were easily the most noticeable group at the event. Mariam has only lived in Toronto for nine months and since learning to traverse the city on bike she has gained confidence and pride in her city. Her sentiments were echoed by her peers from the other schools. All cited the health and economic advantages, as well as the personal fulfillment that comes with learning to ride.
Mariam wants bike lanes because it sends a clear message that the city respects their safety as cyclists. It is this fear of taking major roads that’s preventing kids from choosing to ride to school and enjoying their free time on bikes.
“Even though students know about the benefits of active transportation, their apprehension lies with concerns about safety. A protected and dedicated cycling lane is the effective solution to their concerns…I am thinking of at least six high schools located within short distance of Bloor Street corridor,” said Kevin D’Souza, Central Toronto Academy teacher. Marika Kungla, a teacher at Ursula Franklin Academy, presented a statement and petition to keep the bike lanes on behalf of the school.
Marika Kungla of Ursuala Franklin Academy.
Based on recent information ridership has grown significantly. From August 2016 it was estimated that there were 3,000 cyclists rode along Bloor Street between Bathurst and Spadina over a 24 hour period. In October of 2016 it grew to approximately 4,500 cyclists per day and just in May of 2017 within one 24 hours period it was up to 5,500. You can read the recent report here and find out why these numbers are significant. This begs the question why, on June 5, the city is even considering holding yet another a town hall about bike lanes on Bloor. As Christian Matta, a student from Bloor Collegiate Insitute, pointed out the wards in which the Bloor bike lane cuts through (wards 18, 19, 20) have a significantly number of younger people between the ages of 25 and 34 (based on the 2011 Census Data) -- many of whom ride bikes.
Christian Matta of Bloor Collegiate Institute.
The take away of today’s event was clear. There is a new generation of engaged, articulate and passionate citizens who see cycling not just as a recreational activity, but as a vital part of city living. Council has got to listen…and fast.