The Bike Budget Explainer*
We'd like to call this an *Explainer, but we can't, because, well, it's kind of inexplicable
by Albert Koehl
Does Picasso paint Toronto’s bike lanes? You might think so when comparing the $11 million in capital spending on cycling last year with the 8.5 km of bike lanes that were actually created. Following the money offers a better, even if less satisfying, explanation. The bottom line is that only 11.5 percent of last year’s spending (plus some amount for painting the lines) from the cycling infrastructure budget went to what most people would expect from such a budget – new bike lanes.
In the spring of 2016, community advocates fought hard to secure $16 million in annual funding for cycling infrastructure. At the time, there was hope this higher funding could accelerate the Bike Plan’s ten-year timeframe for the 335-km of anticipated new bike lanes (including sidewalk level paths).
So how did we get so few bike lanes from the $16 million capital budget for cycling – of which $11 million was actually spent?
The question isn’t simply academic. Toronto’s bike infrastructure falls far short of cities like Montreal, where 90 km of new lanes were installed over the last three years alone. In fact, forty years after our first bike lane, there are bike lanes on a mere two percent of Toronto roads -- and we’re still a long way from having a coherent bike network. The lack of progress is disturbing for a year when there were five cycling fatalities – a toll not exceeded since 1998.