Story and photos by Robert Zaichkowski based on bike plan tracking work done with Albert Koehl
No amount of sugar coating can hide the fact 2019 was a dismal year for bike lane installations. That year saw only three kilometres of on-street cycling infrastructure installed; a number considered dismal even by the standards of the three prior years. This brings the four year total to 30.5 kilometres or still less than 10% of the 335 kilometres called for in the 2016 Cycling Network Plan.
Some of these installations filled key gaps including an 800 metre boulevard trail along Unwin Avenue which completed the Martin Goodman Trail from Mimico to the Beaches. Further west, a 1.5 kilometre cycle track was installed on Scarlett Road which serves as a useful link between the Eglinton West Trail and Bloor West Village via the Black Creek Trail and Runnymede Road; the terminus of the planned extension of the Bloor bike lanes expected to be installed this August (subject to council approval). The remaining bike lane installations can be found along Blue Jays Way – an extension of the existing Peter Street bike lanes – and a short contraflow bike lane on Corley Avenue.
Etobicoke’s Six Points intersection of Kipling, Dundas, and Bloor saw significant progress with the first signs of protected bike lanes on Bloor west of Shaw Street – a short stretch from Dundas to Resurrection – as well as on Dundas from Kipling to Dunbloor. Since the intersection remains closed to people who bike, none of the 1.5 kilometres proposed for the intersection will count until 2020. As for the remaining 2019 projects, Lawrence East in Scarborough and Willowdale in North York are currently under construction and expected to be done in 2020, while no progress has been made on the short stretches of Vaughan and Argyle.
Despite these dismal numbers, not all is lost for 2019. A fair number of good developments have happened which deserve mention.
After five years as a pilot project, the Richmond and Adelaide cycle tracks have finally become permanent with ridership increasing more than tenfold to become Toronto’s busiest bike route. The Adelaide cycle tracks will be relocated from the south side to the north sometime this year to ensure continuous protection, while permanent design elements such as concrete barriers are expected later on.
The 2016 bike plan was replaced in June 2019 with a three year implementation plan and (hopefully) improved capital works co-ordination, as well as a long term city-wide cycling network. The approval of this update included a direction to do design and consultation for extending the Bloor bike lanes from Shaw Street to High Park Avenue – later extended to Runnymede Road – for a distance of 4.5 kilometres. The update also included a direction to perform detailed design for pilot bike lanes on Danforth Avenue – the study for which was launched in November – though it remains unclear whether a 2020 installation is possible.
A lot of consultations were held in fall 2019 which will impact cyclists. In addition to Danforth, there was one for Downtown Yonge which unfortunately did not recommend bike lanes; instead calling for them to be installed on University Avenue. While the cycling community has expressed support for car-free areas along Yonge, there remains a need to install protected bike lanes along Yonge outside of those areas. A final decision for yongeTOmorrow is expected to be made in June. The other consultations held include Douro-Wellington, Dewson-Roxton, Shaw Street improvements, St. Lawrence neighbourhood connections, Peel-Gladstone, and the College-Dundas intersection.
Bike Share Toronto has seen another round of expansion to 5,000 bikes and 465 stations covering from the Humber River to Victoria Park Avenue and from the Waterfront to north of Eglinton Avenue. On the bike parking front, a new secure bike parking facility opened at Toronto City Hall after nine years. Becky Katz,Toronto’s new Pedestrian and Cycling Programs Manager, started her role in September and has been favourably received among the cycling community so far.
Will last year’s dismal results lead to a better 2020? One thing you can do to help make that happen is to attend an open house for the Bloor bike lane extension either on Monday, January 27 (4-8 p.m.) at St. Wenceslaus Church (496 Gladstone Avenue) or Thursday, January 30 (4-8 p.m.) at Lithuanian House (1573 Bloor Street West). Another meeting is expected for Danforth in late January, so stay tuned for more details.
You can see the full bike lane tracking sheet here.
Robert Zaichkowski is an accountant, board member with Cycle Toronto, and writes the Two Wheeled Politics bike blog.