Bloor bike lanes: did we just miss an opportunity to do something really big?

Rather than going long and thinking big, we saw a huge effort go into a couple of wards where there are progressive councillors, while the rest of the corridor is neglected



It’s almost sad: we could have painted bike lanes on Bloor overnight many years ago, but in Caronto we prefer changing the climate to removing a few parking spaces.

Council’s recent 36-6 vote to keep the bike lanes was seen as a huge win. Yes, in some ways, given how dominated council is on transportation issues by carservatives from the car-driving suburbs, it was something big.

But what was approved is only a third of what was proposed for study a decade ago. The 2.5-kilometre stretch that’s been approved concentrates safer biking in the Annex – and continues the trend of adding bike lanes on a ward-by-ward basis. If Bloor bike lanes are such a great thing, where is the bike lane west of Shaw – or Ossington (where the existing Harbord bike lane ends)? 

Rather than going long and thinking big, we saw a huge effort go into a couple of wards where there are progressive councillors, while the rest of the corridor is neglected. 

So we miss needed continuity to instead get a patchwork. Yet roadkill roulette continues to play out on our streets. Do cyclists’ lives matter less?

Despite claims of how extensive the data collection was on this pilot, there were some glaring gaps. The initial study parameters didn’t factor off-street parking when counting how many could stand to be removed from Bloor to make way for bike lanes. Then, no effort was made to find out how many of the cars that went through the area had only a single occupant. For motorists, the right to take up a lot of public space for free is a given. 

Seeing Bloor as a total pedestrian corridor, a novel concept to be sure, was never part of the visioning process. Neither was including how bike lanes could help take pressure of the Bloor subway, which is overloaded during morning and evening crush hours. Other cities may get transit relief for what it costs to paint bike lanes, but not in Toronto, where we seem to be okay with pushing this stretched workhorse further east for a Stupid Stubway Extension to a single corporate destination in Scarborough while blowing a few billion in the process. 

Progress, it seems, can’t be made beyond the Annex, nor can much be done to set in motion a good study of the Danforth that benefits both cycling and transit, even with all that infrastructure largesse from the federal level for transit. 

We’re not so far ahead from the years of enduring no bike lanes that we shouldn’t be making noise about either having a car-free zone, or five.

Hamish Wilson is a long-time cycling activist.

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