Meanwhile in T.O., we're building barriers to biking
Number of cyclists in Toronto: More than 900,000
Number of year-round cyclists in Toronto: More than 225,000 - that's the entire population of Victoria.
The single biggest deterrent to cycling: Fear of riding in traffic.
The arguments for separated bike lanes
• Cyclists continue to be injured in large numbers in the downtown core - in 2003, 1,198 cyclists were reported injured, 50 of them seriously, and that's not counting unreported collisions.
• Despite the carnage, there are no plans to improve infrastructure on major east-west bike corridors, among them King, Queen, Dundas, Bloor and College.
• Cyclists are so intimidated by vehicular traffic that they're retreating to the sidewalks and, in the process, endangering themselves and pedestrians.
• Roads that bikes share with cars are badly deteriorated (ruts and potholes), increasing the risk to cyclists.
The arguments against
• Too touchy a subject. Cycling boosters are already having a devil of a time convincing city bureaucrats to live up to promises to expand existing bike lanes. Of the almost 100 kilometres of bike lanes promised for 2003 under the city's Bike Master Plan, only 11.6 kilometres of new bike lane was actually created.
• Too expensive. It's a lot cheaper to paint a white line on the street than it is to widen a street or put up barriers to protect cyclists from motorists. Of the $2.5 million promised for cycling infrastructure in 2003, only $1.397 million was actually delivered.
The European experience: In cities with separated bike lanes, more than a third of all trips are made by bike - including in Germany, which has the second-highest per capita ownership of cars in the world (after the U.S.).
On our side of the street: Cycling advocates have been pushing the city - so far to no avail - to lower speed limits on streets where there are bike lanes because of increasing collision rates.
The good news: T.O. boasts an excellent network of off-road bike paths, primarily in the Don Valley.
The bad news: The paths are not integrated into the on-road bike lane system and are not a viable option for commuting.
Shifting gears: In 87, the city's cycling slogan, "Bicycles belong," was geared to encouraging cycling. Today, the rallying cry, "Don't be a road warrior," seems to suggest cyclists are the ones posing the danger on the roads, not cars.
Beyond the psychological barrier: It's all downhill from here unless and until drivers and transportation bureaucrats at city hall begin to recognize cycling as not just a recreational toy but a serious mode of transportation.