Bike lanes, not Bloor Street, are Toronto’s cycling priorities, says councillor

Toronto cycling groups have been lobbying City Hall for bike lanes on Bloor Street ever since amalgamation.

And at a Toronto Cycling Advisory Committee (TCAC) meeting on Monday, March 17, Councillor Adrian Heaps declined committee members’ request to establish a working group for Bloor.

His rationale: he does not want to detract from the 50 kilometres of bikes lanes already planned Toronto this year. Margaret Hastings-James, a member of the old and new committees, is frustrated.

“It’s like beating my head against a brick wall,” she said.

But Heaps, chair of TCAC, says that a design for bike

lanes along Bloor is coming in May. In the meantime, Heaps wants to cut the main thoroughfare down from four to two lanes called “sharrows” – two big lanes shared by cars and cyclists.

“Everything from Avenue Road going west is being looked at in terms of potentially eliminating parking, reducing lanes and dealing with BIAs,” he said. “And there’s good councillor support for bike lanes along Bloor.”

Heaps says he wants to bring a bike culture to Toronto, a car-friendly city. He is resolute that 50 kilometres of bike lanes will be installed this year and he hopes another 75 kilometres next year and 95 kilometres the year after that.

Hastings-James says if Heaps reaches his 50-kilometre goal it means that more bike lanes will have been installed in the city this year then in the last 10.

“But if he doesn’t do it,” she said. “Then it’s going to be upsetting for a lot of people that are working on projects like a bike lane across Bloor Street.”

The planning bureaucracy for bike lanes is complicated, but Heaps, has created a new process to approve bike lanes that he hopes will help streamline it – he cut the community counsel meetings from the original process so that pressure to install bike lanes now has to be put directly on individual councillors.

Those councillors then bring their suggestion to Heaps and it is voted on at city council.

Heaps says the majority of Toronto councillors favour the new approval process – it was accepted in a 37 to two vote at council.

Hastings-James feels that the new process is a mixed blessing. She thinks the new cycling committee allows members focus attention where they think it is most needed, but forces them to do the work at the community level.

So, because the Toronto Cyclist Union – the first umbrella cycling group to cover all 44 wards of Toronto – will soon be launched, Hastings-James says she will probably do a lot of partnering with them to get areas prioritized by the councillors.

The co-ordinator of the bike union, Dave Meslan, said the last TCAC meeting was the first time he had been listened to so attentively. He said that cyclists are also to blame for bike lanes not being built.

“There are public meetings every time a street is reconstructed,” he said, at the TCAC meeting. “I don’t think the problem is the process, I think it’s the lack of organization on our part as cyclists.”

The city kicks off bike month with a ride and sponsored pancake breakfast on May 26. Starting at community points cyclists ride and converge at Yonge and Bloor streets at 8 a.m. and ride to City Hall for breakfast.

Information for the ride is available on the city website.