City committee puts brakes on bike lanes

Bicyclists hoping for 3.24 kilometres of additional bike lanes in Etobicoke will have to wait until the safety of cyclists can be assured, city council’s Public Works and Infrastructure Committee have decided.

During a meeting on Monday, Sept. 8, councillors decided to stay the vote to install two sections of bike lanes on Horner Avenue and on the Queensway in Etobicoke after the committee determined the volume of large trucks travelling both routes could pose a danger to cyclists.

The 250-metre stretch on the Queensway is near the Ontario Food Terminal, while the 2.9 km area on Horner Avenue has large commercial trucks driving to the nearby transportation routes of the Gardiner Expressway and the 427.

The city’s Trasnportation Services wrote in its report that “the bicycle lanes and traffic lanes (on Horner Avenue) have been designed at a wider width to safely accommodate large trucks and cyclists and additional signage and pavement makings will be installed to increase the visibility of the bicycle lanes.”

However, Coun. Mark Grimes, (Ward 6, Etobicoke-Lakeshore) felt the safety issue needed more study.

“We’ve heard a lot about safety, but what about on Horner?” Grimes asked. “Going down from four lanes to two in an industrial cement zone? Can trucks and bikes co-habitate on a truck route together?”

Anthony Humphreys, a member of the management team for the Toronto Cyclists Union, has a different take on the area and spoke at the meeting. He lives in Etobicoke and frequently cycles along Horner Avenue.

“The volume of truck traffic is low, but there are a large number of cyclists who are currently all on the sidewalk,” Humphreys said. “The committee should consider as a pilot or test to put in a physical barrier to discourage incursion of motor vehicles in [the] bike lanes.”

Gil Penalosa, executive director of Walk and Bike for Life, presented some ‘baby steps’ the city can take to make roads more bicycle-friendly. Like Humphreys, Penalosa suggested barriers.

“Having bikeways separated from cars and pedestrians will make roads safer,” Penalosa said. “You will be able to send an eight year old on to the agreed streets.”

Penalosa showed photos of how separate bike lanes succeeded in cities such as New York, Portland, Oregon, and Bogota, Colombia. Examples included small boulevards, parking between bike lanes and roads and different raised levels for cars, bikes and pedestrians.

Coun. Grimes supports increasing the bike infrastructure throughout Toronto, but worries about the safety of cyclists, he said.

“Bikes and trucks don’t mix. Don’t let the lanes go down on Horner,” Grimes said. “I support the Toronto Bike Plan, but pick the right routes.”

The Toronto Bike Plan, initiated in 2001, aims to increase bike lanes on streets to 495 km by the year 2012. To ensure this plan succeeds, annual targets have been set by Transportation Services. The total 13.2 km stretch of bike lanes proposed on Sept. 8 would have increased lanes to 114 km and reached 2008’s target of 50 km.

Other proposed bike lanes included Brimorton Drive and Conlins Road in Scarborough and Renforth Drive in Etobicoke. The committee also stayed these decisions.

For more information:

Proposals for Horner Ave. are: 421 P0046 and 421 P0047

Proposals for the Queensway are: 421 P0105 and 421 P0106