City plans more bike lanes for the ‘boroughs

By Karen Ho

A surprise announcement at city hall on Monday has further expanded the availability of bike lanes in Scarborough.

This week, city manager of pedestrian and cycling infrastructure Dan Egan withdrew a committee recommendation that threatened to make one of the new Scarborough bike lanes currently under consideration for construction only available to cyclists part-time.

UTSC Bikeshare founder Jenika Wong is excited about the two new bike routes planned, but admits that cycling in the suburbs presents challenges not found downtown.On Sep. 8, the city’s public works and infrastructure committee announced plans for four new bike lanes to be built in suburban areas as part of its bike plan.

Currently the two routes planned for Scarborough would span 6 km and be would be located along Conlins Road and on Brimorton Drive.

While the planned Brimorton route would be more than twice as long as Conlins, it initially lacked far more public access due to an early proposal for Brimorton to be a hybrid bike lane. The plan would allow clear cycling on the trail during peak commute hours but short-term vehicle parking on the bike path portion of the road during off-peak hours.

That decision changed Monday night during a cycling advisory committee meeting. Egan announced that after some reconsideration and consultation, public works committee chair Ward 38 Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker had decided the route be strictly for cyclists and would be presented to city council as such.

UofT Scarborough BikeShare founder Jenika Wong has mixed feelings about the 4.1 km route stretching from Brimley Road to Scarborough Golf Club Road.

The longer of the two bike routes planned for Scarborough, the plan along Brimorton Drive will measure 4.1 km. Commenting on the website I Bike T.O., she pointed out, “Brimorton Drive happens to be a terrific-yet-unknown alternative to Ellesmere [Road] for Centennial [College] and UTSC students going to Scarborough Town [Centre Rapid Transit Station].”

Still, she admitted the street has many more hills than downtown routes and is far less direct than taking Ellesmere Road.

“Every cyclist wants to see more direct routes that are chosen – not just these tiny little ones that you know that you eventually have to loop up onto the big roads,” said Wong with a big grin. “Just some nice big ones that are flat, that would be great.”

I Bike T.O. editor Anthony M. Humphreys cited other current problems besides windy roads for the lack of suburban cyclists.

“There’s a pent-up demand, people want to do it but they’re afraid, they’re literally afraid,” he said.

It’s not just the longer distances and higher speeds of traffic. Humphreys also pointed to higher attachments to cars, road space and little consideration on cycling’s decongestion affects as some of other the major reasons why biking lacks popularity outside the downtown core.

“For a lot of these people, too many of them have the attitude of ‘You’ll take these car keys from my cold dead fingers’,” he briefly paused, before laughing. “And so they really view [cycling] as a threat and not as a compliment to getting around.”

The Conlins Road route may be shorter at 1.9 km but it will provide cyclists with an alternative, safer route to crossing Highway 401 than other major streets.In areas where everything seems only accessible by car, Wong hopes bike lanes will help people remember not everyone travels by four wheels alone.

“Building bike lanes would remind people in the suburbs that they’re sharing the road with cyclists,” she said.

The public works and infrastructure committee’s report will be presented to city council on Wednesday, Sep. 24.

Humphrey estimates a quick approval by city council could mean construction on the two new Scarborough bike routes could start as quickly as in a few weeks.