Debate rolls on: Bike lanes on Bloor?

Public Works Committee recommends City Hall approve environmental assessment

Bloor Street may soon be a safer place for cyclists.

The popular east-west route in downtown Toronto was recently the topic of discussion at a Public Works and Infrastructure Committee meeting at City Hall.

The committee has approved an environmental assessment (EA) to be conducted in conjunction with Dupont Street.

The proposed assessment will reach from Sherbourne St. in the east to Keele Street in the west and will include Dupont Street between Keele and Shaw streets.

One of Toronto’s main traffic arteries, runs east to west across the city.

According to Albert Koehl, chair member of Annex Residents Association, these are only baby steps in direction to a safer commute for Toronto cyclists.

But, he cautioned, it’s not a done deal: “doing the EA doesn’t mean you get a bike lane. It means you get a study.”

Koehl has been a long time activist for bike lanes on Bloor Street.

He co-founded Bells on Bloor, a group that has been pushing for a pilot project for bike lanes.

He says City Hall has gone through this process before and it eventually got cancelled. Now they are back in the same place and it could be years till they actually see a bike lane on Bloor.

Although things might be moving slowly, the ball is rolling and this has raised some serious questions as to how it might affect street traffic and business in the area.

Alex Ling, former chair of Bloor West Village BIA and past president of Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas, is apprehensive about the possibility of bike lanes. He said it might have an adverse affect on businesses on Bloor Street.

“Every time they put a bike lane, they seem to be taking away the on-street parking,” Ling said. “That creates a problem. (Businesses) depend on street parking.”

Ling added business owners are already fighting a losing battle against shopping malls.

“If they put a bike lane in and take away the parking it’s like another nail in the coffin,” Ling said.

But Jared Kolb, executive director of Cycle Toronto, takes issue with Ling’s assessment.

Kolb points out a study conducted by Toronto Centre for Active Transportation found that most people who shop in the Bloor-Annex area don’t arrive by car.

According to the study, said Kolb, people arrive by foot, bicycle or public transportation when going to the Bloor-Annex area.

“One of the things that we see in the literature consistently is that business owners often over represent the percentage in their estimates of people who arrive by vehicle,” Kolb said. “It’s typically much lower.”

In a video Koehl made to support bike lanes, Wade MacCallum, chair of the Bloor-Annex BIA, says he’s supportive of the bike lanes.

“We’ve made an official stance, we want bike lanes on Bloor. We are more than willing to lose the parking and replace them with bike lanes,” MacCallum said in the video.

Kolb added that in a survey done by staff and volunteers at Cycle Toronto, found that the number of off street parking and parking lots, far outnumber the spaces on Bloor Street.

Even if City Council approves the assessment, it may take years until bicycles are rolling down Bloor Street. Koehl thinks that’s cause for concern.

“Here we are again, two years after the previous environmental assessment was cancelled and we’re going to do another study,” Koehl said.

“We’d like to hear that councillors are for bike lanes…what is this about, is it about getting a study or getting a bike lane?

Council will vote on the issue in November.