Group stirring up ‘love’ for bikes on Danforth

Cycle Toronto's campaign for bike lanes draws local support

If you’ve ever ridden a bike on Danforth Avenue and wished there were designated bike lanes, you have company.

Cycle Toronto, a Toronto’s bicycling advocacy organization,  has launched a campaign called Danforth Loves Bikes! to call for bike lanes on the street.

“There’s a really strong rationale for Danforth,” said Jared Kolb, executive director of Cycle Toronto. “It’s a direct, continuous route that services many shops and businesses, and there’s a lot of bicycle lanes that currently connect to it. But you don’t have a lot of options once you get there, so Danforth is ideal to form a spine for the bicycle network.”

Arcady Genkin, a resident of the Pape and Danforth area who bikes to University of Toronto’s downtown campus everyday for his commute to work, says his support for this campaign has been a long time coming.

“I’ve been biking in Toronto for 20 years, and I still consider Danforth Avenue to be a dangerous place for a cyclist, especially during rush hours,” Genkin said.

Danforth Avenue is a key aspect of the geographical network of Toronto because it connects the entire eastern part of the city to downtown. Cyclists ride along this route at all times of day, but they have to accommodate themselves to the lack of a proper cycling path. The objective of Cycle Toronto’s campaign is to shed light on this situation and reform it.

Kolb said the campaign is also drawing residents’ support through a petition circulating for bike lanes on Danforth. The group has also engaged with businesses in the area.

“There are now more than 60 businesses along Danforth that we’ve spoken with that are endorsing the idea of bicycle lanes on Danforth,” Kolb said. “They’re putting the Danforth Loves Bikes! sticker up in their window to demonstrate that, so it’s building momentum.”

The idea for bike lanes on Danforth has been in the works since 2009 when a formal environmental assessment was launched to study lanes on the Bloor Street and Danforth. The assessment was eventually cancelled during Mayor Ford’s elections, but the initiative has picked up again since.

“I think the creation of bike lanes on Danforth would be amazing for the neighbourhood, and for connectivity in the city,” said Sylvia Slaughter, a frequent bicyclist in the Danforth area.

“Bike lanes make so much sense because the Danforth is wide, 16.5 metres I believe, and that’s plenty of space to put in driving lanes, parking spots, and bike lanes,” she said.

Kolb also said one of the main reasons behind this campaign is the right of way.

“Danforth is wide enough to accommodate bicycle lanes without actually having to lose much on-street parking,” said Kolb.

In terms of logistics alone then, the addition of bike lanes on Danforth makes sense. The street is consistently wide enough, it would reduce the element of danger for cyclists, and it would go a long way in facilitating connectivity within the city.

“There is so much potential connecting to the downtown biking infrastructure through a bike lane, and the only way to use that potential in a meaningful way is to continue the bike lane on Danforth Avenue,” said Genkin.

Toronto City Council is to approve a 10-year cycling network plan created by the city next year, and Cycle Toronto’s goal is to have the campaign for bike lanes on Danforth included in the plan. Their objective until then is to launch a pilot project for bike lanes on Danforth as soon as possible, and they’re scouting public support for this campaign by encouraging individuals to sign their pledge.

That it’s taken until this year to kick-start this initiative is largely due to a recent “era of fairly anti-bike mentality,” Kolb said. “I think that’s changed a lot in the last two years though and that the moment has passed.”

From daily commuters to occasional visitors, bicyclists of the Danforth area fervently support this campaign.

“In my opinion, there is no way around making a bike lane on Danforth, and it’s only a matter of time for it to be built,” said Genkin said.

“Bike lanes on Danforth make so much sense,” Slaughter said. “It’s such an obvious no-brainer to me.”