Cyclists depart from Christie Pitts Park for the ninth annual Bells on Bloor bike ride.

Cyclists ring bells on Bloor

Bike lane debates across Toronto are far from over but recent progress gave the public a reason to celebrate

Hundreds of cyclists made their way to Christie Pitts Park on Sunday to welcome the Bloor Street Pilot Bike Lanes project, approved by city council in May.

“This is our ninth annual ride and this year we’re celebrating the installation of the bike lanes,” said Albert Koehl, founder of Bells on Bloor. “But it’s also a way of transitioning into the bigger fight, which is we want bike lanes across Bloor-Danforth.”

New bike lanes that stretch from Shaw Street to Avenue Road along Bloor Street West were installed by the city in August. They have since been greeted with support by some of the public.

“Before the bike lanes went in, there were about 3,500 cyclists counted at Bloor and Spadina,” Koehl says. “We counted 6,100 in a one day period, a 75-percent increase since the bike lanes were put into effect.”

Dennis Valera, a Parkdale-Trinity resident, came across the event on Facebook and decided to get involved. “I also noticed the bike lanes during Open Streets last Sunday and came to show support today.”

Bells on Bloor is a community group that formed in 2007. The group sees bike lanes as a transformational opportunity to get more people riding, both east-west and north-south. Along with advocating for the use of bike lanes and slower speed limits, it also works with other groups, including Cycle Toronto.

City councillor Joe Cressy came to show his support by reminding attendees that if you can put a bike lane on Bloor Street, you can put a bike lane anywhere. “This is what a 21st-century city looks like,” he said. “This will make it better for the environment, local businesses, and help alleviate congestion, because every person not in a car is better for all of us.”

To make the Bloor Street pilot a permanent fixture, Bells on Bloor is encouraging the public to contact city councillors about safety concerns, fears and experiences, and the City’s liability.

Other reasons to ride

Angela Bischoff formed Take the Tooker in 2005 in honour of her late partner, environmental activist Tooker Gomberg, with a vision of having a bicycle expressway from Mississauga to Scarborough, along the Bloor-Danforth corridor.

“When I ride with Bells on Bloor, I say ‘Take the Tooker!'” Bischoff says. “But most other people here aren’t aware of that history, that this joint campaign has been going on for many years.”

She continues to work alongside Bells On Bloor to make this vision a reality.