The city has fallen behind in its plans for the Bikeway Network Program initiated in 2008. But how much of a priority is this program for Scarborough residents?
“I can see physically that in my ward people are taking advantage of the bike lanes where they’re built,” says Ward 44 Councilor Ron Moeser. “But as far as the success [of the program], I’d say at this point, nobody knows.”
Moeser says about 50 per cent of the initially planned bike lanes have been installed throughout the city so far as part of a Bike Plan put forth more than eight years ago. The project, costing $7 million each year, was to be completed by 2011 but has now been postponed until 2013.
Although most of the project centers on the city’s downtown core, a lot of the unfinished bike routes were designed for the boroughs of the city, including Scarborough.
“The problem we have is that people that are in the suburbs themselves are not used to the bicycle systems,” says Moeser. Most people who find themselves in the suburbs are generally used to driving or taking the TTC, he says.
“The big question is always, if we build, will they come? Or are they still used to their cars so much?” says Moeser.
Lukasz Pawlowski, senior engineer for the Cycling Infrastructure and Program Group, says there have been a number of reasons behind the delays in the project’s completion.
“The installation season usually runs from May to October, so it’s very difficult for us to actually install anything new in November and later just because of the weather conditions,” says Pawlowski. “Whenever we have approvals for something later in the year, normally those projects end up by default having to be followed up in the next year.”
Pawlowski also says this year’s city strike came at the peak season of the work period for his company and greatly affected the process of installing the bike lanes since most of the staff working on the project are unionized.
“Right now, especially in the suburbs, we’ve got sections of lanes or routes in some areas that are a little disconnected from each other, there’s remnants of bike sections that are not connected to the network,” says Pawlowski. “But the real benefit of a particular piece is seen once you get the connection to the remainder of the network.”
The full benefit of the Bikeway Network Program for the suburbs of Toronto will not be obvious until the completion of the project.