Danforth bike lanes

Bike lanes a mixed blessing, argue some opponents

New Woodbine lanes draw both praise and ire

Not everyone is happy about the bike lanes that opened on Woodbine Avenue on Sept. 10.

“We already have so many issues with traffic in the city,” commuter Sarah McMullen says. “Woodbine is a very busy road, especially during rush hour, and when you take away a lane from each side, it creates a massive problem and wastes time.”

McMullen, a mental health counsellor who has been driving on Woodbine Avenue for the past two and a half years from Scarborough to see her clients all over Toronto, noticed the new bike lanes as she was driving to work.

“The city is really hard to get around in and for people to commute into it, this is not improving transit,” McMullen said.

She also doesn’t like the fact that no one was using the bike lanes while she was in traffic because of them.

McMullen said she likes bike lanes and believes promoting cycling is a good initiative to decrease the excessive congestion on Toronto roads, but she disagrees with them on major roadways.

“Woodbine is such a busy street for commuting, that cutting the road down to one lane on each side is very frustrating.”

Instead of the city putting them on major roads, the city could have bike lanes on side streets and less congested areas, she proposed.

But local councillors are driving to make East York’s major roads more bike friendly.

Councillors Mary-Margaret McMahon and Janet Davis, whose wards are connected along Woodbine Avenue have their eyes set on installing a bike lane running across Danforth Avenue connecting Coxwell and Victoria Park Avenues.

“Hopefully we will see bike lanes on Danforth, to make the major connect on Danforth and Woodbine that people in this community have been calling for sometimes,” Davis said

Woodbine bike lanes opening ceremony
Councillors Mary-Margaret McMahon (L) and Janet Davis celebrate the opening of the Woodbine bike lanes.

Katie Sonnichsen, who has been cycling around the city for the past 20 years, says she uses Woodbine Avenue to go to the gym, while her husband takes it to bike to work.

“He’s been saying since we’ve moved to the area 20 years ago that he’d love to see bike lanes on the Danforth,” Sonnichsen said. “I feel like there is enough real-estate — I think that you could still have parking.”

She questions whether East York is really bike friendly.

“I think it could always be better,”Sonnichsen said. “I feel like the side streets are more appealing to me than the main routes. It’s not even because of the volume of cars but distracted driving,”

She said a bike lane would make her feel safer on the Coxwell Avenue stretch.

“It’s hard to act like a car when cars don’t treat you like a car,” she said. “They’ll slide up beside you and try to squeeze you back into the side of the lane.”

Toronto’s 10-year cycling plan may have been put in place to further connect the city, but Sonnichsen feels like such regulations don’t promise permanent fixes when a change in city council comes around.

“I think we have to stay committed to completing the bike plan network,” councillor Davis said. “We have had previous bike plans and quite often the completion has fallen because of a lack of courage to follow through. This time we have to remain committed.”

Sonnichsen has lived on Jarvis Street and saw bike lanes get removed for centre lanes. On the other hand, as a property owner, this also meant accessible parking.

Sonnichsen also understands both sides of the argument. Living on a side street in the area she says that since the installation of the Woodbine bike lanes, she has noticed more traffic on her street.

“It’s a bit of a catch-22 — I’m pro bike lane but I’m also not pro extra volume of people cutting through the side streets,” Sonnichsen said. “Maybe the solution is to have something like in the Annex, where there’s a network of one-way streets. That would be a good solution.”

Larry Greenspan, also a cyclist, welcomes the proposed changes but calls the stretch along the Danforth “hazardous.”

He said, “I can’t imagine how they are going to accommodate both traffic and bike traffic. As such, it may become even more treacherous than it is now.”

Greenspan also prefers travelling through side streets because, aside from the Woodbine bike lane, he doesn’t “know where they are in East York.”

“I find it very difficult to drive without bike lanes with traffic. Very unsafe and very insecure.” Greenspan says that he feels more comfortable driving against traffic because of safety concerns.

Greenspan, who has cycled in the area for more than 15 years, notes that the biggest change he has seen over time is the sense of welcomeness.

“Interesting enough, I noticed a lot more animosity from both motorists and pedestrians,” Greenspan said. “I think because it’s become such a public debate people are much more conscious about it.

“The pendulums have gone from they ignore you and nearly hit you, to the become aggressive and nearly hit you.”

A count by the East York Observer showed 49 cyclists using the new Woodbine bike lanes at Danforth on a Tuesday evening and 51 on a Wednesday evening. 

We also noted that Danforth seemed to carry about twice as many bicycle riders.