Bike lanes called dangerous after Toronto’s slow snow-clearing

Bike lane covered in snow atanforth and Pape
Westbound bike lane at Danforth and Pape avenues is covered in snow. (PHOTO COURTESY JEREMY BARKER) 

With the potential of more snow hitting Toronto, the city is scrambling to clear bike lanes after the previous big storm.

This is creating difficult conditions for those trekking the bike paths, some cyclists say.

Cyclists for the Toronto Bicycle Brigade, an organization delivering food and essentials to vulnerable communities and persons, are critical of the slow snow-clearing.

“For the 20 or 30 of us that have to ride across East York this weekend, I can’t imagine how dangerous it’s going to be for all of our volunteers,” the group’s Lanrick Bennett Jr. said.

Toronto is expected to be hit with more snowstorms after navigating a historic snowfall that covered the city with 55 centimetres of snow in 15 hours.

The city hastily removed snow from roadways across the city to ensure safety and accessibility for emergency vehicles. But the snow was often plowed onto subway stops, sidewalks and bike lanes.  

Mountains of ice occupied bike lanes for days after the snowstorm, causing many who use bicycles as a primary method of transportation to seek other means.

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Residents across East York voiced their frustration as city officials and politicians remained silent throughout the week. Many who use bike lanes were left without timely updates and safe ways to use infrastructure the city promised to develop in previous elections.

“What was the thought process of clearing streets?” Bennett asked. “Maybe the plan was to just dump everything in the bike lanes. It completely negates all the money the city spent on cycling infrastructure.”

Cyclist riding on Jones Avenue bike lane.

The city of Toronto released the 2021 Cycling Network Plan and plans to invest 20 million dollars per year between 2022 and 2024. Sixty kilometres of bike lanes have been installed across Toronto over the past three years, and plans are to build another 100km over the next few years.

“Cycle Toronto was pivotal in actually getting the city to put aside a dedicated budget for winter,” said Keagan Gartz, executive director of Cycle Toronto.

Cycle Toronto is a member-supported charity that advocates shaping policy and infrastructure for the city’s cycling culture. Protected bike lanes that have been proposed to be installed in places across the city are one way to ensure snow is not piled up in laneways.

“Especially in terms of winter clearance, we have got to have a protected bike lane because now it’s not safe,” Gartz said. “It doesn’t encourage people to ride, and the roads don’t get cleared.”

If the city really wants people to choose a transportation method other than a car, you really need to give them options, Gartz said. “Sometimes that might be riding a bicycle.”

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Posted: Jan 25 2022 12:28 pm
Filed under: News