In 2016, when City Council approved The Bloor Street Bike Lane Pilot Project, they expected an uptick in two-wheeled commutes along one of Toronto’s busiest streets, but no one anticipated just how popular the project would be. In just one year, the Bloor Street bike lanes became the second-most travelled lanes in the city, behind only the Richmond-Adelaide route. And, after a one-year pilot, council voted again – the bike lanes are here to stay.
Councillor Joe Cressy (councillor of the Trinity-Spadina ward, home to 300 Bloor Street West), was a major supporter of the bike lanes. After the final vote he told reporters that council’s decision to keep the lanes on one of downtown’s major streets marked a “tipping point” in efforts to build cycling infrastructure in Toronto.
“Today’s decision I think puts to bed the old debate that it’s bikes versus cars, or bikes versus business. What this vote and the staff report in support of it has shown is that when you build a bike lane and you design it well, it’s a win-win for everybody.”
A 2017 article in Torontoist.com lauded the project, stating, “Bloor today sometimes evokes images of bicycle-friendly cities in Europe.” That’s a direction most people support. Copenhagen, Amsterdam, even Montreal all make the list of the world’s most bike-friendly cities. It’s not a coincidence that these cities are also some of the most highly-regarded in terms of quality of life. With increasing urbanization, more and more modern cities are trying to juggle convenience, connectivity, safety, and wellbeing, keeping their citizens healthy and living well. Bike lanes are part of the answer.
Not only does biking help people stay active and reduce their carbon footprint, but the Bloor Street bike lanes provide new ways for people to engage with the city, get outside, and interact with the urban landscape. They also ensure that those people remain safe on the road. The City of Toronto survey found that roughly 5,220 riders use the lanes on an average weekday – an increase of 49% compared to before the lanes went in – and that the lanes improved safety and reduced conflicts between road users by 44%.
Bloor’s bike-friendly lanes are part of a 10-year cycling network plan that will see up to 560 kilometres of separated cycle tracks or bike lanes installed by 2026. Highlights include bridging east-west corridors (including the current Bloor Street stretch from Avenue to Shaw, with an East-end component between Church and Sherbourne); providing links between existing bikeways; connecting paths to city parks, green spaces, and the waterfront; and creating direct connections to over a dozen TTC subway and rapid transit stations, allowing riders to forgo a car completely.
In the end, embracing bike lanes on Bloor is just another reflection of the diversity that defines Toronto. Carving space for a two-wheeled commute, alongside regular motorists and pedestrians exploring neighbourhood boutiques, makes for a more interesting, more vibrant, more textured community. With the added bonus of feeling the wind in your hair.