Nine months after Toronto launched its Bloor bike lane, is the project a success?
A survey released by the city earlier this year shows 64 per cent of resident and business respondents believe the lane provides safety for cyclists while allowing acceptable traffic flow and parking. Nearly two-thirds of motorists say they feel “comfortable” driving next to cyclists now — compared to 14 per cent in 2015, before the lane was installed. The research also found the number of cyclists increased 36 per cent while the number of cars dropped 22 per cent.
Ron Koperdraad, manager of the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema, describes himself as a commuting cyclist and says he appreciates the new bike lane. “I do feel safer now on Bloor,” he says.
He also likes how the lane links with other bike routes to form a downtown network. On days when he’s driving, he doesn’t find the new infrastructure onerous.
“I don’t find traffic grinds to a halt when the bike lane begins,” he says.
He also sees advantages for his theatre. The lane “benefits those who choose to bike to the cinema,” he says. “Before the bike lane went in, lots of cyclists were avoiding Bloor. But with the lane in place more cyclists are now in front of our business.”
Tammy Thorne is publisher of dandyhorse, an artfully designed cycling advocacy magazine that began in 2008. She’s also an expert on urban biking and a resident of Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood, which the new bike lane borders.
She says Bloor is an excellent location for cycle tracks: “It’s a cultural street with lots of shopping and walking.”
Thorne is excited by the roadway’s transformation. “You never would’ve seen kids cycling on Bloor without the bike lane,” she observes. “I recently saw a seven-year-old there.”
She also believes the lane is a boon to elderly motorists. “I’ve driven Bloor with my dad, a retired farmer from Peterborough,” she says. “The bike lane has made a huge difference for drivers like him. He knows really clearly where the bicycles are and where the cars are. It’s a lot safer.”
Matt Languay, owner of the Basecamp Climbing gym, which is located near the bike lane’s western extremity, feels the bike lane is helping area retailers. Basecamp hosts 200 to 300 climbers a day, and its pool of customers is expanding steadily.
Languay believes some of that growth is due to the new lane. “[It’s] been a huge, huge help getting our members [to the facility],” he says.
This fall, city council will debate whether to dismantle the new infrastructure, which is only a pilot, or make it permanent.