Life in the Bike Lane

By Alanna Hopper

Toronto Biking Infastructure

Bikes locked to a bike rack and a tree

Woodbine Mall features a single bike rack placed near the back entrance. Despite the deterrence that locking up bicycles in a location where they can easily be stolen, the bike rack is often overfilled. In this photo, a cyclist is forced to lock his bike to a nearby tree.

bikes locked to a fence

Parks and plazas often feature no bike parking. Instead, cyclists often lock their bicycles to chain-link fences. This comes with the danger of businesses and property owners removing the bike and lock.

While Toronto’s downtown core is making steps towards improving their bicycle infrastructure many areas are slow to follow suit. The City of Toronto is attempting to lessen the demand by allowing requests for bicycle parking to be placed in suitable places on public property. This process can take anywhere from several months to over a year. Privately owned businesses are less likely to see the upside of investing in bicycle parking, and as a result, It is common for many popular malls and plazas to have one or zero bike racks. The Bells on Bloor bike advocacy group attributes this to the normalization of car culture, and misconceptions about cyclists as customers.

The Bloor Street Bike Lane

"Someone said to me. It would be nice to have bike lanes on Bloor, but it's not realistic, and I remember thinking wow what's your reality?"

The Bloor street bike lanes are the newest permanent addition to the Toronto cycling network and a huge step forward for bike advocacy groups.Alber Koehl next to Bloor Street bike lane. With a final tally of 36 to six, what began, as a year-long pilot project will now be a permanent fixture on Bloor Street West. Albert Koehl founder of bike advocacy group Bells on Bloor attributes this to the undeniable facts showing the success of the pilot. The introduction of the bike lane saw a 49 per cent increase in cycling volume making the Bloor street pilot project the second most used bikeway in the city. Several cyclists believe that having bike lanes on main roadways is the most effective way to increase bicycle traffic, as one cyclist said: “I’m not necessarily taking a bike path if it’s not convenient.” Before the Bloor bike lanes, the City of Toronto focused on placing bike lanes in areas that would least affect traffic.

“Bloor to us has always been a symbol of the bigger fight.”

Next steps for Bells on Bloor include following a 1992 recommendation to the City of Toronto that suggested a bike line across Bloor-Danforth to act as a spine for the cycling network. Yet with projects part of the 10 Year Cycle Network consistently getting pushed back only two years into the project, it will still be several years before officials are able to focus on other plans.

Dangers of a Shared Road

A white van blocking a bike lane

Early 2017 marked the beginning of the S.P.A.C.E to cycle campaign.  This saw Toronto police narrowing their focus on biker safety, specifically the growing problem of drivers blocking bicycle lanes. This comes after the 2016 spike of 58  from the established baseline, with 1,279 reported cases of cyclists being ‘doored’ (when someone in a car unsafely opens their door and a cyclist runs into it), which in some cases causes severe injuries or even death for the cyclist. “The worst part about biking in Toronto is that you have too many cars,” said bike advocate Albert Koehl.

Construction blocking bike lanes

“Toronto is a great city of cyclists, but not a great city for cyclists.”

He believes that cars are the number one danger to cyclists, especially if they do not respect the presence of bike lanes. Toronto Police now have dedicated parking enforcement officers working to ticket vehicles blocking bike lanes. Tickets start at $60 and in some cases include a shaming Tweet. The worst offender of blocking bike lanes is Canada Post who after numerous call-out posts over social media released a statement apologizing and promising that the will no longer park where they shouldn’t. Other delivery trucks and taxis are also main culprits.

The Queens Quay Bike Lane

The Don Valley Bike Trail

The Don Valley trail stretches 32 kilometers from Toronto’s east end to the downtown core. This offers cyclists a safe way to travel from the suburbs to more urban areas while also enjoying the green-space that Toronto offers. The sunken nature of the river and the dense foliage allows cyclists and pedestrians to escape the sounds of traffic and fully envelope themselves in nature.

While the trail is a beautiful place during the day after dark many cyclists prefer to take main roads. As a lack of lighting on the Don Valley trail places bikers in danger of crashing.

Toronto’s 10-year bike plan does not address these needs, thereby pushing cyclists into traffic after dark.