Toronto's newest bike lane just opened but cyclists are already flocking to it
City of Toronto staff have been working on the installation of the Bloor West Bikeway Extension since the beginning of August, and thousands of cyclists are already making use of the new infrastructure daily.
To try and get a sense of just how much use the new lanes have been getting, volunteers from organizations including Bells on Bloor, Toronto Centre Cyclists and the Toronto Community Bikeways Coalition conducted a 24-hour count of cyclists at two locations earlier this week.
#CityofTO work has started on the Bloor West Extension connecting from Shaw to Runnymede. Please be patient as crews work to deliver this new bikeway project. Weather permitting most of the paint should be done in 2 weeks and barriers soon after #BikeTO https://t.co/8wgf1B7GrS pic.twitter.com/lWtJJ82cX5— Toronto Cycling (@TO_Cycling) August 4, 2020
On Aug. 19, volunteers counted 4,784 cyclists on the temporary Bloor-Yorkville section of the bikeway, and 4,408 bikers on the Bloor-Dufferin section.
These lanes have been installed at an extremely rapid rate as a part of the city's ActiveTO program, which aims to help residents get outside and stay active amid the pandemic, and Albert Koehl of Bells on Bloor told blogTO that these numbers show just important new cycling infrastructure really is in Toronto.
Big cycling numbers coming from Toronto's recently extended Bloor bike lanes - 485 in a single hour! Many successful bike lane projects will get that many in an entire day. https://t.co/OsPu7GPIQG— Beyond the Automobile (@MattPinder1) August 20, 2020
"Each time City Hall installs bike lanes on popular cycling routes, the surging numbers quickly follow," Koehl said. "We shouldn't be surprised."
He explained that the numbers are particularly impressive at Dufferin because it's beyond where they might expect to see high numbers of cyclists, especially since U of T students are not currently commuting to campus and far fewer people are headed to downtown officer towers.
This, he says, demonstrates how important it is for city council to continue investing and acting when it comes to new bike lanes — something he says clearly wasn't a priority until the pandemic hit.
Construction continues of the Bloor West Bikeway Extension. Want to learn more about the project or have questions? You can view project details and get in touch at: https://t.co/oW1a40uaDa pic.twitter.com/2c6gLw963f— Ana Bailão (@anabailaoTO) August 10, 2020
Last year, the city only installed a total of two kilometres of new bike lanes despite a $16 million cycling infrastructure budget.
And by the end of 2020, even with the new lanes installed throughout the past few months, Toronto will still be almost 100 kilometres short of what was envisioned in the 2016 Bike Plan adopted by council.
"The installation of cycling infrastructure has lagged despite urgent problems, including climate change and poor road safety," Koehl said.
Just cycled along the Bloor West bikeway extension for the first time. What a game changer. These underpasses used to be total death traps. Now a comfortable, enjoyable experience. pic.twitter.com/5uVaAVR7T2— Stuart Dow (@stuartcdow) August 12, 2020
Back in 2017, the city conducted a Bloor Street Bike Lane Pilot Project.
When conducting a count approximately one year after its installation, they found that roughly 4,925 cyclists were using the lane at Bloor and Clinton per day in June, which is not much more than the number of bikers using the new bikeway extension just days after its completion.
In other words, when the city builds bike lanes, cyclists pretty much always show up to use them. In fact, Koehl says cycling enthusiasts will find a way to bike around the city either way, so why not do everything possible to ensure it's safe and enjoyable?
"Toronto is already a great city of cyclists, but not yet for cyclists," said Koehl. "What's amazing is how many people do cycle despite the lack of safe routes. The potential remains great."
The city's cycling network expansion plan introduced this summer includes approximately 40 kilometre of new biking infrastructure, some temporary and some permanent, and Koehl said he hopes the city will continue to make it a priority, even after the pandemic has ended.
"The pandemic has reminded us of the many benefits of the bicycle. It's not only convenient, inexpensive, and fun to get around the city by bike, but it's also a healthy option during the pandemic," he said.
"Hopefully the small additions we've seen this year will be followed by more bike lanes on important roads such as Yonge and into the inner suburbs and beyond where safe cycling routes are desperately needed."
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