bike lanes blocked

Toronto parking lots being cleared of snow as sidewalks and bike lanes ignored

A full eight days after a historic snowstorm blanketed Toronto in 55 cm, city crews are still struggling to clean up the mess from last Monday. An update shared by the city on Monday morning shows that over 17,000 tonnes of snow has been removed across 216 km of roads, totalling 5,782 truckloads.

But for more than a week now, pedestrians and cyclists have been dealing with impassable infrastructure, all as cars zip by on pristine roads.

It's a problem that had been improving gradually until this Monday when a new layer of snow fell on the city and hampered cleanup efforts, but the response to the storm has not been warmly-received, and eight consecutive days of blockages have drawn the ire of the Twitterverse.

Treacherous conditions have been common on cycling paths across the city since last Monday, including the bike lane on the Danforth, one of the city's busier routes. The sidewalk, while not ideal, is passable to most, though probably not those requiring mobility devices. Yet the road is all clear.

It's been the same story on Harbord Street, where bike lanes are completely impassable, sidewalks are hit or miss and roads are sparkling.

In one truly bizarre photo, even a city-owned paid parking lot was plowed while the abutting sidewalk was reduced to a narrow trench.

In all of these examples, car infrastructure seems to have been given priority over walking and cycling. It has one commenter noting how an eight-day blockage could never happen on a road or city highway given priority snow clearing status.

Similar complaints have persisted since the storm, raising questions from pedestrians, cyclists and safety advocates about where the city's priorities lie.

Some are just asking for pedestrian and cycling infrastructure to be given the same level of priority as cars.

NotSafe4BikesTO, a Twitter account raising awareness about unsafe biking conditions in the city, tells blogTO that "Most people understand that was a high volume of snow, and that it would be tough going for a few days. Unfortunately, eight days later the majority of the cycling network remains unusable."

The advocate states "many of these lanes were put in as a COVID response to give people a safe alternative to TTC - and this option is now gone."

Making sure to clarify that they don't speak for all cyclists, the advocate says they "believe the majority would tell you that the biggest barrier to winter cycling (by far!) is not cold weather, it is road conditions. If you clear the lanes, people will continue to use them."

Whatever the explanation, it's becoming apparent that the city is either far better equipped or perhaps more motivated to clear roads than lower-capacity (but much greener) infrastructure.

"Unfortunately, the city also continues to broadcast that they have been clearing major bike lanes in 'priority' - which gives the public a false view of what is really happening. Browse through the photos on my page and see the evidence of uncleared bikeways all over the city," says NotSafe4BikesTO.

"If this city is truly concerned about alleviating congestion, reducing emissions and providing safe alternatives to vehicle dependence, then a different approach to snow removal is needed."

Lead photo by

Ev Delen

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