bloor bike lanes

People in Toronto are purposely blocking bike lanes and cyclists are upset

Cycling in Toronto can be a frustrating and at times dangerous experience, and riders trying to use a Bloor Street West bike lane earlier this month had confusion thrown into the mix by a recent ad hoc addition to their route.

Russell Kroll first alerted the public to an odd detour along Bloor last Wednesday morning, sharing on Twitter that the sudden cluster of signage and barriers was forcing cyclists "to come to a near full stop to make the 180-degree turn" for over a week, and forming a seemingly random bottleneck in the route "for no apparent reason."

It could have just been brushed off as another inconvenience for the cycling populace, but Kroll took his frustration and confusion to social media, asking "Why are there more traffic calming measures for bicycles than cars on Bloor Street?"

Kroll once again encountered the detour on his route home later that day, but this time it was torn down. Moments later, another man appeared and put the barriers back in place.

The man, who identified himself to Kroll as Brian Thompson, reportedly told the cyclist the obstruction was a measure put in place by a local BIA, meant to "slow cyclists down" after "two seniors have been injured by cyclists." Upon further investigation, Kroll determined that the affected stretch of bike lane didn't appear to even be within the coverage area of any local BIA.

Kroll took the fight to local councillor Gord Perks, and by Friday, the obstruction had been removed for good and the cyclist was able to declare a victory.

But even with the detour removed, voices in the cycling community are concerned about these unsanctioned changes to cycling infrastructure.

Lawyer and cycling safety advocate David Shellnutt tells blogTO that "this kind of vigilantism is dangerous and could attract significant liability if the road safety cones were moved without authorization and someone was seriously injured."

If such a case was presented to his firm, Shellnutt says that "the first thing our office would do would be to put the business owner or individual responsible on notice of the claim."

"My hope is that city officials will visit this location, consult with the business owner and provide a warning," says Shellnutt, stressing that "bike lanes are created for the safety of cyclists and all road users, they are well thought out and should not be tampered with.

He has harsh words for the person or group responsible for putting up the detour, saying that "This is a flagrant and upsetting example of disregard for the safety of people on bikes."

Another cycling safety advocate, known on social media as NotSafe4BikesTO, tells blogTO that "Instead of erecting makeshift barriers that put people on bikes in serious danger, perhaps this person could direct their efforts towards volunteering for organizations that aim for meaningful change to street design and vulnerable road user safety."

"If he wants to keep operating as a lone guerilla urbanist, maybe he could brush up on the deadliest streets in Toronto and put his handiwork into slowing down drivers. He should also add his name to the list supporting Bill 54, which will 'apply mandatory penalties to drivers who break the law and cause injuries or death to pedestrians and other vulnerable road users.'"

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