Make bike lanes on Bloor permanent: Staff report
A cyclist uses the Bloor St. bike lanes on August 15, 2016. (STAN BEHAL/Toronto Sun)
Mayor John Tory will support making permanent the controversial pilot bike lanes on Bloor St. W.
“People sometimes don’t like change, but my job is to do what I think is best in a balanced way for all of the people in the City of Toronto, and all the different users, and that includes car drivers,” Tory said Wednesday.
Tory said he was guided by data finding Bloor is now the second busiest bike route in the city — with more than 5,000 cyclists using it daily — and that both those on bikes and pedestrians feel safer with the separated lanes.
He was asked how a mayor who campaigned on reducing gridlock could support an initiative that has increased car travel time between Bay St. and Ossington Ave. by two minutes eastbound and just over four minutes westbound at peak times.
There is also evidence that some traffic is diverting to nearby streets, and that vehicle traffic overall on Bloor is down.
Tory argued that changes such as tinkering with traffic signal timing have reduced vehicle travel times, and that his goal is to make further improvements.
A city staff report released Wednesday recommended that council turn the pilot lanes into a permanent fixture on Bloor.
The report, prepared for the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee meeting of Oct. 18, says there’s been a 49% increase in cycling use along Bloor, of which 25% are new riders, and “a strong majority of pedestrians” feel their experience walking on the street with bike lanes installed is the same or better.
“Through a door-to-door merchant survey and a pedestrian intercept survey, this study found that most merchants reported an increase in the number of customers, most visitors reported spending more and visiting more frequently, and that vacancy rates are stable,” the report says.
But in a report by the Toronto Sun’s Sue-Ann Levy, several business owners along Bloor complained that business has been down significantly since the lanes were installed.
Matt Lee, owner of Put a Cone on It, told Levy that people used to walk around the area and have dinner, but now cyclists zoom by like it’s a “freeway.”
“I’m convinced with continued practical changes to the ways those bike lanes are operated going forward ... that we can make this a positive experience over time,” Tory said. “Because obviously I’m very anxious, as are all members of council, to make sure that that section of Bloor St. and all of the city remain a vibrant home for small business.”
The separated Bloor Street Bike Lane Pilot Project, which was launched in August 2016, covers the stretch between Shaw St. and Avenue Rd.
Removing the pilot lanes would cost about $425,000, a staff report from June says.
City staff estimated the cost of installing the lanes at about $500,000.