Toronto should expand downtown bike lanes: Editorial
Toronto should expand downtown bicycle lanes after a study found bike routes on Richmond, Adelaide and Simcoe Sts. dramatically boosted cycling.
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KEITH BEATY / TORONTO STAR Order this photo
A study found bike routes on Richmond, Adelaide and Simcoe Sts. dramatically boosted cycling.
Published on Mon Jun 15 2015
The evidence is in. When bicycling is made safer, using downtown bike lanes that are physically set apart from those used by cars, more people cycle — a lot more. And vehicle traffic, in general, isn’t slowed.
Those encouraging results are from a pilot project begun last year in which dedicated bike lanes were installed on three streets in Toronto’s core. Taken together, the findings offer convincing evidence that cars and cyclists can share the road and thrive.
A westbound cycle track was marked off on the north side of Richmond St., between York and Bathurst Sts., using short “flexi-posts” spaced about six metres apart. A similar eastbound bike lane was installed on the south side of Adelaide St. And new north and southbound routes were introduced on Simcoe St., linking Queen and Front Sts.
Bike usage and traffic flow were tracked before and after the switch. And the resulting numbers are impressive.
Average cycling volume over an eight-hour period almost tripled on Adelaide St. – from 554 cyclists to more than 1,570. Meanwhile bike ridership more than doubled on Richmond and Simcoe Sts.
At the same time, traffic flow, in general, doesn’t appear to have been “negatively impacted” by installing these lanes, according to a staff report to Toronto’s public works committee. Indeed, congestion was often eased. It helped that the city took steps to improve traffic signaling in the affected area, along with better enforcement of no-stopping and no-parking rules.
Committee members are scheduled to meet on Wednesday to consider enlarging the pilot project by extending the Richmond and Adelaide bike lanes further east, all the way to Parliament St. Given the promising results achieved so far, there’s every reason to push ahead.
Active promotion of cycling can yield substantial rewards. Riding a bike is a far cleaner and greener option than driving a car. The environment benefits. And everyone opting to commute on two wheels instead of four lessens vehicle congestion on Toronto’s packed streets. There are personal gains to be had, too; cycling is an excellent way to exercise and promote cardiovascular health.
Biking on busy downtown streets, however, can be intimidating. Cyclists routinely traverse an obstacle course of parked cars, roaring buses, wheel-grabbing streetcar tracks and short-tempered drivers ill-inclined to share the road. Dedicated bike lanes make cycling much more inviting. They should be expanded on Adelaide and Richmond Sts., and beyond.