Earth Day: 6,100 bikes a day on Bloor
63 per cent of motorists support bike lanes
The number of bikes on Bloor has increased over 75 per cent since 2015
Has Toronto turned the corner when it comes to accepting the bicycle as a legitimate part of our transportation system? A Forum Research poll found 70 per cent of Torontonians favour bike lanes compared to a mere 22 per cent who oppose them. A majority of people in the city even support the long-debated Bloor bike lane — installed last year.
However, past municipal promises to increase bicycle infrastructure — like Toronto’s 2001 Cycling Plan for 500 kilometres of bike lanes — failed miserably. Without safe bike lanes, many people are unwilling to cycle on our fast-paced roads — let alone allow their children to. The Forum poll appears to show deepening and broadening support for bike lanes in Toronto, findings that can’t help but make an impression on decision makers at city hall.
Will Mayor John Tory brush aside the fact that 73 per cent of those who voted for him in the last election endorse bike lanes? Will councillors take note of poll results showing that a majority support bike lanes in parts of the city: 61 per cent in North York, 70 per cent in Etobicoke and 69 per cent in Scarborough?
The poll found majority support from disparate quarters: the elderly and middle-aged, moms, the well-to-do, those of modest means and suburbanites and their downtown counterparts. Bike lanes are also supported by 78 per cent of public transit users and 63 per cent of car commuters. In a city with many fault lines, bike lanes may be something of a unifier.
Bike lanes help to order all traffic. “Good fences make good neighbors,” poet Robert Frost wrote some years ago, and in the case of our roads, clear lines create better relations between commuters on two wheels and those on four. Drivers may appreciate cyclists’ predictability when bike lanes are present since the lanes set out exactly where motorized and non-motorized vehicles need to be.
With the increasing number of extreme weather events in our city, including heat waves, floods and violent storms, it’s getting easier for people to appreciate the benefits of replacing car trips with bike trips to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
As well, bike lanes improve air quality and add local charm and vitality, making streets nicer places to walk, meet friends and shop.
Of course, the popularity of bike lanes isn’t shown just through polling. It’s also demonstrated by real-life measurements. For instance, during morning rush hour on Bloor Street, waves of cyclists can be seen travelling east along the new bike lanes.
Bells on Bloor volunteers documented a total of 1,519 vehicles on Bloor (at Spadina) between 8 and 9 a.m. Of these vehicles, 660 — or 43 per cent of the total — were bicycles. Over the course of the day, 6,099 bicycles were counted in the bike lane, an increase of over 75 per cent compared to 2015 (before bike lane installation).
In a world of dizzying complexity, perhaps bikes and bike lanes win us over through their very simplicity.
Has there ever been a more elegant response to the need for locomotion — and the ills of sedentary living, congestion and global warming — than a pair of human-powered spinning wheels?