City's bike lanes need revamp: advocates
’Making the street more dangerous’
Meghan Housley, National Post
Alan Heisey, a Toronto lawyer and former chair of the Toronto Police Services Board, has been cycling in the city for 35 years, but he is against bike lanes. That is, he says that the current bike lanes -- a strip of paint at the side of the road -- simply aren’t safe.
"The bike lane ends up making the street more dangerous than if it wasn’t there because it gives the impression of safety," Mr. Heisey said. "It forces bicyclists who are in the lane legally to swerve around the cars that are parked illegally."
The solution to this, he says, is separated bike lanes. Bike lanes physically separated from the flow of traffic are common in Montreal, New York City, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., as well as the bike meccas of northern Europe. Mr. Heisey suggested separated bike lanes for the proposed reconstruction of Sherbourne Street, set to begin construction next year. The Toronto Cycling Committee, chaired by Councillor Adrian Heaps (Scarborough Southwest), has endorsed this as the preferred option for bike infrastructure on Sherbourne.
"Separate bike lanes is the way to go," Mr. Heaps said.
Planning staff must now examine the proposal and City Council must approve it.
"We have to look at traffic patterns," Mr. Heaps said. "[Any new bike infrastructure] has to add value to that area. We have to accommodate all forms of transportation without detracting from another."
Stefanie Seskin, a planner with the Coalition for Complete Streets in Washington, D.C., says the problem is cities haven’t built infrastructure with anything other than motorists in mind for the past 50 to 60 years. "Cyclists and pedestrians are kind of an afterthought in the transportation system," she said.
Torontonians want separate bike lanes, too. In a recent city survey, 77% of commuting cyclists said that separate lanes were a high priority for them and 66% of non-cyclists said the same. The Toronto Cyclist Union says that safer, separated lanes are the key to getting more people riding their bikes, according to board member Dave Meslin. "The biggest obstacle for a lot of people is the perceived sense of danger," Mr. Meslin said. "We’re really behind the game in creating those safe spaces."
Mr. Heaps said a common concern about separated lanes is what to do with them in the winter, but Mr. Meslin pointed out that Montreal has sidewalk ploughs that go into the bike lanes and plow them separately.
"If Montreal can do it, Toronto can do it," he said. "It’s been used as an excuse before, and it just doesn’t hold any water. They get more snow than us."
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