In Toronto, bike advocates and activists have been calling for a “minimum grid” of bike lanes: a total of 100 kilometres of protected, separated bike routes, threaded throughout busy downtown areas. At a staged “die-in” that took place in front of city hall last summer, a throng of riders and advocates made that point very visibly, saying that such infrastructure is needed to prevent another year like 2015.
That year, as became infamous by a flurry of tragic headlines, was one of the worst on record for Toronto cyclists.
As announced recently by Cycle Toronto, the city’s biggest advocacy group, there has been progress made in realizing that vision—both in the public and in the chambers of Toronto’s municipal government. That progress comes a little over a year after the campaign was first launched, during the municipal election of 2014. With political change then on the horizon, 25 of the city’s 44 councillors signed on with the idea, committed to building that city-wide, 100 km grid of bike lanes—as well as 100 km of bike boulevards—by 2018.
Then, after a Ten Year Cycling Network Plan was put forward late last year, Cycle Toronto followed up with local-level street campaigns, advocating for the inclusion of Richmond and Adelaide Streets, Eglinton Avenue, Bloor Street, the Danforth, Lakeshore Boulevard West and Yonge Street as “key corridors” for the Minimum Grid plan.
Since that progress was made, outreach in both political and public spheres has been ongoing, intent on building awareness and support for the bike lane project. A Minimum Grid built by 2018, Toronto city staff revealed, could cost as little as $50 million, which became the focus of a motion put forward by two city councillors, Mike Layton and Mary-Margaret McMahon. The motion requested that city staff report back on funding options for the initiative—amounting to $20 to $25 million per year—to the city’s public works and infrastructure committee.
Public feedback took the form of a poll in the Toronto Sun, asking if the city should be spending $25 million per year on bike lanes. While 30% of respondents voted “no,” support for the plan was huge. With 1915 votes cast, 70% of the Sun‘s online readership thought it was a good idea.
The Toronto Sun, Cycle Toronto noted, has since disabled the poll.
To Cycle Toronto executive director Jared Kolb, the tide, when it comes to cycling in Toronto, is turning. “Seventy-three percent of Torontonians say that the number one thing holding them back from riding more often is street safety,” he told Canadian Cycling Magazine. “A city-wide Minimum Grid of protected bike lanes and bicycle boulevards would unlock cycling as viable transportation. We look forward to seeing city staff’s new 10 Year Cycling Network Plan at city council this spring.”
“With bold vision and more significant funding,” he concluded, “Toronto can become a bicycle-friendly city.”