The temporary bike lanes on Bloor Street are one step closer to becoming permanent following a six-hour long debate at city hall on Wednesday.
The public works committee voted 4-2 in favour of the separated bike lanes after considering a staff report on the subject along with public deputations. City staff recommended the bike lanes be approved in their report released on Oct. 11.
The bike lanes, which span along a 2.4 kilometre stretch of Bloor Street between Shaw Street and Avenue Road, were installed in June 2016 as a one-year pilot project.
According to the city staff report, the amount of cyclists riding along that stretch of Bloor Street increased by 49 per cent over its first year of implementation. As well, the report said that traffic in the area was only affected slightly as vehicular traffic slowed down by an average of two to four minutes and other motorists were choosing other parallel streets to travel to their destination.
At the city hall meeting, the pilot project was debated by both sides in front of the public works committee. Along with city councillors, about 60 members of the public signed up to speak at the meeting.
Ward 7 York West Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, who voted against the motion, said more research on the bike lanes should be completed before they can be approved.
“The tests and the studies that have been done have only been done during the spring and summer months, not the winter and there hasn’t been a proper economic dialogue in the community so I personally believe there is a political agenda,” he said.
However, Ward 20 Trinity Spadina Councillor Joe Cressy said those voting must take into account the recent death of cyclists on city streets after a 39-year-old man was fatally struck while cycling on King Street on Wednesday morning.
“At times over the course of the day it has felt like we were in the 1950s for goodness sakes. This morning a cyclist was killed on our streets – that happened today,” Cressy said. “When you design a bike lane and you implement it well it is a win-win for everybody. That’s what we heard all day long.”
Speaking with CP24 on Wednesday night, Mayor John Tory said the implementation of the separate bike lanes were “mainly driven by safety.”
“There were already thousands of people using Bloor Street without a separated bike lane and there were hundreds of accidents taking place involving cyclists and cars so we did something to see if we could improve the safety and I think it’s working and we will continue to do the things we need to do that makes sure that everyone can get around,” he said.
Tory added that he will not “shy away” from the problem of collision continuing to happen on city streets.
“It’s a partnership (between) cars, pedestrians, cyclists, trucks, transit vehicles – they are all sharing a limited amount of public space together and that’s one of the challenges we have to address in the 21st century.”
Also mentioned in the city staff report, businesses on Bloor Street reported an increase in customers since the installation of the bike lanes as visitors said they came to the area an average of three times more per month.
However, some businesses in the area have raised concern about a lack of customer parking and complications with deliveries.
Back on Oct. 11, Tory told CP24 he was committed to ensure those issues were addressed.
“I visited the site of the pilot project five times and spent the majority of my time talking to business people and I am convinced that with continued practical changes with regard to street design, curbside access, deliveries and so on that we can make this a positive experience for them over time,” he said. “Obviously I am very anxious to make sure that that section of Bloor Street remains a vibrant home for small businesses.”
The permanent fate of the bike lanes will go before a full city council vote on November 7.