On Oct. 18, Toronto City Council’s public works and infrastructure committee voted in favour of permanently maintaining the Bloor Street bike lanes that run between Shaw Street and Avenue Road with some amendments. The recommendation will now go to the full city council on Nov. 7 for final approval.
Although the bike lanes were a hot topic of debate over the past few months with a variety of surveys and polls being bandied about by a variety of groups, the committee voted 4-2 in favour of the recommendation with Stephen Holyday and Giorgio Mammoliti the only committee members to vote against it.
Councillor Joe Cressy, of Ward 20, has been a supporter of the project since its inception. He said since the lanes were installed cycling has increased by 49 per cent with nearly 6,000 daily riders, making the lane the second most popular in the city, and collisions are down 44 per cent.
“In the old days it was always, ‘Are you for cars or bikes?’ But what we’ve been able to prove here is, if you design a bike lane well, it can be a win-win for everybody,” he said. “And in this case, cycling is up, and the street is safer. There’s been a minimal impact on cars, and the data shows business is up.”
Although Cressy said the data shows the project has been good for the local economy, some businesses argue the bike lanes have been a detriment to sales. A recently formed group called the Annex Business Bike Alliance (ABBA) wrote a letter to councillor Cressy, stating that, in a grassroots survey, it was found that 69 per cent of businesses in the Annex are reporting a drop in sales since the bike lanes were installed.
However, the group’s founder and the co-owner of Fresh Restaurants, Barry Alper, said he’s supportive of the bike lanes.
In an email statement, a representative from Fresh wrote: “Our co-owner Barry has never been against bike lanes, but rather he, along with 70 other Bloor business owners, wants to have an open conversation about the pilot project and how it’s affecting everyone in the neighbourhood.”
Mike Murray, manager of BMV Books at Bloor Street and Brunswick Avenue, said the bike lanes have not affected his store’s sales, but they have been an inconvenience as booksellers are often unable to find parking so they can unload boxes.
“Looking out onto the street, I think there’s five parking spots total, so for us that’s the major detriment to our business,” he said.