More and more Torontonians cycle: up to 54%

Us cyclists have been saying for awhile: "Doesn't it look like there are more cyclists out there?" Well it's true. Cycling in Toronto is up 13% over the last decade - from 48% to 54%. The number of utilitarian cyclists - those who use their bikes to get to work, school, visit, or run errands - rose an astounding 45%: from 20% in 1999 to 29% in 2009. How do we know this? The City of Toronto has released their 2009 Cycling survey and all the numbers are up.

Will we have to wait another 10 years for an update? The plan now, says Dan Egan of Transportation Services, is to do the survey every 3 years, timed to coincide with municipal elections. Get the numbers out just before an election and you've got some good fodder for pushing politicians.

Some other interesting finds: motorists and cyclists feel that there is more respect for each other, despite the proverbial "War on Cars"; the largest increases in utilitarian cyclists is in the burbs: up about an average of 83%!


Respectively, these numbers are questionable. Maybe not the hard number themselves but the questions asked to get the numbers and the use of percentages.

Saying that cycling is up 54% translates to what? Instead of 2 cyclists riding there are now 3? Did we see a 54% increase in the number of cyclists on the road?

Sample size is 250 cyclists with an error rate of 3.1% The annualized increase of cyclists, **"Cycling in Toronto is up 13% over the last decade - from 48% to 54%." **is 1% per year or 0% in total if you consider the margin for error.

There has to be a better test to see how many cyclists there are. Like kms traveled, number of times cycled would be much better than a vague question.

In New York, the Department of Transportation does actual cyclist counts at various busy intersections, every year, to determine changes in the number of riders. Definitely something transportation services could be looking into, I think. See this pdf for more info.

As for Toronto's numbers, they're not terribly impressive, as Darren pointed out. Not awful, but nothing to be excited about. It's probably better NOT to look at NYC's year-on-year cycling increases in the last few years, lest you start to cry.. :)

The method of counting bikes has always been a dubious process. This past year the City was to begin using a new type of air hose whish is laid across the road that distinguishes between bikes and autos. Not sure if these counts are included in the 64 page report, because I haven't had time to read it, but it does provide a valid method for counting cyclists.

NYC offers many great examples of ways cities can better manage their traffic problems, so I approach their success without a tissue in hand

NYC offers many great examples of ways cities can better manage their traffic problems, so I approach their success without a tissue in hand

Good attitude!

I brought this up with Dan Egan last night and he told me that the city has purchased a "mobile" bicycle counter device (the same type of counter they are using on the Brooklyn bridge in NYC).

I also proposed that we use a Copenhagen-style bicycle counter that shows a daily count of cyclists on busy cycling streets as well as a tally of the number of cyclists that passed the counter so far this year.

They seemed open to the idea, so I'll send over some pricing on these devices (Mikael from is getting me some updating pricing on these devices).

If you haven't seen them yet, here's what they look like:

I would love to see a bicycle counter on Queen street or College street or some other busy cycling street. Having said that, the last thing we need is a bicycle counter on a not-so-busy cycling street to avoid giving the Toronto Sun and the other car lobbyists in the city any ammo.

Don't waste time and resources on counting cyclists. We have enough reports piling up, it's the major industry in Toronto.
We know the numbers are low and they'd be used against us as an excuse to not create more bike lanes.

Spend the money building, more will come - then count them if you're really all that anal.

Goober: You're Right on.

Every time I hear some idiot motorist or politician challenge an existing bike lane because on their way past "no one was using it", I wonder:

From Scarborough, to North York, to Etobicoke, how many hundreds, no, thousands of kilometres of sidewalk are - at this very moment - not being used.

Seems to me if we're counting bikes, why not count pedestrians for whom every square foot of concrete is cleared, sanded and accepted as a normal part of life in the big city.

The numbers are a statistic, and while the double edged sword analogy can be applied, I see them as essential to advancing cycling and cycling infrastructure.

Numbers and measures of cyclists have been (and will be) requested by City Staff especially Councillors. So, when asked at a PWIC meeting, I want the numbers stated and not a hypo-speculative sales pitch. Demonstrating growth at critical points, numbers are a great way to lead change, and they are often reflective of public opinion to a larger extent.

They need to ask every parent in Toronto:

What percentage of you would let your young child ride his/her bike to school by themselves?

Answer?: less than zero.

If even you don't see, or at least feel, the increases in the number of cyclists (like the lack of available bike parking, or more bike in the bike lanes) this does show a (albeit) slow, but positive, trending in the ATTITUDE towards cycling.

And that is something to celebrate!

Certified Bike programs like CAN-BIKE (CAN) and SAFE STREETS (US) do not recommend that children under the age of 10 be riding on a roadway as they have not yet developed the coordination and motor skills to do it safely.

So while your point is valid, it is not a Toronto specific problem, but there are alternatives, such as : Trail-A-Bikes & Trailers, or you could escort your young riders to school.

I helped escort a group of 15, 10+11 year old soccer players at my daughter's school last spring to a game at a nearby school. There were no issues, due largely to our numbers, which made us very safe; two of the girls had not ridden their bike on the road before! It was a very positive experience, and all parents gave their permission before hand.

I like Conan's answer for those councillors who ask for numbers.
We don't supply numbers to justify putting in a sidewalk. Why the hell are we even asking them permission to build bike lanes??

The sidewalks are all busily employed by motorholics as a place to let their motorbarcaloungers rest between sessions of "important business". Evidently neither pedestrians nor bicyclists are allowed to have "important business" as this would require motorholicism.

Anthony I do think there has been an increase in cyclists. The questions is did we get good value for our tax money. A 1% increase (if my math is right it is actually an increase of 0.56% per year when you consider compounding) compared to what was paid out to increase cycling facilities seems like a very poor return. Was this due to incompetence/political design or something else altogether?

More relevant to what Herb hinted at, two important questions were left out.
1. Do you vote?
2. Does a candidate's support of cycling initiatives influence your vote?

Some comparison is needed too. How did car use and other active transportation choices change in that period?

Still points out, something over half of Toronto participates in together and the city is barely keeping it alive - if you can call their "bike-lane voodoo" life-support.

Shame shame!

How are those sharrows on bloor working out, cyclists still getting buzzed? Cyclists still getting doored allover? Bicycle theft still rampant?

As i've said before... I'd like to see a survey on how many cycling injuries show up in Toronto ER rooms that are unreported to police... Insider sources have told me that there are a lot of cyclists coming through x-ray everyday. I don't mean to be alarmist but, a certain x-ray tech was alarmed on my behalf when they found out I was a cycling around T.O.

The sample is actually 1000 with a margin of error of 3.1%. So from 48 to 54 it's just on the edge of insignificance. (For those who don't understand, it means the error range in 1999 could be from 45 to 51, and in 2009 from 51 to 57).

Some of the other numbers are more significant. For instance, the substantial jump in suburban utilitarian cyclists is quite surprising and encouraging.

Rocco Rossi
Don't vote for this guy

"Early in his speech Mr. Rossi mocked the mandatory five-cent fee Toronto retailers now charge for plastic bags. He won his biggest burst of applause for a plan to prohibit bike lanes on major roads. “As mayor I will oppose bike lanes on major arterials whether its bike lanes, whether its Jarvis, whether its Finch, whether its Warden ...” he said, telling reporters later that not only would he ban future lanes on major roads, he would “look at” ripping out existing bike lanes on major roads.*

Personally, I'd much rather a count be done on Queen than College (unless the count on College is west of Euclid). The reason for this is that Queen (or the mentioned section of College) isn't really properly designed to accommodate cyclists (in fact, the whole street is streetcar tracks and door-zone). If we can confidently claim that some thousands of trips are being made daily on an unsafe roadway, then we've got a pretty substantial argument for improvements. With College, the best response we could expect from Council or the press is some self-congratulation around having put a bike lane there.

I wouldn't yet let my 4 year old daughter ride to school on her own, but that's a moot point because she isn't in school yet.

It might be a far more interesting question to ask parents with older (possibly adult) children when they started letting their kids ride from place to place on their own. You might find that cycling parents give their children this freedom much earlier than you'd expect..