Bike Lanes on Lawrence Avenue - why all cyclists should care

The essay below is from Veronica, a cyclist active in Bike 25, a group working towards implementing the bike plan in Ward 25.

On Wednesday March 10, 2010 the City of Toronto will be holding a Public Open House to discuss planned bike lanes for Lawrence Avenue East, from Yonge Street to Bayview Avenue.

At first glance, it would appear that this is another 'bike lane to nowhere'. But viewed in the larger context of the Bikeway Network, this is the first piece of a planned bike lane on Lawrence Avenue stretching from Avenue Road to past Port Union Road. While it's unfortunate that this bike lane is being assembled in pieces, I think that its important that cyclists keep their eye on the prize.

Even in its truncated version, this piece of bike lane links Lawrence subway station with the Toronto French School, York University's Glendon Campus and intersects Bayview Avenue quite close to Sunnybrook Hospital, the destination for a large commuter cycling contingency. If one continues further east along Post Road, it links to the existing Don Valley trails.

As for the argument that money should not be wasted on bike lanes in the suburbs because nobody cycles there, consider the following:

  • residents do cycle in the inner suburbs, often under much more hostile conditions. Getting buzzed by a vehicle is not pleasant. Getting buzzed by a vehicle traveling at 70 kph, is even more unpleasant. Cycling infrastructure is even critical in these neighbourhoods;
  • based on discussions with neighbours, there are many more that would like to cycle but don't because they feel unsafe doing it. Many argue that painting lines on the road do not make cyclists safer and there's truth to that. But bike lanes make people feel safer, so they are more likely to cycle and statistics have shown that more cyclists on the road does increase cyclists' safety creating a positive feedback loop;
  • if we are to reduce the number of cars in the downtown core then we need more inner suburb residents commuting by bicycle instead of driving into the core. This will not happen unless cycling infrastructure begins where these trip originate from.

In the past I have personally attended public meetings and/or written to councillors in support of bike lanes, most recently for Jarvis Street and Annette Street, even though I would use these routes only occasionally. I did so because when I do happen to go that way it would be useful to have a bike lane and because I know that every bit of bike lanes constructed, no matter which part of the city, helps get us one step closer to completing the Bike Network. And every bit of Bike Network constructed gives people who want to use bicycles as a means of transportation greater choice as to where to live in the city and still get around safely.

Now the inner suburb cyclists need the assistance and support of the downtown crowd. Please help us lobby for cycling infrastructure in our neighbourhood.

Wednesday March 10, 2010

Blythwood Junior Public School
2 Strathgowan Crescent

7 - 9 pm

More information available at:



A bike lane in my neighborhood. This has been so long overdue and I am very happen to see that it'll become a reality. Although this street doesn't merit bike lanes as much as some other busier ones, at least it's a start, and can be a catalyst for some more around the area. I'd like to see em drop some lanes on Avenue Road. That would be ultimate. Unfortunately I can't make it to the open house. Someone please post updates after tomorrow!

Sorry, but this is exactly the kind of bike lane that breeds contempt against further bike lanes. It will be under-used, at least in the short term. Parallel alternative streets exist.

Meanwhile, heavily used bike routes such as Bloor feel the brunt of the anger these lanes-to-nowhere cause.

It's a major coupe if we win Lawrence, a lane that goes completely across Scarborough and could continue across the entire city. We need a grid of lanes on every major arterial, if they are underutilized at first, so what? We don't take out sidewalks because they get little use in the suburbs because we need pedestrians separated from cars.

Hello McFly??

Lawrence East dead ends after Bayview. It's a bike lane to a dead end. Whatever happens to the Lawrence that goes through Scarborough is inconsequential to this section of Lawrence.

Lawrence Avenue East is interrupted by the Don Valley, but continues on the other side. The two are joined by Old Post Road. Its a good enough route for the Lawrence-Donway 162 bus, so I don't see what it wouldn't work for cyclists.

Thanks for this prod; and we must start somewhere, and the eastern section is the bigger win which is slowed down apparently from the TTC being less supportive.
What about having a velotube to link the two segments?

The Toronto Trailblazers cycling club operates out of the C.N.I.B. next to Sunnybrook hospital. That lane might be especially useful to visually impaired cyclists.

A bike lane on Lawrence (Yonge to Bayview) would be great and it is not a dead end run. It connects with bike routes 35,28 & 30. There is a bike lane on Bayview running north of Lawrence to a private school which is just short of Post Road. If you go south 2 blocks from Lawrence and Bayview you can cut through Sunnybrook Hospital and connect to the Don Valley trail that runs right down to Lakeshore. The ride along Bayview to Sunnybrook would be a real gauntlet though.

Reducing the car lanes from 4 to 2 will be viewed by locals as War on the Car Part Deux so I expect to hear some strong opposition. The good news is the ensuing traffic jams will slow down cars on a road notorious for speeding.


I was going to stay reserved on this, but just too many opinions posted here that overlook the facts. I live just south of the area, and have worked just north of Bayview and Lawrence quite a lot lately.

Look at a Bike Map:

  • there are already bike lanes on Bayview Avenue, both northbound and southbound, in the vicinity of the Lawrence-Bayview Intersection, that dedicated bike lanes on Lawrence East would connect to.
  • Lawrence East bike lanes would connect Bayview to Signed Route 30, the only east-west bike route within Km's of Bayview.
  • The Bayview bike lanes are painted and signed very clearly, on the ramps on/off Bayview to Glendon Cres., and to Lawrence East.
  • the Bayview bike lanes extend for more than a kilometre, north on the bridge that crosses Glendon Ravine, and up to Post Road. They are excellent bike lanes.
  • In fact, they are the only designated bike lanes in this part of the city, according to the "path-of-least-resistance" approach that Transportation took when first implementing Bike Lanes...on bridges and viaducts between wards, where addresses (and resistance) don't exist.
  • These bike lanes enable cyclists to avoid the fast moving / diverging/merging traffic that passes through the underpass where Lawrence East crosses over Bayview.
  • in my own personal observation, having rode from Millwood and Overlea to Bayview and Post Road five days a week throughout 2009, there are hundreds of cyclists that pass through the Lawrence and Bayview intersection every day, perhaps even thousands.
  • there is an enormous Bicycle User Group (BUG) that exists at Sunnybrook/Womens that has been lobbying for bike lanes for years, since before this website, or the Bike Union, and even before the Ward 25 Cycling Committee were formed.
  • the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) uses these Bayview bike lanes for their innovative "Trailblazers" tandem cycling programme, which enables vision-impaired cyclists to join traffic and enjoy cycling. More bike lanes in the area would benefit this little-known special interest user group.
  • students, members, staff, and visitors riding to Granite Club, Toronto French School, Crescent School, Glendon College (York University's Francophone campus) and Bob Rumball Centre for the Deaf use these bike lanes extensively, and would benefit from new bike lanes on Lawrence East.

I strongly support the implementation of these bike lanes on Lawrence, and will be there tonight.

Come to Blythwood Public School and discuss it with me face to face, I'd love to meet more cycling advocates.


Funny how some people find the perceived arse end of something and then proceed to show it off for all to see, like they’ve just discovered fire.

When I hear someone comment negatively on a new Bike Lane (like Lawrence East) I get the feeling that they don't know about the extensive planning that goes into the implementation of a Bike Lane.

When the Cosburn Bike Lanes went in there were comments like "the Bike Lane to no where", and other varied and unqualified criticisms. The fact is that Cosburn had been added strategically to the Bike Network and served to connect with the Main Street GO Station, the East & West sections of the Bike Network, Taylor Creek Recreational Path, and so on...

To suggest that Bike Lanes are added haphazardly is just a bunch of nonsense; yet some will remain steadfast in their flinging of feces at new developments that fall short of their ill conceived notions of what is and what should never be.

It reminds me of a simple comparison between ducks & eagles:
Ducks quack, and complain.
Eagles soar, and overcome.

Cycling advocacy needs but one type, and it’s not the flat-billed waddler.

Hi all,

A very interesting, charged, divisive consultation this evening at Blythwood Public School. Upwards of 50 attendees, mostly white males, mostly area residents, mostly senior citizens. Very divided audience. Many outspoken, NIMBY-ish, hard-C conservatives opposed to bike lanes on Lawrence; and many soft-spoken, inclusive, bike-riding supporters stating their opinions eloquently and non-confrontationally. Incidentally, for all I wrote in my previous post, I diddn't say a word during questions and answers.

Transportation staff did a fantastic job of acknowledging and responding accountably to some of the very hostile comments and questions lobbed from the audience. Not only are our City Staff experts in their fields, they're great people who genuinely like their jobs (even when they're as unpleasant as this evening's events) and want to see things done correctly and efficiently.

The outcome is that there may be more public consultation, as calls for in-depth microanalysis of projected traffic impacts were actually heeded by Staff; and the Councillor, Cliff Jenkins, committed to "further discussions" on the issue. That is a fantastic outcome.

I like Seymore's allusory quote; I've heard it in other terms before:

Birds of a feather flock together.
Will you scratch with the turkeys,
or soar with the eagles?


The very fact that the bike plan left out Bloor-Danforth entirely shows how stupid bike route planning in this city is. Priority should be towards routes which actually have a high number of existing cyclists, and distractions such as Eastern Avenue, and yes, even Jarvis, only make empty lanes and angry voters.

The very fact that the bike plan left out Bloor-Danforth entirely shows how stupid bike route planning in this city is. Priority should be towards routes which actually have a high number of existing cyclists. Distractions such as Eastern Avenue, and yes, Jarvis, only make empty lanes and angry voters.

To anybody who thinks that Bike Lanes on Bloor are an oversight by the people in Transportation Services and Cycling Infrastructure, I would ask that you study the issue more before making such foolish claims.

Political forces and misinformed voters factor in huge into this problem, not to mention other physical limitations.

I've been to so many of these meetings that they are starting to sound the same to me. I could put into a script.

The script goes something like this:

Residents are worried about road operations (car travel times, queue lengths at intersections, reduction of capacity, turning movements), and a few grumble about parking. Residents from the neighbouring streets voice their concerns about a radical increase of cars diverting onto their local streets, concerns are raised about a particular and unique community feature (in this case the Intersection with Mt.Pleasant ), and a few mention about how biking is better on the quieter local side streets and cite the dangers of riding with fast traffic on the major route.

Staff counter with usual bike plan gibberish and about city hall process because they are not allowed to be seen as "selling" the plan, or "selling" these bike lanes to the community.

Side note: I must compliment staff for doing a much better job at coming to these meetings prepared with completed parking count analysis; and for doing their best to share their plans to accommodate the levels of parking that they've encountered. This alone removes a significant objection source.

Then, from the other side, some one representing a cyclists at major local employer (in this case Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, a winner of a BFBA award this past year) stands up to say that the employer has found out that providing car spaces for the employees costs a fortune and has started to encourage employees to ride their bikes for the cost savings. A local cyclists stands up to say that this plan makes sense and connects something useful with someplace useful (ie Yonge St to the existing Bike Lanes on Bayview). And depending upon how articulate the audience members are, a few (or a bunch) other good reasons why cyclists must be included in traffic on the main arterial in question, and/or on all arterials.

Then the counter-attacks begin with bike lanes on arterials not being safe enough for kids, and that the bike lanes on a street nearby (ie Bayview) is not really all that safe because all that separates it from the moving cars a stripe of paint on the road. Someone else stands up and asks for more studies and/or analysis, they may also request specific counts and estimates. Someone invariably stands up and say how they got the notice at the last minute and were luckily able to show up (but that they had to adjust their schedule to do so) and how the notice for the meeting was insufficient and how more consultation must occur.

Staff say more process stuff, and allow the councillor a few words before closing the comment period and breaking up into one-on-one discussions.

At this point, and being "kings of their domain", a decision lies with the Ward Councillor who may decide to:
1. ask staff to drop the plan (however staff can still put it on the agenda at the PWIC committee, even without the councillor's support),
2. ask staff for further studies and/or further consultation, or
3. take a chance and imply move ahead with the bike lanes.

One thing has become apparent to me in all of the places I know where bike lanes were installed in this city under very similar circumstances, that is the bike lanes have changed the way the community views that space. The road which did not have the bike lanes before is transformed in the residents' imaginations; it is now a cherished street in the community, and it is perceived as a community asset. The levels of diversion onto local streets was found to be neither intolerable nor catastrophic. While the bike lanes may have some operational impacts, the most vocal complainers invariably are those who only travel -- exclusively by car -- through the community, and are not the local residents. The locals tolerate the longer queue lengths during the peak periods because they generally appreciate how the bike lanes have calmed traffic through their neighbourhood. Collision rates usually decline, and the severity of the of the collisions is generally reduced on the affected street.

I hope that the community and the councillor takes the chance to put bike lanes on this section of Lawrence Ave E. But that's up to them; I'll be cheering them on if they do! After all, I have my own predictable script to follow.

I bike in Toronto every day. I see bike lanes which stop and start in random places, that don't connect to each other or anything, and many which intentionally throw me into harms way.

Are you trying to tell me that this is the result of extensive study and careful implementation? Really?

Are you trying to tell me that this is the result of extensive study and careful implementation? Really?

No. If we had infinite space and budget, and no objections from the communities, we'd have perfect bike lanes.

Instead, what we have is a compromise solution that tries to do its best to both keep cyclists safe and still accommodates the community's other (sometimes only perceived) needs and/or often conflicting priorities within the space available.

Perfection isn't possible on this planet; try another one. This planet is populated with imperfect beings, some of whom perceive the glass as being half full, and others half empty. Myself, I see an opportunity to quench my thirst.

lukev , you sound to me like the type who splash the contents into another's face because they didn't have the same perception of the liquid in glass that you did.

Building bike lanes as metre here and a centimetre there is worse than nothing.

We need to take example from Montreal. Boulevard des Maissoneuve has a continuous, safe, segregated bike path which goes to where cyclists are actually going.

If Montreal can do it, there's no reason we cannot.

...because - aside from the bickering that Anthony described so well - there were some promising concepts that caught on with this audience:
* the chap from the Sunnybrook Centre pointing out the large gain that bike use brings to his organization and thus is a lightening of the general tax payer load. Other folks pointing out they use the area's roads to get to work every day. It put an end to the "lane to nowhere" nattering.
* people did understand that bike traffic in front of their homes is preferable to car traffic. They were more worried about new bottle necks on Lawrence that would spill traffic into the smaller streets. That gives us a chance to address the root of the problem: downtown folks commuting through the area. If a re-work of the roads can put a significant dent in the volume of car commuters going through the area, we've got local support.


Toronto only implements Bike Lanes when City Council approves them, so it's not the Transportation Planners that are to blame. To make matters even worse, we allow City Councillors to block the implementation of approved Bike Lanes even after lengthy planning & study; you can find recent examples of this with Councillors Mike Feldman or Rob Ford.

I think everybody shares in your frustration, but it's not helpless, as there is a remedy that exists in shifting public policy. The Politics of Bike Lanes is the largest obstacle to the creation of more cycling infrastructure; I wish we had a system like Montreal, New York or Portland - but that isn't our reality.

There are ways to deal with this problem however, get organized in your community by building support for cycling.

I've commuted from downtown to the border with Mississauga for a number of years, on a route with bike lanes that started and stopped. Those lanes were not worse than nothing--they were a welcome relief that gave me a bit of space from cars; I just had to take a bit of care merging with traffic when the lane ended. I don't think I found any bike lanes that were a metre or centimetre long; you and I must not ride in the same neighbourhoods as you do.

Seymore, you are right. I never doubted that the folks in the cycling department are well intentioned and qualified.

It's the politics and implementation strategy that is the problem.

And when bike lanes are built in areas where they are little used, and busy bike streets remain a chaotic mess, then it's not only a reason for me to complain, it's reinforcing the anti-bike sentiment of the electorate, making the political obstacles much WORSE!

That's what I've been saying all along.

OK Luke,

I understand your point about Jarvis, but Lawrence is a completely different matter.

A bike network takes time to build, and the shift towards more cyclists in reliant on more established cycling infrastructure. A "Build it and they will come" approach has worked in other North American cities like New York & Portland, so it will take some time.

I think that if Toronto was to add lanes with ridership as the governing factor, we would still be at the drawing board. I agree that Bloor is an embarassment, but we will get there eventually. Until then, we need to implement as many sections of the 'Network' as possible.

Anybody know why are these city planners are putting bicycle lanes to the right of right hand turn lanes?

I don't follow such lanes, madness... if i do i almost always get a left cross or right hook because everybody thinks i am turning right! Not to mention when i am stopped people honking at me so they can turn right on red.

Don't get me started about door prizes either... why are these lanes SO close and always running beside on-street parking? Swerving in and out of the bikelane to stay away from the door prize is dangerous! What is the point of the bike lane if i have to ride 2 feet outside of it to stay out of the door-prize zone?

And yeah, like challenged kindergarten kids, motorists can't keep it in between the lines - particularly on corners.

Seems everybody is worried about putting in new lanes, but i think lets get the existing ones done right. They lanes won't stick if they aren't done right.. no use taking the shotgun approach and spraying puny bicycle lanes all over if we continue with this approach we're just going to end up with a birds nest of garbage. We need a couple arterial bicycle roads soo badly.