Toronto's first separated bike lane approved by committee

The public works committee approved today the pilot separated bike lanes on University. I had to duck out of the meeting early in order to do some real work, but the room was full of citizens and media, waiting for the decision on this and the public bike proposal.

The pilot project will begin after the G20 summit and end in September, going along the center median of University Avenue. The committee compromised on the length, agreeing to make it go from Queen to Hoskin / Wellesley. If it is successful, and the Richmond bike lanes are installed, the bike lanes will be extended to Richmond.

The move has been a long time coming, bike advocates argue, pointing to cities around the world that have experimented with dedicated bike lanes that set up barriers of some kind to keep them separate from motor vehicle traffic. Yvonne Bambrick, executive director of the Toronto Cyclists Union, said this will make the large, often high-speed artery safer for both motorists and cyclists.

Councillor Minnan-Wong, who just learned to balance on a bike last year, and is already an expert on all this bicycling, proposed a network of "secondary bike lanes", which will presumably have to either be built on top of the buildings or underground (says I who has biked just about every street in downtown):

Opponents to the plan, however, pointed out that this would take car lanes off a major road away in an already chronically congested city. Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong proposed creating a network of secondary bike lanes throughout the downtown core, instead.

I'm not sure why Minnan-Wong isn't running for mayor. It seems like all the other candidates have decided they are also expert urban planners when it comes to bikes.

As for the deputants, only the CAA was opposed to the idea:

But at the meeting, only one deputation by Faye Lyons, a lobbyist with the Canadian Automobile Association, came to oppose the plan.

She said staff needed to study it more.

"I encourage you not to move forward with this report for the safety of all road users," she said. "You need to send this back for a comprehensive analysis."

Most of the deputations were in favour of the plan. Tom Flaherty, an East York bike commuter, said he was planning on tearing up his CAA membership.

"I find it offensive that we accept statements from lobbyists to the automobile industry about our public safety, " he said. "Once every six hours a pedestrian is hit by a car yet we don't look for alternatives."

Thanks Tom! Anyone else up to ripping up their CAA card? Maybe we should go to their corporate office to make a public statement. I'd do it but I only rent cars occasionally so I never bothered to get a card.

And one last thing. In the funniest statement of the day, Councillor Palacio brought back the spectre of the "silent majority" by saying:

"The silent majority is clearly stating there is a need for public consultation," he said. "We need to communicate with other stakeholders."

Can you speak up Palacio, I can barely hear you. Councillor Shelley Carroll's response is dead on: "the silent majority was quite silent".

"This thing has been all over the newspapers - all over them," she said. "Where are the people in opposition to this? Where are the legions of CAA members and car drivers to fight the University lane?"


"Where are the legions of CAA members and car drivers to fight the University lane?"

In Mississauga.

After stating the CAA membership for the GTA as in the millions, Ms. Lyons quickly switched to requesting that this plan be sent back for further study. When asked for specifics about the CAA’s concerns by Councillor Vaughan, she could provide none. So in other words the CAA represents a lot of people and they’re asking the city to keep separated bike lanes off University Avenue, just don't ask any questions.

I don't blame Ms. Lyons, she was just doing her job. This direction likely came from much higher up the organization and was poorly prepared, but it does send a clear message in my opinion.

The CAA has come out in opposition to cycling infrastructure without providing any actual reason apart from the fact they thought the plan was un-safe, and there was the part about how the CAA doesn't understand how sharrows work.

Now that a major corporation has attempted to sabotage bike lanes we may be witnessing the waking up to a shift in public policy. The fact that this is only a pilot project makes their interests even more suspect, because this isn't a permanent bike facility, but a temporary trial of separated bike lanes on an arterial street. If it serves to build support for cycling infrastructure in Toronto, it may also serve take people out of their cars, and that is what is really at issue here.

Has anyone from the Toronto Cyclists Union, or the Bike community, thought to approach CAA and offer professional consultation &educational services on how to include cycling interests and the opportunities we cyclists bring to the economy and City?

The Cyclists Union did a magnificent job advocating the interests of the cycling community in yesterday's meeting - Yvonne looked very businesslike in her suit, and her deputation was top-shelf business class. Make no mistake - bike lanes and infrastructure are all about business.

Would anyone suggest a new business opportunity to CAA in the form of insurance for cyclists and bicycles? 'Cos that sure would get the CAA's attention. Ooh, new revenue!, the same reaction Councillor Perks had for Bixi Toronto.

I'm not suggesting manatory insurance for bikes - that's too soon - however, if you're in the cycling community and have included your bicycle (s), accessories, bicycling clothing, and related personal items, and personal liability coverage in your personal household insurance policies, you're already voluntarily self-insuring - so why not create a custom-made, community-endorsed form of insurance that gives cyclists a fair deal while equalizing a major difference in the road user hierarchy?

Awesome news..

CAA though, wtf... dumb dumb dumb - stick to helping broken down motorists. Definitely not going to become a member now after finding out about your sandbagging of bicycle projects.

Maybe you should also send your current members for annual testing and education if you want to improve road safety instead of hoisting motorists burden onto our backs.

Oh wait, that is right - bicycles are really dangerous and need to be strictly controlled.

The CAA members are getting ready to vote, hopefully for a mayor and city council that will actually plan bike lanes and not position them AD HOC wherever they think is convenient. Temporary Lanes on University Ave means the cyclists will have to use the existing traffic light signals. This will be interesting for a right hand turn out of the dedicated bike lane onto a side street. Oh well, I guess they will all just bicycle in the cross walks like they do now. Too bad for the pedestrians.. get out of our way...we are the future of a green city!!

The CAA is a pro-car lobbying organization, people. This is not a unique event - it's what they do. They're not going to defend cyclists any more than the NRA is going to defend ducks.

This is exactly why the bike union was formed... to give cyclists their own voice. They'll also help you out if you lose the keys to your bike lock, but like the CAA, that's only part of what they do.

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