Bike lanes on Bloor St. may be more likely to happen than you think. Possibly even sooner than expected. I was at the Bloor Street West and The West Mall Bike Lanes public consultation last night, and can report back that it it's mostly good news for cyclists.
Two new bike lanes were being presented at this meeting: A 3.1km stretch of The West Mall, from Bloor St. down to The Queensway (map), and a 3.4km piece of Bloor St. W. between Mill Rd. and Kipling Ave (map).
One of the points that several residents at last night's meeting kept bringing up went along the lines of, "But these lanes don't take you anywhere!". Well, contrary to popular belief, I feel that these lanes will actually fill in a much-needed gap in the network, providing safer cycling in mid-town and south-western Etobicoke.
The Bloor St. bike lane will start at almost the Mississauga border (not sure why they didn't extend it just a bit further), connect to a future Mill Rd. bike lane (in the Bike Plan), connect to the Renforth Dr. bike lane (which connects up to Rathburn Rd bike lanes, Centennial Park, Eglinton bikeway, etc.), West mall bike lanes, over Highway 427, Kipling Subway/GO station (via Aukland Rd. and the hydro corridor which is also in the Bike Plan), and the Etobicoke City Centre in the Six Points / Bloor / Islington area.
The West Mall bike lane will provide an important North-South connection between Bloor St., and the Queensway, eventually connecting down to the pathway along Etobicoke Creek and down to the lake, and also feed into the Bloor bike lane and Renforth Dr. bike lanes going north. It also brings cyclists close to the Etobicoke Civic Centre.
What are some of the obstacles to having these bike lanes installed? Very few, actually. On Bloor St., the bike lanes will not remove any on-street parking. No door-zones anywhere along the way. There are very few businesses along this stretch of Bloor, and therefore few conflicts with motorists turning in and out of driveways. There was some concern from area residents that the automobile traffic on Bloor St. is too fast and busy, so it is unsafe for cyclists. But that's possibly one of the best reasons to make it safer and slow the traffic down!
Perhaps two of the biggest obstacles to implementing these bike lanes are Councillors Doug Holyday (Ward 3) and Peter Milczyn (Ward 5). Milcyn already seems to be in favour of installing these bike lanes, but Holyday is likely to vote against any kind of cycling infrastructure at any chance he gets, especially in his own ward. Cyclists in Ward 3 should definitely put the heat on to Doug Holyday.
It seemed that the biggest obstacle for the West Mall bike lanes was that people felt it is an unsafe place for anyone to be on a bicycle, bike lane or not. There isn't a huge volume of traffic, and the road is very wide, but residents report that motor vehicles speed through here, and there can be heavy truck traffic between Dundas St. and the industrial areas south of there. Again, sounds like a good reason to install their planned bike lane (often with a wide buffer) to reduce cyclist/motorist conflicts and bring the motor vehicle speed down.
How soon might this happen? Sooner than I expected! According to the presentation notes:
Subject to Council approval, bike lanes would be implemented in 2009, through the
repainting of the roadway.
The first step is for these lanes, along with a whole host of others, to be approved at tomorrow's Public Works and Infrastructure Committee meeting. After that, it's up to council to make the final approval, and then get the lines painted. Hopefully it will be a fast and simple process (though I can just imagine the new round of "WAR ON CAR!" headlines coming out when these lanes come up for vote).
In closing, this isn't the most sought-after section of Bloor St. bikeways, but it has always been in the Bike Plan and will finally fill in a big missing gap in the whole Etobicoke network. Make sure you contact all of the appropriate parties at City Hall to give your support to the idea:
Public Works and Infrastructure Committee:
- General email address - firstname.lastname@example.org
- Glenn De Baeremaeker - email@example.com
- Shelley Carroll - firstname.lastname@example.org
- Adam Giambrone - email@example.com
- Chin Lee - firstname.lastname@example.org
- Cesar Palacio - email@example.com
- Gord Perks - firstname.lastname@example.org