Toronto expands cycling network to allow for physical distancing during pandemic

Jun 2, 2020 | COVID-19, News

Mayor John Tory, who is seen delivering speech at the 2014 DANO Korean Spring Festival announced expansion of cycling lane. (Flickr)
Mayor John Tory, who is seen delivering a speech at the 2014 DANO Korean Spring Festival, announced the expansion of cycling lanes. (Flickr)
Abhinav Mendhe

Toronto city council on May 28 approved the expansion of 40 kilometres of cycling infrastructure as a part of Toronto’s ActiveTo program.

It includes 25 kilometres of new bikeways and 15 kilometres of cycling routes acceleration with the aim to provide more room to the public to practise physical distancing as the city re-opens in the near future.

“Connected bike routes will give people options and supplement subway lines to create an important relief valve for the transit system in the wake of COVID-19,” Mayor John Tory said.

“Bike lanes also support Toronto’s Vision Zero Road Safety plan, help safely get our frontline healthcare workers where they need to be, and allow people to be physically active while respecting physical distancing guidelines,” he said.

“Safe cycling lanes in Toronto and cities around the world are viewed as a critical part of COVID-10 restart and recovery planning,” Tory said.

The city aims at spending around $4 million to create more space, patios, streetscape enhancements, and bike lanes on Danforth Avenue. It will help recover small businesses on Danforth.

“The road to economic recovery goes through main street,” said Councillor Brad Bradford in an email statement. “This proposal for the Danforth is an unprecedented action to restore consumer confidence and give people safe alternatives to taking the TTC.

“If we’re going to kickstart the economic recovery, we have to give our communities more options for visit and enjoy the Danforth,” he said. “It will take time for us all to get comfortable, even as restrictions are lifted.

“The best way to help is to give people the space they need to feel safe and enjoy an attractive, local alternative to shopping online,” Bradford said.

The ActiveTO cycling program is the largest expansion the city has ever seen in a year. It was approved in a final vote of 23-2.

Councillor Stephen Holyday and Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong were the two who opposed the motion. 

Minnan-Wong, who was instrumental in removing bicycle lanes on Jarvis Street for better flow of traffic at the end of 2012, wanted the space to create more free parking spots on Bloor Street West and Danforth Avenue.

“The current proposal keeps parking on both sides of the Danforth at all times,” Bradford said.

According to the Canadian Automobile Association, more cyclists are killed or are injured in the month of July than any other month of the year.

However, Bradford said the addition of bike lanes in 2017 to Bloor Street made it safer, reducing car-on-pedestrian conflict by 55 per cent, car-on-bike conflict by 61 per cent, and car-on-car conflict by 71 per cent.

Councillor James Pasternak, chair of the Infrastructure and Environment Committee, said council’s objective is to provide alternative options in community and the expansion provides that.

“Re-purposing our roadways with a lens on all modes of transportation and mobility options through ActiveTo, including more cycling lanes, supports Toronto’s Vision Zero road safety plan and will help us move closer to restart and recovery as a city,” he said.