Cyclists celebrated the new bike lanes, but some in the community fear they will make vehicle traffic more dangerous.“Bike at your leisure, pleasure, whatever — just congest the hell out of that bike lane,” Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon ordered a horde of helmeted revellers on Saturday.
They were cutting a ribbon on Toronto’s newest bike lanes, stretching down Woodbine Ave. from O’Connor Dr. south to Queen St. E.
Dozens of cyclists crowded the corner of Woodbine and Danforth Aves. for speeches and a ride with free granola and lemonade at the end.
The lanes — separated with flexi-posts from vehicles for much of the distance — were approved by city council last October as part of Toronto’s 10-year cycling plan.
When work on the lanes started in August, however, McMahon, whose Ward 32 Beaches—East York includes Woodbine south of the Danforth, got an earful from upset residents worried about traffic implications.
Residents on Woodbine side streets said a dangerous flow of motorists trying to shortcut the busy north-south artery would only get worse.
“Burgess (Ave.) is already like a highway during rush hour from people trying to get away from Woodbine . . . It’s ridiculous,” said one resident on the Friends of Cassels Park Facebook group.
But many two-wheelers at the Saturday celebration predicted residents will find traffic concerns were overblown, and some drivers will switch to bikes because they can travel safely.
Keenan Voviau, who lives near Pape Ave. and Cosburn Ave. in East York, is thrilled his commute down Woodbine to The Beach will be in a bike lane.
“It is a lot safer not having to dodge in and out of cars and having that space for ourselves,” he said, adding he used to cycle Bloor St. and saw a vast improvement when bike lanes were installed as a pilot project.
McMahon is open to “tweaks” to address local traffic concerns but the Woodbine bike lanes are here to stay.
“I want to assure people that it actually makes car drivers safe as well as cyclists and pedestrians,” she said.
“It’s not a war against the car — it’s connectivity, active transportation, multi-modes for everyone. We’ve seen kids biking to school in these lanes that we’ve never seen before and it’s fantastic.”
McMahon now has her sights set on getting a bike lane on the Danforth, initially from Coxwell to Victoria Park Aves., pending outcome of the contentious Bloor St. bike lane trial period.
“We’re looking forward to the conversation about Bloor in the fall and then rolling (lanes) out on the Danny as soon as we can.”
Councillor Janet Davis, whose Ward 31 Beaches-East York includes the north stretch of Woodbine, says the creation of new lanes to form a citywide network is inevitable, even if Toronto’s suburb-dominated city council has failed in the past to hit new lane targets.
“We have to (commit) to make the connections into the suburban areas of the city. People will ride distances if they know the connections are there,” Davis said.
“More and more people are cycling, that is not going to change . . . We have an obligation to make sure those roads are safe for those people as well.”
Source: The Toronto Star