Bloor St. is poised to become Toronto’s next bike lane battleground now that the public works committee has asked staff to examine the impact of cycling routes on the major east-west corridor.
This environmental assessment is the first step in a long process.
Works chair Denzil Minnan-Wong — the lone dissenter in the 5-1 vote Monday — warned the debate over Bloor would be just as bitter as the three-year fight over bike lanes on Jarvis St.
“I’m not supporting bike lanes on Bloor St. I don’t want to throw gas on that fire and that’s what we’re doing here because I can see the next step,” Minnan-Wong said. “No matter what the result of the environmental assessment is there will be an initiative by certain members of council to push for (bike lanes) anyway.”
The public works committee asked city transportation staff to look at the feasibility of installing a dedicated bike route along Bloor St. between Keele St. and the Prince Edward Viaduct. The assessment, to be added to an already planned congestion study on Dupont St., would evaluate the impact on car traffic, street parking and commercial loading. The committee has earmarked $450,000 for the combined study which would begin in 2014.
The proposed request now goes to city council, where Minnan-Wong predicted a “vigorous debate.”
An original environmental assessment of bike lanes on Bloor, which would have covered 24 kilometres between Kipling Ave. and Kingston Rd., was killed in July 2011 after Rob Ford was elected mayor.
Before the vote on Monday, the works committee heard from Albert Koehl of the Annex Residents Association.
“Bike lanes on Bloor have strong public support in our neighbourhood,” Koehl said.
“We’ve spoken to five other residents’ associations in the area. They’ve expressed strong public support. As well, the Bloor Annex Business Improvement Area has made it quite clear that they support bike lanes even if it means the removal of on-street parking.”
No one from the business community appeared at the committee, but Koehl’s group put together a five-minute video making the case for bike lanes on Bloor, which featured BIA chair Wade McCallum.
“We are, as a board, pro bike lanes,” McCallum says in the video. “We’ve talked to the business owners. We had a town hall last year with 70 members of the community including a lot of business owners and everybody was in favour of trading parking for bike lanes.”
In May 2009, city council contentiously voted to remove Jarvis St.’s fifth lane and use the additional real estate for north-south cycling routes.
Reversing that decision became an election issue in 2010. Jarvis is considered one of Toronto’s major traffic arteries. Right-wing mayoral candidates Ford and Rocco Rossi argued cycling routes don’t belong on these types of streets.
As mayor, Ford successfully fought to reinstall the fifth car lane at a cost of $300,000.
This issue will go to Toronto City Council on November 13, 2013 for a vote by the entire council.