May 27, 2009 05:52 PM
Tess Kalinowski Transportation Reporter - The Star
It only represents 2 per cent of the city's bike-lane total,
But the two-kilometre stretch just opened along Wellesley, from Parliament St. to Queen's Park, is symbolic of Toronto's determination to transform a cycling patchwork into a network, Councillor Adrian Heaps, chair of the city's cycling committee, said today.
The Wellesley lane was on the books for years before it finally materialized late last year, he said at a news conference near Sherbourne St.
The city is still putting some of the finishing touches at intersections along Wellesley.
Traditionally, Toronto has installed bike lanes in the "path of least resistance," making them scarce in the most heavily trafficked areas, such as the narrow and busy Wellesley.
"Cycling is not the panacea. It is a viable transportation option," he added. That means it has to be part of an integrated transportation network.
The city's alliance with cyclists came to a head this week with a council decision to build bike lanes on Jarvis St. The plan, which involves removing a reversible north-south car lane, was approved despite fierce opposition from motorists who use Jarvis to commute from homes north of Bloor St.
The city also opened its first bike station at Union Station this week.
About 600 kilometres of bike lanes, shared roadways and off-road paths remain on the planning books, and Heaps acknowledges that Toronto lags behind other North American cities with comparable climates in providing cycling infrastructure.
"Traffic is the reason you put bike lanes downtown," said Heaps. "The (city's) population is expanding 35,000 to 40,000 people every year, and every year we're not building more roads."
But even the existing lanes are mostly unpassable in winter. Last winter, the city kept the Martin Goodman Trail clear along the lakeshore. This winter, Heaps said, the city will consult with cyclists on a second lane designated for snow clearing, probably a north-south path.
But he acknowledged there's a lack of hard data showing how much use people are making of the bike lanes. The city has committed to building $70 million worth of cycling infrastructure over the next five years.