Physically separated bike lanes on Wellesley St. can’t come soon enough for Downtown cyclist Brandin O’Connor.
“I’m often doored by cars because there’s no separation between people getting out of their cars (and moving traffic). I have a bell and I ring it all the time,” says the Osgoode student.
O’Connor was one of many cyclists at an open house at Our Lady of Loudres Catholic school on Parliament St.on June 27 to review city plans to upgrade bike lanes along Wellesley and Hoskin Ave. between St. George and Parliament streets.
O’Connor feels physically separated lanes are inevitable. “Eventually you have to make some investments in cycling infrastructure and you can’t wait until there’s so many people demanding cycling. You have to take a lead in it and that way you’ll induce more people to cycle when they think it’s safer.”
The Wellesley-Hoskin stretch will be the second stage in a Downtown network of separated lanes. Work on the first stage is set to begin later this summer on Sherbourne south of Bloor. In some places lanes will be raised to sidewalk level; in others they’ll be separated from traffic by a small raised barrier.
Jared Kolb, director of membership and outreach for Cycle Toronto (formerly the Toronto Cyclists Union) says the current design of bike lanes on Wellesley presents a safety hazard for cyclists.
On-street parking “creates a conflict on Wellesley in a lot of cases because cyclists are forced to travel between the parked cars and moving traffic,” he said at the open house.
Kolb says Queen’s Park and the road around it present an interesting situation. “The question is do you develop (a bike lane) through Queen’s Park, widening the path for instance, or do you encourage cyclists to move around Queen’s Park” on the road.
Daniel Egan, city manager for cycling and infrastructure programs, said at the open house some people expressed concern that separated bike lanes would eliminate parking spaces, which are already in short supply: one man said his mother has trouble walking and has to park as close as possible to his home. It’s expected new parking spaces could be found on adjacent residential streets.
Egan said the city wants to upgrade existing bike lanes that have been in place for quite a while and to “prevent cars from parking in them.”
O’Connor concurs, noting cyclists are currently putting up with cars parked in bike lanes. “Some people turn onto it (the lane) and don’t realize it’s a bike lane. A separated lane would solve a lot of those problems.”
Council is expected to receive a report on the Wellesley-Hoskin lanes this fall with upgrading likely beginning next summer. Staff are expected to study separated lanes for Hoskin and Harbord St. between St. George and Ossington Ave. as the next phase.