Is Toronto the Next Biker’s Paradise?

“Is the launch of BIXI Toronto a sign of things to come for Toronto bikers?”





By Corinne Ton That, Staff Writer

On May 3, 2011, the city witnessed the launch of BIXI Toronto.  Following in the footsteps of such metropolitan cities as Montreal, London, Melbourne, Minneapolis, Washington and Arlington, Toronto filled its sidewalks with 80 BIXI stations, complete with 1,000 bicycles around its downtown core. So far, BIXI has banked on its reputation as an environmentally friendly and much cheaper way to travel around the city. Accessible to all, BIXI bikes can be used 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

The arrival of the hugely popular bike-sharing system may come as a surprise to many who were sure that the election of Mayor Rob Ford would signal the demise of bicycles as a mode of transportation in the city.

“I can’t support bike lanes. Roads are built for buses, cars, and trucks. My heart bleeds when someone gets killed, but it’s their own fault at the end of the day,” Mr. Ford told a Toronto Star reporter in 2007. Interestingly, Ford was the one who also announced the end of the “war on the car” during his 2010 election campaign.

As much as Mr. Ford may come off as an opponent to the Toronto cycling community, it is very likely that under his watch, Toronto may grow to become as bike-friendly as cities like Montreal and New York, both of which plan to add several kilometres of bike lanes to their streets in the near future.

Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, head of Public Works and Infrastructure Committee under the Ford administration, has put forward a plan to see the creation of a connected network of bicycle lanes along the busy streets of Sherbourne, Richmond, Beverley, Wellesley, and St. George Street. Just like bike lanes in Montreal and New York, Mr. Minnan-Wong plans to build elevated concrete curbs that would protect cyclists from surrounding traffic.

Yet there is still a question of money and feasibility. Although Mr. Minnan-Wong claims that installing concrete curbs requires little financial expenditures, and hopes to see the construction of bike lanes by the end of the year, the City of Toronto is facing a budget deficit of $774 million next year.

According to the City of Toronto’s 2012 outlook website, city staff continue to recommend cost reductions, while keeping tax increases at the rate of inflation. Caught up in spending and revenue problems, Toronto will have to undergo spending cuts and experience revenue increases simultaneously.

In the realm of transportation, the City of Toronto Budget Committee has proposed to increase TTC fare by 10 cents in 2012. Presumably, more urbanites will be eager to hop on their bicycles or BIXIs as the weather starts to warm by spring next year. Hopefully by that time, Toronto will have become more bike-friendly. Let’s just hope that Mr. Minnan-Wong’s proposal to build elevated concrete curbs won’t be scratched due to Toronto’s 2012 $774 million shortfall.

By Corinne Ton That, Staff Writer

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