November 3, 2009
Toronto Riding Far Behind
Covering 3,600 kilometers, the Tour de France 2010 will be set in 20 stages over a span of 22 days. Drawing in teams from over ten countries world-wide, this bike race exemplifies our strong global bike culture. The British Columbia Bike Race, an epic, seven-day route from Vancouver to Whistler highlights the well-developed bike trails found throughout our westernmost province. While Ottawa lacks an intense race of any sort, Canada’s fourth largest city is home to 822 kilometers of bike lanes. Toronto, Canada’s largest city, can barely count for 250 kilometers (Only 76 of which are not shared with motor vehicles). Though our city prides itself on becoming a world class cycling city, evidence proves otherwise.
Struggling to maneuver through the chaos on Toronto streets, the lack of cyclist-only lanes forces our Toronto bicyclers to share streets with cars, buses, streetcars and trucks. The Toronto Cyclists Union continually strives to change this, as these local cyclists struggle for safety, legitimacy and accessibility of cycling in Toronto.
With over 800 union members and nearly 2000 members on Facebook, both active cyclists and concerned Torontonians are voicing their concerns with safety for bikers.
Competing with big-shot motors not only causes hassle, but the numbers of bicycle-related incidents have steadily increased. As of last year, 1,068 accidents were reported to the Toronto police. The Toronto Transportation Department reported more than 110 cyclist-involved collisions that at occurred major intersections. The death of Toronto native, Darcy Allen Sheppard drew the much needed attention to our city’s bike lane conditions. The 33-year old cyclist was killed on August 31 this year, when a car struck the courier on his way home. Sheppard was the father of three.
In hopes of decreasing these severities, the city of Toronto has partnered with the Ministry of Transportation and the Ontario Trucking Association to create the “Don’t Squeeze” campaign. The DS campaign targets educating cyclists and truck drivers, stressing the importance of driving with ample space behind, in front of and on both sides of one’s vehicle. “Can-Bike” courses have also been made available through Parks, Forestry and Recreation to help Toronto bicyclers understand safety issues.
Adrian Heaps, Toronto city councilor and bike-committee chair argues Toronto bike culture would flourish with the addition and creation of new cycling trails, paths and roads, blaming the number of bike related collision on the lack of facilities.
“You don’t buy a car if there’s no roads. You don’t ride a bike if there’s no infrastructure for it. And we don’t have anywhere near enough” Heaps reasons.
92 kilometers of bike lanes are to be added in 2010, but the city’s goal of doubling the distance of bike routes by 2011 seems hopeful. While bike activists continue to fight for safety and accessibility, the city has taken to educating cyclists in hopes of preventing future accidents. Tour de France may be out of Toronto’s league but hopefully, the current situation can be improved- for the sake of the cyclists, their safety and our city’s reputation.