â€œPerhaps for the first time in North America since the invention of the automobile, road space for motor vehicles is being reallocated to bicycles,â€ wrote Andrew G. MacBeth in the Institute of Transportation Engineers Journal back in 1999. In the nine years since then, you’d think providing more pavement for cyclists would have gotten a lot easier, and perhaps it has (at least a bit). One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the fear of what will happen if we trade in parking spaces for space for bikes. Wrote MacBeth back then: â€œloss of on-street parking is one of the most controversial issues associated with [the] implementation [of bike lanes].
Case in point is a new bike lane proposed for Annette Street (north of Bloor) between Jane and Lansdowne (it’s â€œnewâ€ in the sense that it’s just being debated now, but it’s been part of the bike plan for years.) According to World 19 (a Bloor West Village community group that’s backing the proposal), â€œCity studies indicate there will be minimum negative impact due to loss of parking.â€ Still, at the first, and so far only, community consultation that has been held on the proposal, business owners strongly opposed the idea, decrying the loss of roughly half (according to one attendee) of the on-street parking spots that currently exist.
The solution crafted at the request local councillor Bill Saudercook would see the stretch of the bike lane between Jane and Runnymede moved north to St. Johns Road, causing the otherwise continuous east-west route to be disjointed.
â€œLosing Annette will be a huge blow in the effort to finally make real progress in bike lanes,â€ reads World 19’s website. â€œAn overall bike network that has routes which divert north, south, east and west when it would pass a modest number of commercial properties is NOT acceptable.â€
It’s easy for most people to imagine how getting rid of on-street parking could be bad for businesses along a commercial strip, which is probably why despite a study that found that the impact on businesses would be minimal, Councillor Saundercook, a self-described â€œstrong supporterâ€ of the bike plan, was moved to look for alternate possibility. But what about the alternative: could increased cycling traffic have a positive impact on business that line bike lanes?
The proposal (which also includes new bikes lanes on Dupont street from Dundas West to Lansdowne Avenue) will be discussed at the Public Works and Infrastrcture Committee meeting this Wednesday, June 4. Those interested can download the staff report and recommendations [PDF] from the city’s website. Anyone wishing to make comments to the Committee, or to depute at their meeting, can contact Ros Dyers (rdyers (at) toronto.ca). Requests to make deputations are due Tuesday at noon.
Visit World 19’s “biking page” for more information on the Annette Street bike lane. The I Bike Toronto blog also covered the community meeting and posted regular updates and opinions from readers.
Photo by Martin Reis on Flickr