Bike lanes would help Bloor West Village businesses

The current street design paradigm in this city seems to assume that one of the biggest opponents to bike lanes on Toronto’s major arterials are the local store owners who will raise hell at the thought of losing on-street parking. A new report released this week by the Clean Air Partnership challenges this, and demonstrates that in Bloor West Village businesses would not suffer if bike lanes were installed.

A study conducted in the area showed that 44% of merchants believed there would be “no change” in their customer base if half of on-street parking was removed and replaced with bike lanes. This number becomes slightly more convincing as an additional 10% of merchants thought they would probably experience increased business as a result. Thus, a majority, albeit a slim one at 54%, of merchants in Bloor West Village feel they would not be hurt at all by installing bike lanes in place of parking. Similar results were found when merchants were given the option of using the reduced parking space to widen the sidewalks.

The study also showed that numbers of customers arriving by means other than cars was greater than what most merchants anticipated. While only 21% of visitor respondents in Bloor West Village had arrived there by car, 61% of merchants surveyed estimated the number would be higher.

Visitors in the area showed similar numbers in support for altering the streetscape with 43% supporting the idea of replacing parking with bike lanes and 15% suggesting using the space for wider sidewalks. Not surprisingly, support for reducing parking was less amongst those who had driven to the area, it was not however uniform as 48% of those who drove still supported the idea of replacing parking with either bike lanes or widened sidewalks.

Interestingly, a relationship was also found between mode of transportation and spending habits.

The study found those who did not drive to the area were likely both spend more money and visit more often. Results showed that 86% of non-drivers spent more than $100/month in the area compared to 69% of those who drive. This fact significantly weakens the idea that on street parking is essential to business viability.

As the City moves forward with the bike plan, establishing the true consequences of removing on street parking will be very important. It would seem that mainstream attitudes on this issue today are not always correct, and it cannot be completely assumed that removing parking will negatively affect business, or that merchants will necessarily stand steadfast in opposition.

Of course, each area in the city is unique and has specific transport pattern. This study was conducted in July 2009 and reflects a specific type of destination, meaning the results of the study are useful but limited.

Other cities have been bold enough to remove on-street parking to create space for improvements to the pedestrian and cycling environment. While Toronto has been slow in this regard, studies such as this reflect the gradual process of shifting opinions about what we need from our streets and what is good for both merchants and all other users.

Combined with a previous study by the same organization that showed similar results in the Annex, the city can be assured of community support for a Bloor-Danforth cycling corridor in at least two important neighbourhoods on the route. Shifting paradigms about what role on-street parking plays and how stakeholders really feel about it will do a lot to move this city forward.

Photo by Harvey K


  1. While only 21% of visitor respondents in Bloor West Village had arrived there by car, 61% of merchants surveyed estimated the number would be higher.

    This post makes a good point that a lot of businesses cling to out-dated, and unfounded notions that on-street parking is better for business. I remember a few months back, when there was a minor controversy over a police car caught parked in the bike lane while the copper bought pizza. At the time, the pizza shop owner was quoted as bemoaning the bike lanes, saying that his business was down 10% in the last year since the installation of the bike lanes.

    Because, of course, in the middle of a world wide recession, of depths unseen since the Great Depression, the reason *your* business is down 10% is because of bike lanes.

  2. It should also be noted that dirently behind the stretch of businesses along Bloor St. in Bloor West Village are ample parking spaces in Green P lots, which is probably what skewing the perceived effect of reduced on-street parking.

  3. I think the main problem would be traffic. Dundas is highly congested through the area and Annette has been slowed dramatically with the addition of a bike lane. I’d love to have more space to walk but wouldn’t like getting in or out of the area.

  4. Meanwhile in the Annex area, somehow – gee, how did that happen – the consultant who does the Class C EA for maybe that line of paint on Bloor/Danforth has been instructed not! to think of bike lanes between Avenue Road and Christie, exactly the same boundaries as Councillor Vaughan’s Ward 20….
    How hard is it to paint a white line on asphalt along a subway? And there’s also a lot of parking atop it in this area as well.

  5. We can have honest differences about the merits of having bike lanes on arterials, but Bloor Street is different from other arterials in two crucial ways:

    1) there is a subway running beneath it, meaning car traffic does not have to compete with buses or streetcars

    2) there is a municipal right-of-way above the subway corridor to the north. This corridor is dotted with surface parking lots. I would bet many of these are often well below capacity.

    That means Bloor Street provides an excellent opportunity for not just bike lanes, but for a separated bikeway that I could allow my 8-year-old to ride on.

  6. Hamish remains concerned about a bike lane along Bloor in my ward.I remain hopeful that the study underway will show us how to do it. The Clean Air Partnership played a key role showing the community and the local BIA the benefits. As a result the Bloor Visioning study is silent on the topic, but at council we asked for staff to come forward with proposals. The Clean Air Partnership also inspired our office to work with residents to start the ward twenty cycling group (contact Dale Duncan in my office for details).

    Creating beautiful, safe and vibrant streets for all the users of public space is the goal. We are not there yet but if we can build trust and use our imaginations to solve the physical limitations, a Bloor that is as easy to roll a wheel chair down as it is to ride a bike on is a possibility. Hopefully we can do better than choosing can of white paint or the status quo.

    Bloor, between Bathurst and Walmer is at it’s narrowest in my ward, but a recent traffic study showed that we may be able to lose a lane of traffic and accommodate bikes, people and cars without starting a war!. While we wait for the Bloor study the W20 cycling committee is hard at work improving Harbord Street (Bike Boxes, and a strategy for a continuos path between Spadina and Bathurst), my office is also designing and working with local residents for a contra flow lane system for north-south travel on Brunswick to link the College, Harbord and (future) Bloor bike lanes.

    In the south we have proposed a segregated set of lanes for Simcoe and as part of the traffic study for the Entertainment District we are also looking at extending the Simcoe lanes north from the lake to Queen. Designs for the Portland Bridge will include ramps for bikes and hopefully Portland and Dan Leckie Way will provide additional north-south access through the raillands from the centre of the city (Queen St) to the lake.

    Watch for n on street Green P parking space on Spadina this year to be taken away from car use and turned into permanent multiple bike post parking space too,

    Once again contact Dale in my office to find out more and thanks to the Clean Air Partnership for all the great research,


  7. Cars are already a second rate way to get across Bloor-Danforth. Even with its frequent stops, the subway is much faster than driving through the congestion of this arterial. Encouraging cycling will only bring more people above ground, and help business.

    Here’s hoping this goes through with far less controversy than some other bike lines in this city.

  8. Agree with Redacted.
    Majority of BWV visitors park at the GreenP behind the stores. It’s a really wonderful design as it provides both parking and a bumper space between shops and residential neighbourhood.

    In the case of Annette, I do have sympathy for the Burger/Greek/Pizza joint. Annette and Runnymede is not within easy walking distance from the subway station (about 15 minutes walk from Runnymede station). Majority of the street parking around annette are taken up by residential on street parking. All the small shops at Annette and Runnymede are heavily relying on neighbourhood customers. Not a lot of folks from outside the neighbourhood would venture there if they don’t bike.

    And if you take a look at all the businesses on Annette, you will realize that business is tough on that stretch. It’s tugged between the very popular BWV and the increasingly threatening big boxes up on St Clair (it’s slowing making its way from the stockyard to Jane and St. Clair. Not to mention the the Junction Triangle (still sounds weird to me). Not even convenience store can survive on Annette.

    The only business seems to thrive on Annette are baby/children focused: Daycare and Art Classes, etc.

  9. Good points, Hamish.

    I’m really excited about this idea. A separated bike lane, plus widened sidewalks, would add a lot of life to parts of Bloor that are underdeveloped. Especially around the Dufferin Mall; if done right this could bring a lot more customers back to Bloorwest Village. And the Annex section of Bloor would flourish with more sidewalks and calmer traffic. These sorts of ideas give us a sense of what we have to lose in the coming election if we don’t make our voices heard.

  10. @Adam,

    Thanks for the update. What about the construction that is underway between Yonge and Avenue? Apparently bike lanes are not part of the plan there, which really makes no sense at all. The car lanes are wide, so are the sidewalks, yet a complete makeover of it does not include bike lanes. What a waste.

  11. It’s not in my ward, but doing an isolated bike lane didn’t make sense. Lanes need to connect to other lanes so that new strengths build and add to existing strengths. At Community Council the worry was that adding bike lanes to just this stretch of Bloor without the design work and plans for all of Bloor would have lacked co-ordination. It would have also required an EA. This would have delayed the reconstruction project. The commitment was made to proceed with inserting the lanes after the new sidewalks were built. The road here IS wide enough for bike lanes. As Hamish points out, at that point all that’s needed is paint (and of course an EA, that EA is underway)!


  12. Thanks to Spacing for this great post and to Councillor Vaughan for the kudos on our work at the Clean Air Partnership. A couple of other points from the report I want to highlight: 1) Bloor St in the Bloor West Village is wider than in the Annex, so the removal of on-street parking to install a bike lane is a “worst-case” scenario in that section. 2) One of the results I found the most interesting was that even though cycling activity is relatively low in Bloor West Village, nearly 75% of those visitors to the area who prefer a change in street use allocation would prefer the addition of a bike lane. For anyone interested in hearing more about this research study, CAP is holding a webinar on March 30th @ 1 pm. It’s offered free of charge to the first 40 registrants, and there’s still a few free spots available:

  13. Could the city add bike ranks over the subway grates which do not have gates or escape hatches, for the bicycles to park? This past WINTER, I have seen ALL the bicycle racks at the Bathurst Station filled. More bicycle racks are needed, maybe at sections of parking lots where auto parking is discouraged.

  14. Sadly, there’s a certain amount of BS from Councillor Vaughan about Bloor St. both in the Annex area and in the Yorkville area.
    The big new study, the Class C EA for the 24kms of B/D, specifically directs the winning consultant to NOT examine bike lanes on Bloor between Ave. Rd. and Christie, which coincidentally happens to be exactly the amount of Bloor within Councillor Vaughan’s ward.
    How did that happen? (the proof/instruction has now been removed from the City’s Contract website but it was the third answer to the Q3, and I’ll try to get Ben to post it soon on the site)
    With the Yorkvile segment, it’s a sad travesty. Even though Kyle Rae promised! bike lanes here, nope, the City wasn’t able to find that 1992 study that had this part of Bloor as the best/#1 spot for bike lanes, and they failed to make the road wide enough for easy bike lanes. To add bike lanes now means removing a lane of traffic each way, or adding half a metre on either side, which is readily available between new planter and new curb.
    As for the connectivity BS, the Bike Plan has bike lanes to be added along Bloor from Sherbourne along to Church – but nope, no movement there.
    The dominant bike travel direction is east-west in the older core – and Mr. Vaughan is failing to make enough of a difference on either Harbord or Bloor.
    Harbord needs continuous bike lanes now, at the end of his term, not sharrows, and Bloor should be the easiest spot in Southern Ontario for bike lanes due to the subway.
    The Cyclists’ Union has been weaker on these issues too.

  15. There’s also BS about EAs from Mr. Vaughan – the tipping point for streetscaping work to a Class B EA is $2.2M, but this $25M Yorkvile project over several years with great tonnages of wasted concrete and new hard/high embodied energy granite is put into an A+ category – the same lightweight, no public meeting nor appeal category that the restriping of Jarvis St. for bike lanes is now getting. So how strange is it that the Yorkville project – which Council was in such a rush to preclude easy bike lanes going in for a few decades eg. Spadina – has no EA, and yet maybe putting white paint along Bloor to both give bike safety and provide some relief to the subway gets a full Class C EA?
    It’s also sad to see the bike parking being torn out near Manulife and Holts etc. – and Council OK’ed its removal, but not replacements. But we’re all so green….and doing things for bikes… but not on a natural corridor into town/UofT

  16. There’s some clarity now on the ? of the EA missing the Ave. Rd. to Christie portions. Pardon the length of this text, but for the record here is that now-elapsed question/answer of concern that directed consultants to avoid bike lanes between Ave. Rd. and Christie is here, tx to Ben Wendt:
    “Q3: Near the end of Section 2.1 Background, there is a list of recommended and/or approved bike facilities for particular sections of Bloor Street. How should the study team approach the work in the areas that overlap with these projects? In the case of approved projects (e.g., bicycle lanes on Bloor Street West, from Mill Road to Beamish Drive), can the EA recommendations potentially conflict with or override these existing Council decisions, or should the study team approach the study with the presumption that these projects will be implemented as already approved by Council?

    A3: The intent of the study is to create a bikeway in the corridor identified in the RFP. Although a section of the study area may have identified bicycle lanes there may be some time before these can actually be implemented. As such this study should examine other methods of accommodating bicycles as part of a bikeway until such time as the bicycle lanes are implemented.

    As well, a study that has been undertaken may have ruled out bicycle lanes within that study boundary but may not have examined the other methods of accommodating bicycles that this study is proposing. In this case this study should determine if the bikeway can be implemented in a manner other than bicycle lanes.”

    This is from an email from Dale Duncan of Councillor Vaughan’s office, Thurs March 18:
    ” I wanted to let you know that, as promised, I have spoken to staff and Councillor Vaughan about the wording in the RFP for the Bloor-Danforth EA. The wording is incorrect.Councillor Vaughan has asked staff to correct it.

    First, the scope of the Bloor Corridor Visioning Study was from Avenue Road to Bathurst (not to Christie).

    Second, while the Bloor Corridor Visioning Study did recommend wider sidewalks, it didn’t rule out bike lanes.

    On page 5-6, the RFP states: ” More recently the Bloor Vision Study (Avenue Road to Christie Street), recommended reducing the number of general traffic lanes to accommodate wider sidewalks, rather than bicycle lanes.”

    The phrase “rather than bicycle lanes” should be deleted.

    On the subject of bicycle lanes, the Bloor Visioning Study said that at the time of any future reconstruction of Bloor Street between Avenue Road and Bathurst Street, consideration will be given to accommodation of cyclists.

    It also said that “Cycling infrastructure will be considered in the Bloor Corridor in the context of a City-wide study as directed by Council.”

    As you know, the study directs the consultant to investigate the feasibility of bike lanes on Bloor, and where bike lanes aren’t feasible, other ways to accommodate cyclists. Q3/A3, which you continue to refer to, directs the consultant to look at other ways of accommodating cyclists in cases where previous studies have determined that bike lanes are not appropriate. The Bloor Visioning study was not one of those studies. It did not recommend against bike lanes.

    Again, Councillor Vaughan supports finding a way to accommodate bike lanes on Bloor Street.”

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