As night descended on MacGregor Playground on Oct. 29, cyclists clad in ghoulish garb rallied in support of Lansdowne Ave. bike lanes that Toronto council approved in 2009 and 2010, but have yet to be installed.
“We wanted to organize tonight and come out and send a message to say that three and a half years, four years, is too long. We want to see action,” said Jared Kolb, executive director of Cycle Toronto, the advocacy group behind the rally, to a gathering crowd.
The approved lanes, if completed, would stretch along Lansdowne Ave. from Bloor St. W. to Davenport Rd. and from south of Dundas St. W. to Rideau Ave.
Liz Sutherland, a Cycle Toronto member who helped organize the rally, said both pieces of infrastructure were important, noting that the northern route “would really help to link up Bloor and Dupont and the College St. bikeway.”
She said the lanes to the south were needed because of unsafe conditions around the railway underpass on Lansdowne Ave. south of Dundas St. W.
“Underneath the bridge, it’s an exceptionally dangerous spot right now,” she said, explaining motorists tend to accelerate around there and “the condition of the pavement is terrible.”
As part of the Halloween-themed rally, which was promoted as The Phantom Bike Lane Ride, a group of about 60 cyclists rode together northbound on Lansdowne Ave. to Dupont St., before doubling back to Queen St. W.
Twice during the ride, motorists veered into the opposite lane on Lansdowne Ave. in an attempt to overtake the pedaling mass, underlining tensions between motorists and cyclists in the city.
Jo-ey Lee, a local resident, was one of the cyclists who came to show her support for the lanes. Dressed in a bright green dinosaur onesie and joined by her sons Oscar, 10, and Jasper, 8, she spoke of the need for the infrastructure.
“For us to get north, having bike lanes is important,” she said.
She also mentioned she’d feel safer cycling if the lanes were installed. “It’s hard, because I have kids, so I mean, biking on the streets… I’m always a little bit apprehensive.”
In a telephone interview with Spacing, Daniel Egan, the City’s manager of cycling infrastructure, said the lanes south of Dundas St. W. will be installed sometime in 2014 when that portion of Lansdowne Ave. undergoes a reconstruction.
“We’ll probably be narrowing the roads in some sections to improve the pedestrian environment as well as put in the bike lanes,” he said. “[The bike lane's] already been approved but we can’t do that until the road construction gets done.”
As for why the lanes from Bloor St. W. to Davenport Rd. have been delayed, Egan said the community expressed concerns about the loss of parking on one side of the street after the initial approval. He also cited a backlash after the installation of the Dupont St. bike lanes as contributing to the delay.
“When the Dupont bike lanes went in, there was a real bottleneck created” in the underpass, he said, adding, “that’s where the community pushback came.”
He said the Lansdowne Ave. route from Bloor St. W. to Davenport Rd. will be part of the environmental assessment for the Bloor and Dupont street bikeways. Council is expected to vote Nov. 13 on whether the study is conducted.
Photos of the ride by Martin Reis.