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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Pretty in pink

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Update – The Squad’s pink lanes got some props in New York City on Streetsblog!

A few pretty pink Penny Farthings showed up on Bloor street last week along with a lovely matching stripe.

This new pink bike lane is in homage to female cyclists in Toronto, and comes to you courtesy of the Other Urban Repair Squad.

Studies have shown that although both men and women would rather not ride on roads without bicycle facilities, women are much more uncomfortable on roads with no bike lanes.

The Toronto Star gave the new lane some ink on Monday, which generated some great letters to the editor today. Here are just a few:

I applaud the activists who are stencilling their own bike lanes on Toronto streets. The city, with an ample budget for bike paths but without the leadership to implement a plan, needs a good kick in the pants for its abject inaction. Bikes are great for the environment and for our health, so what’s not to like? It’s time to protect bicyclists with bike lanes. – Don Tai, Toronto

After 10 years of fighting off aggressive and inattentive car and SUV drivers and risking my neck for a couple of feet of pavement, I have become almost ready to give up my daily bicycle commute to work. So I welcome actions, like lane painting by the Other Urban Repair Squad, that highlight the outrageous fact that drivers continue to be given priority over cyclists, even as we face a smog and climate crisis. – Michael Polanyi, Toronto

While I don’t condone vandalism, I must applaud the creativity of the Other Urban Repair Squad. Toronto is years behind other cities in becoming cycling friendly. For a city with a poor environmental report card, this is an area where it could improve upon. Now, if only the activists had painted a bike lane on Yonge St., I would be ditching my Metropass in favour of my bike this summer. Until that happens, I fear for my life any time I try to bike to work. – Colin Haubrich, Toronto

Does the Other Urban Repair Squad take requests? We sure could use a bike lane on Bayview Ave. No rush — any time this summer would be good. Many thanks. – Marjorie Nichol, Toronto

Clearly, cyclists are tired of waiting. The squads see implementation of cycling infrastructure as a survival issue. The streets are no longer safe for cyclists — especially new cyclists. Here are the most recent statistics from the Toronto Police. A cyclist is injured (or, more accurately, reports being injured) approximately every 9 hours in Toronto.

Although I am not a member of any of the squads, I completely understand their frustration.

I see this political act as a dynamic and creative way of expressing that frustration — and providing a solution. (Note that cyclists are riding in the bike lane in both pictures.)

Implementing cycling infrastructure would provide the most immediate and cost-effective solution to air quality and transportation ills in our city.
You want to ease traffic congestion? Install bike lanes and make provisions for bikes on all transit. The Bike Plan is only the beginning. And, I understand that the squads do plan on filling in the oft-noted “gaps” in the network set out in the Bike Plan.

You want to decrease smog in the city? Install bike lanes and provide clean air corridors on days when the air is bad.

Recently, the executive director of the League of American Bicyclists testified before U.S. Congress to emphasize how bicycling can help solve America’s climate change issues. There are huge air quality benefits in converting short trips by motorized to non-motorized forms of transport.

In Toronto, money has been allocated to the Bike Plan for years and it has simply not been spent. The Mayor vowed that the Bike Plan would be top priority, yet cycling was not recognized in the 2007 operating budget.

So after years of inaction and broken promises by the City, cyclists aren’t left with many choices but to do the work for them. The Urban Repair Squads are just showing the City how easy it can be.

Top photo courtesy of the Toronto Star. Bottom photo courtesy of the bikelanediary.



  1. Cycling in Toronto can be treacherous, and I applaud this creative initiative. Hopefully the West Toronto Railpath can be completed quickly, but some land had to be acquired from the railway, which happens to be a very busy area. The proposed pedestrian/cyclist route would be such a valuable artery for the west end as a quick and safe way for cycling into downtown.

  2. Pardon me, but the best and highest use of this West Toronto rail corridor is most likely for effective transit, and less so for bikes. And regrettably the first leg won’t likely save any lives at c. $1.3M a km vs doing Bloor St. bike lanes parallel to the subway at $25,000/km.

  3. In theory you could tunnel extra rail lines under the path. But you’re right, the Bloor option is cheaper, will serve more people. Along with this, let’s push for a line on Yonge. My issue is that on roads with subways, how can bike paths be such a priority? Biking is a good option in areas served by buses, because riding a bus will give you an average 13 km/h of speed including waiting, stops every 100m and traffic. On a bike you can average 15-17. On the subway you’re averaging 22-26 km/h depending on waiting time. The Rail Path connects to two major Toronto streets- Queen and King. Both do not have subways.

  4. i’m really sick and tired of hearing people discuss the appropriate location for bike lanes by reference to where public transit is located. this just reflects a car/non-car view of transportation. bikes, transit and cars and three different modes of transportation; each should be studied on its own merits.

    studying bike transportation on its own merits, surely we can agree that bloor and danforth needs a bike lane all the way across the city. i completely support everyone who is trying to accomplish this task, and tend to agree with their reasons for the initiative. i couldn’t care less whether there’s a subway or car traffic nearby.

  5. I got a good look at the OURS bike lane yesterday, while I was diving out of the way of a bike speeding down the sidewalk!

  6. Well, I guess if you want progress, you gotta go guerilla, whether its bike lanes on Bloor, or the Railpath.

  7. I believe a good way to eventually have a bike lane running along the entire stretch of Bloor/Danforth is to reclaim it from cars one piece at a time, eventually filling in the gaps (there may be spots where there will ‘never’ be a lane dedicated for cyclists).

    This could start in sections not likely to cause conflict with any business owners, parking authorities, or drivers. The north side of Bloor where it crosses Mount Pleasant is one such example. The street is plenty wide, and there is no parking at that location.

  8. Bravo (Brava?) to the OUR Squad!

    Btw, are railpath and transit (LRT?) really mutually exclusive on the rail right of way? It looks like there enough room to me. Running bike paths alongside LRT on this corridor would give us a real multi-use greenway.

    But why is Railpath only on the west side of town. The rail line runs up through Riverdale on the east side of town – prime bike territory. Why not have a Railpath there too?

  9. I am in support of a Bloor bike lane too, but if presented as an either or, I think a multiuse trail that uses the margin of the rail lands the best immediate investment, especially in the underinvested neighbourhoods that have been cheapened by a section of rail abandoned for decades.

  10. Mobius- it’s a matter of bringing together people and making a proposal. The city purchased some of the land back in 1997 for the railpath, and now there are some hard plans. Talk to local politicians if you think it’s feasible in your area.

  11. Mobius:

    The beauty of Railpath was that there was enough land for the trail and well separated from space that CN and GO uses – it even has its own overpasses in Phase I, as it was a long abandoned CP industrial lead. Even with GO expansion, there’s a lot of room here (and no excuse to bring it down to at least Wellington/Strachan).

    From what I remember, there’s a lot less free room on the east rail line, though I agree that this would be very useful

    Now I’ll be giddy if the CN Newmarket Sub (GO Bradford) line, which also has room, gets a bike path. Ever tried riding Caledonia or Dufferin north of St. Clair? Up and down hilly, and some scary driving there!

  12. I’m a huge fan of Guerrilla environmentalism. If the climate change policies put out by the federal, provincial and municipal government show us anything, it’s that we’d better be prepared to take our own action.

  13. I agree. We can do so much ourselves with a bit of fun, effort and imagination.