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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

BRADFORD OP-ED: Bike lanes are the path to main street recovery on the Danforth and across the city

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The intersection of Broadview and The Danforth is too often clogged with vehicles.

Toronto has approved the installation of 40 kilometres of cycling infrastructure across the city, including a significant portion along Danforth Avenue, in the community I represent as city councillor. With it, we are finally on the right path to main street recovery, now and for years to come.

Expanding cycling infrastructure is the right thing to do to help our local businesses recover from this pandemic, restore consumer confidence, and give people safe alternatives to the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC).

The road to economic recovery runs through main street.

Over the course of the pandemic, I’ve talked to hundreds of businesses, and we know that bringing people back to places like the Danforth will be critical to the city’s recovery. This is about making Danforth a destination.

In truth, Toronto’s main streets were struggling before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. This pilot will see an unprecedented $4 million investment this summer to make the kinds of enhancements we’ve needed for years: for our public realm, for patios, for dedicated parking, and to add the infrastructure we need so that people can safely walk, ride, and roll in our neighbourhood.

Restoring consumer confidence is a big part of what cities need for recovery. Before COVID-19, there were as many as 13,000 pedestrians and 27,000 subway boardings on Danforth every day. With TTC ridership down 85% and the majority of those people no longer visiting the Danforth, we need safe alternatives to the TTC, such as walking and cycling, to bring people back to this vibrant community.

Starting to reopen incrementally and with local trips is the right approach.

We all know that many of our mom and pop shops have experienced devastating impacts over the last few months. Almost half of small businesses across Canada have seen their revenue drop by over 70%. Estimates vary, but tens of thousands of small businesses are expected to close due to COVID-19, and more than a million Canadians have been laid off from the restaurant and hospitality sector.

A government response alone can’t fix this. We have to go all-in as a community, and whoever can contribute will need to do so. We all have a role in keeping doors open and jobs retained in our community, and communities across Canada.

This proposal is city-building at its best. We are taking an existing project – the Danforth Avenue Planning Study initiated last year – and adapting it quickly and effectively to meet our current needs. We’re taking an integrated approach by working across our Economic Development, Transportation Services, City Planning, and Public Health departments, to break down silos.

Accelerating a project in this way is the kind of responsive and agile government people expect. This is about taking action and getting things done. We must move the city forward and advance our priorities like economic recovery, infrastructure investment, and providing space for safer streets.

Now, more than ever, we are all being asked to think and act differently to support the greater good. This project is no exception. It is one step on the path of big, important steps to keep us, and our main streets, healthy and safe. This situation is a prime example of where the risk of doing too little is greater than the risk of doing too much.

Investing in active transportation infrastructure is about creating a healthy recovery, not just from the virus, but for our long term physical and mental health, and the health of our environment.

photo by Wylie Poon (cc)

Brad Bradford is the Toronto City Councillor for Ward 19 – Beaches-East York.



  1. I have been in Toronto for 35 years and I have never understood why the Danforth hasn’t prospered more than it has in that time, given the fact that it is so major an artery with so many subway stops. There is no reason why the section east of Greek town to Victoria Park shouldn’t be as prosperous and well maintained as the area from Broadview to the Donlands area is. I hope bike lanes help, but given the Danforth’s history I think more could and should be done in the way of neighbourhood improvement.

  2. Excellent news! Thanks for your efforts in making this happen!

  3. Phenomenal work, getting bike lanes installed is critical infrastructure!

  4. The bike lanes on Woodbine are hardly used, and traffic has increased to the point where cars dart through side streets to avoid the wait creating safety concerns for children walking to and from school. Eliminating lanes on Danforth will do the same, where such options exist. Where they don’t, the increase emissions from stopped vehicles will certainly have a greater detrimental impact to the environment than the hardly measurable increase in bike ridership. Think about the 3-7 minutes of additional drive time for each vehicle multiplied by the number of vehicles multiplied by 365 days. Then contrast that to the few cars removed from the road, multiplied by, what, 200 days at best. Please do the study and release the numbers so a proper public debate can be had. (Yes, I’m one of your constituents, Mr. Bradford, and someone who works in the environmental sustainability space).

    There’s a place for bike lanes, and it’s on the secondary roads. Keep the main roads moving and cars off of residential streets.

  5. @ David: Okay, Boomer. Keep your 1970s view of traffic planning to yourself. We’ve moved passed your assumptions a loooooooooong time ago.

  6. @ Lulu – Not a boomer, rather on the cusp of Gen Y & Z with several small children. You say you’ve moved past my assumptions, but please provide DATA not an emotional response. I’m not saying more cars is the answer, I’m saying that planning for cycle lanes should not be done in a way that endangers lives and increases car emissions. Let’s see the studies.

  7. I really do not understand why you say adding bike lanes to the Danforth is good for business. How can you say this, let alone prove it. This is propaganda.
    What the Danforth needs in this pandemic is better pedestrian space, larger patios, parking and TTC. Living off the Danforth for 40 years, I cycle I drive and I walk while I shop and eat and drink. Now I am staying away from the Danforth because of the bike lanes. They make me furious. None of my neighbours have anything good to say about what you are doing either.
    Pure nonsense making bike lanes a priority and calling this good for business!

  8. I have now had the pleasurable experience of having an ambulance almost hit me head on as it was forced to move around a stalled car on Woodbine Avenue in order to access the Michael Garron Hospital. Traffic at Main and Danforth is a mess and I dread to think how this will be when snow plows try to navigate this disaster of a project come winter. This is during covid; cannot imagine how bad this will be once full employment resumes. Keep repeating how wonderful these bike lanes are Brad; I am sure your small contingent of bike voters will continue to support this.

  9. Janet — You do realize that CARS cause that traffic, not bikes. Bikes do not lock traffic at main and Danforth, too many cars on the road do that. As for almost hitting an ambulance: turn down the music and you should hear the sirens. That’s all on you.