Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

Three ways we can make cycling better in Toronto

By: Metro Published on Mon Jun 09 2014

It’s Bike Month in Toronto: Our annual opportunity to reflect on how cycling in this city is both awesome and terrible.

Awesome because it’s just about the only way to reliably get from Point A to Point B in the downtown core these days, what with seemingly every street under heavy construction.

Terrible because a lack of infrastructure and education makes cycling way more dangerous and unpleasant than it really should be.

So let’s talk about ways to make things better. I’ve got three ideas.

Idea #1: Education

The thing about cycling in Toronto is that pretty much nobody gets training on anything. Cyclists basically mount up and hope for the best. That first trip out on our busy streets can be incredibly intimidating. This contributes to bad behaviour like sidewalk riding and red-light running.

Meanwhile — and more importantly — driver training tends to provide only a brief overview of how to interact with cyclists when behind the wheel.

So let’s fix both those things by getting serious about education. Why not make cycling part of the physical education curriculum in GTA schools? And for drivers, let’s ramp up the training they get on interacting with cyclists before they get their licence.

Idea #2: Bike Sharing

Toronto City Council found an innovative way to preserve the city’s bike sharing system last year, turning the whole system over to the Toronto Parking Authority. It was a real good news story, because bike sharing is a good way to get people to start cycling.

The problem, though, is that Bike Share Toronto — formerly BIXI — has a pretty small service map that doesn’t cover very many residential areas, limiting the service’s potential.

So here’s the idea: Since Toronto Parking Authority owns the system, they should consider imposing a small levy on fees at Green P lots — nothing big, maybe a dime on top of the regular parking charge — and create a dedicated fund for station expansion.

Idea #3: Infrastructure

In the fall of 2011, Toronto City Council approved a study on installing separated bike lanes on Richmond Street and Adelaide Street through the downtown core. Fast-forward almost three years later, and there’s talk that maybe we’ll see a pilot project this year.

It’s taken way too freakin’ long.

Installing a bike lane shouldn’t be a giant multi-year process with a weighty Environmental Assessment. Instead, it should be as simple as putting down some planter boxes on a street and creating a right-of-way. It doesn’t need to be so complicated.

Only by uncomplicating the planning process will we see cycling infrastructure improvements on the scale the city needs.

And only then will riding your bike on Toronto’s streets get a bit less terrible — and a lot more awesome.

This post was originally published at on 2014-06-09T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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