22 Mar 2019

Vision Zero – In Defense of the Woodbine Bike Lanes

What is this Vision Zero I’ve been hearing about Woodbine bike lanes?

No, it’s not a K-Pop band with millions of screaming fans, or a new model of smart eye wear from Snap or Google, it’s the City of Toronto’s road safely plan! Vision Zero is an international campaign to bring road deaths to zero using targeted interventions and road redesign. It was approved over two years ago at City Council, and just revamped this week, with the roll out of Vision Zero 2.0.

Why should I care, Ara?

In 2018, two collisions in the east end left cyclists dead.  In May, a man was struck and killed while cycling in a bike lane on Dundas near Jones Ave. In October, a man cycling on Queen St near Hamilton St died after he was struck by a streetcar and a woman was seriously injured in another collision in the Dundas bike lane.


You should care because the people using these bike lanes are among the most vulnerable on our roadways. They’re also your neighbours.

Earlier this month the Toronto Star commissioned a Campaign Research poll which showed that many residents supported traffic calming measures, including: 

  • 67% want more bike lanes,
  • 77% want more stop signs, traffic lights, and crosswalks,
  • 65% want roads to be redesigned, and
  • 61% support lower speed limits, and 68% support lower speed limits on arterial roads.

This support for traffic calming measures is encouraging.

Yet, when bike lanes are proposed or built, neighbours are pitted against one another, such was the case with the lanes installed on Woodbine. Some opposed the bike lanes because they transformed the road from four lanes for vehicle traffic to three lanes for vehicle and two lanes for bicycle traffic. Some residents noticed an uptick in drivers cutting through their formerly quiet side streets, and others were concerned about the removal of parking spaces. 

So, when support for more lanes and reduced speed are so high, why the hate on for the Woodbine lanes?

The difference between seeing something on paper and then seeing it built in practice can be a big, sometimes surprising change. But after the initial shock, drivers usually figure it out: they adjust their timing to off-peak periods, find an alternative road and heck, a few even switch to biking!  The loudest argument against the lanes come mostly from anecdotal accounts of people experiencing more traffic, yet not seeing larger numbers of cyclists in the lanes.

Sorry, but your steering wheel observations don’t match city data.

The City’s own measurements show that vehicle travel times increased by about 2.5 minutes at rush hour and under a minute at off-peak. Cyclist volumes saw a big jump from about 170% to 220%. By all accounts, these metrics are reassuring: even though it takes a bit longer to get around by car, there’s a new, safe option for residents who want to get around by bike.

Unlike other bike lanes in the area, the Woodbine Ave bike lane is long: it doesn’t just dump cyclists at Danforth Ave like the Jones and Greenwood Ave bike lanes do. Woodbine Ave provides an important north-south connection for folks trying to get around the city.

Even if the uphill ride to Danforth Ave doesn’t sound too fun, after a few days a week of pumping those hills, you’ll finally get the melon-crushing thighs of your dreams!

So let’s go out and show our support for one of the many options in our Vision Zero toolkit and celebrate the Woodbine Bike Lanes.

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