Pandemic-inspired temporary bike lanes, including one along University Avenue, could be made permanent

A total of seven temporary bike lanes that were installed in an effort to give Torontonians more ways to get around during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic could soon be made permanent.

A report that will go before the infrastructure and environment committee next week recommends that temporary bike lanes installed along Bloor Street East, Dundas Street East, University Avenue, Danforth Avenue, Bayview Avenue, Wilmington Avenue and Huntingwood Drive in 2020 be made a permanent part of the city’s cycling network.

Staff are also recommending that the Danforth Avenue bike lane be extended from Dawes Road to Victoria Park Avenue.

In arguing for the changes, staff cite data that shows that all seven bike lanes have seen a significant increase in cyclist traffic while only having a “minimal” effect on automobile travel times.

In fact, the number of cyclists who use University Avenue on an average weekday has more than doubled since the installation of the bike lane along that corridor and on Danforth Avenue, which is the busiest of the routes, cyclists volumes were up more than 66 per cent with an average of 2,750 riders now being observed at Jones Avenue on a typical weekday.

Meanwhile, the data shows that travel times along the routes have only been minimally impacted by the presence of the bike lanes.

The biggest impact was noted along Danforth Avenue, where it now takes drivers about 30 seconds longer to get from Broadview Avenue to Dawes Road.

Staff, however, do note that current traffic has not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels, which could mean that the impact of installing the bike lanes is being somewhat underrepresented in the data.

In a joint statement released on Thursday, seven downtown and east-end city councillors welcomed the report, which they said supports what they have already being hearing “loud and clear” from their constituents.

“We are thrilled to support making these projects permanent,” they say. “We know that these pilot projects, including the patios, road safety improvements, and bike lanes, have and will continue to improve and protect the health of Torontonians, support local businesses, are an important step in fighting climate change, and most importantly make our streets safer for everyone.”

Six of the seven bike lanes were set up with largely temporary infrastructure in order to expedite their installation, but staff say that if council chooses to make them permanent, staff will be able to consider various public realm improvements, especially as the roadways undergo state-of good repair work in the coming years.

They say that as part of that work, improvements such as “green infrastructure, raised concrete physical separation, improved transit stops, and accessibility upgrades could be incorporated.”

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