September 21, 2015

Bloor Loves Bikes - September 2015 Update

Since Spring 2015, Cycle Toronto's advocates, Bells on Bloor, and various resident associations have been working on a campaign called "Bloor Loves Bikes." This is the latest in a series or campaigns for bike lanes on Bloor Street over the past twenty five years, which also lead to similar campaigns on Danforth Avenue (a.k.a. Danforth Loves Bikes) and eventually, Yonge Street. Given recent developments, this post will discuss what has been accomplished so far, what can be applied to other campaigns, and how you can help make bike lanes on Bloor a reality.
The Bloor Loves Bikes campaign seeks to include Bloor in the new bike plan and build a pilot project from Shaw Street to Avenue Road in 2016. To get businesses on board, Cycle Toronto's ward advocacy groups surveyed local businesses along that street about cycling trends and preferences, as well as put up window stickers to show support. To date, approximately 70 businesses put up such stickers on Bloor.[1] Residents were encouraged to sign the Bloor Loves Bikes pledge; promoted online via social media, street teams collecting paper pledges, and postcards delivered to residents in the pilot project area. Including paper signatures awaiting entry, over 4000 people signed the pledge and you can sign it at http://www.cycleto.ca/bloor-loves-bikes. Several outreach activities have been done such as a pub crawl of supporting businesses in June, the construction of the well received temporary bike lane during Open Streets TO in September, and a fundraising ride discussed at the end of this post. Last, but not least, Councillors Mike Layton and Joe Cressy expressed support for this campaign.
Map of businesses supporting Bloor bike lanes - Google Link
Thanks to the extensive outreach efforts, Bloor has been included in the draft bike plan and the City of Toronto's Cycling Unit recently recommended installing the pilot project in 2016.[2] The list of 2016 bikeway projects will be debated at the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee (PWIC) on September 22 and by City Council on September 30, which saw over 80 submissions to the committee. The 2017-2025 portion of the new Cycling Network Plan will be debated in spring 2016, though individual projects will likely return to PWIC later on.

UPDATE (2015/09/22) - PWIC passed the 2016 implementation plan with amendments; including the Bloor pilot project, a $4 million (or almost 50%) funding increase, and 41 lane kilometres of on-street bike lanes. Bloor is expected to return to committee in early 2016 per Cycle Toronto's Twitter feed.

As with past cycling campaigns, advocates must hold City Council accountable every step of the way; especially given certain cycling projects were not built for more than five years after City Council approval. In one instance, staff were called out for not following City Council's direction to provide separation on the recently installed Richmond-Adelaide cycle tracks at first, though that has since been corrected.[3]
Temporary bike lane at Open Streets TO
While it is too early to judge whether Bloor Loves Bikes will succeed, several factors can be identified for successful advocacy campaigns.
  1. Do your research! The first step in cycling advocacy is to obtain evidence proving the level of cycling demand, as well as how adding protected bike lanes can boost business. The Toronto Centre for Active Transportation conducted several such surveys (e.g. Annex), which can be used as a reference point.
  2. Build a broad support base! While it is great to get a large number of residents to sign a petition, business and community group support should also be sought given their superior political power.
  3. Get political champions! The level of difficulty in this task will depend on the elected official and competing interests. Regardless, this task will be made easier once a critical mass of evidence and community support can be secured.
  4. Keep supporters engaged! Advocacy campaign success is not earned solely by signing a petition. Supporters need to be engaged on occasion, which can be done via pub or café crawls, group rides, demonstrations, and issuing action alerts to contact elected officials.
  5. Hold decision makers accountable! Even with City Council approval, there are ways projects can be deferred or abandoned. Regular follow up is essential until projects are completed.

As for how you can support the Bloor Loves Bikes campaign, I encourage you to sign the pledge and contact PWIC as various sections of Bloor appear on that committee's agenda. Copying Mayor John Tory and your city councillor is also recommended. Last, but not least, I recently registered to participate in a fundraising ride called "Cycle Toronto Rides Bloor-Danforth" and would kindly appreciate your support by making a donation. Every dollar counts, but keep in mind donations over $30 will get you a Cycle Toronto membership (or renew your existing one) along with the corresponding benefits. Better still, you can register to participate in the ride and help Cycle Toronto raise $50 000!


UPDATE (2015/11/11) - The donation link has been removed, given the ride occurred on October 24, 2015. 125 participants took part & raised over $33 000! Thanks to those who took part and/or donated.

Bike on!
Rob Z (e-mail)



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[1] Some businesses may be missing from this map. 
[2] http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=2015.PW7.5 
[3] Ben Spurr. NOW Magazine. “Adelaide Bike Lane is a Mess.” August 7, 2014. https://nowtoronto.com/news/transportation/adelaide-bike-lane-is-a-mess/  

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