One of the common complaints from non-cyclists is that they never see anyone using the brand-new bike lanes that are now taking up valuable road space in their neighbourhood.
Now, leaving aside the anecdotal quality of their complaints, there’s one very good reason for this: Too many bike lanes aren’t connected to other bike lanes.
Here’s the map. If you look only at the “bike lane” routes (in red), it’s pretty sparse. It gets a bit better when you add in the “signed routes”, which are generally on less-busy side streets. “Offroad paths” help to some extent, but not always as much as one might hope – the Don Valley trail network, for example, has limited accessibility.
Take the Cosburn Avenue lanes, for example, in my very own hood. I love Cosburn – it’s a fairly quiet, straightforward street, running just north of Danforth. Excellent for cyclists.
But when you get to the western end of Cosburn, you end up on Broadview, a much busier street, without any bike lane to be found. Logan Avenue is a decent North-South alternative… or at least, it would be if it wasn’t one-way for much of its length.
The much-maligned (by everyone) lanes on Eastern are similarly problematic. It’s a short stretch of bike lane, which ends at Logan. And if you keep going West past Logan – not a terrible idea, since it doesn’t appear too busy – you end up having to cross the Don amidst the DVP on-and-off ramps.
Bloor-Danforth is particularly emblematic of problems: There are no lanes on the Danforth, but they appear on the bridge. They then run until Sherbourne, at which point they disappear. That one stretch of lane is nice, but it only exists because it’s not in conflict with anything else – there are no stores, houses, or any sort of parking.
I’m not the sort of guy to begrudge a bike lane (though Eastern? Really?). And I don’t even need them most of the time; I’m usually comfortable riding in traffic. But there needs to be more political will to make bike lanes truly connected, consistent, and friendly to novice or intermediate cyclists. Until that happens – until we have dedicated east-west and north-south routes – there’s going to be limited return on investment.