Annette bike lanes spark bickering


For those that did not see this in the papers:

Proposal to add dedicated route for cyclists on Annette St. meets with merchants' resistance

Jun 05, 2008 04:30 AM
Vanessa Lu
city hall bureau chief

The humble bike lane brings out passionate neighbourhood fights.

And the battle over installing one along Annette St. in the city's west end illustrates why Toronto's ambitious cycling plan has proceeded at such a painfully slow pace.

The plan to take out a lane of traffic and add dedicated bike lanes pitted cyclists against merchants yesterday, and an attempted compromise meant no one was happy.

The original proposal had the bike lane running from Jane St. east to Dupont St. and Lansdowne Ave., but after community complaints, city staff came up with an alternative: Between Jane and Runnymede – the main commercial strip – cyclists would be detoured one block north to St. John's Rd., to avoid interfering with parking.

But after further consultations, the city is still considering installing bike lanes along the original Annette St. proposal in the fall.

"If we prioritize parking over bike lanes, we will never be a green city," cycling advocate Helen Armstrong told the committee. "A small minority of people are managing to veto the bike lane plan."

Under the city's bike plan, adopted in 2001, more than 1,000 kilometres of bike lanes and paths are to be built over 10 years. Currently, the city has only 380 km of bike lanes, shared roadways and off-road paths. This year, 50 km are planned, plus 70 km next year.

George Harasymowycz, co-owner with wife Rose Marie of the garden shop Windergarden, spoke on behalf of area merchants, arguing bike lanes would hurt small businesses and increase dangers by forcing delivery trucks to use side streets.

"I don't think the councillors are interested in consultations," he said, adding that it seemed they were trying to give the impression of seeking input, but in the end would put in the bike lanes.

"There is no business on Annette St. that is anti-bike, but there are a lot of bike people who are anti-car," Rose Marie said.

Cycling advocates argue reducing traffic will result in more pedestrians and cyclists actually stopping to buy. Councillor Adrian Heaps, who chairs the cycling committee, conceded there's often neighbourhood resistance to bike lanes. "The Business Improvement Associations have to have some faith that we make decisions in their best interest," he said.

The Annette St. bike lane was the only controversial proposal. Others planned for Marlee Ave. and Pharmacy Ave. were easily approved.

The proposals still need approval from city council later this month.