Cycle Toronto recently tweeted that Torontonians increasingly support separated bike lanes.
I’d absolutely love Toronto to have a vast network of high-quality, well-maintained bike infrastructure. But that shouldn’t be the end goal for advocates or for the city. As wonderful as the Bloor and Danforth bike lanes are, conversations around streets in Toronto still revolve around their ability to move people. This, despite a growing understanding and appreciation of the concept of “Complete Streets”: that streets have different uses, and transporting people is only one (and maybe the least important) of these.
Instead of putting down cycle tracks and calling it a day, we should think of bicycle infrastructure as a first step towards building better streets and better neighbourhoods. We should push for wider sidewalks, boulevard trees, reduced vehicular through traffic and increased, permanent, all-weather patio space. We should push for more missing-middle and mid-rise densification to support walk-in traffic to local businesses. And we need to approach street design with a new mindset: how do we create walkable neighbourhoods that invite people to linger?
It’s only by pushing for and making these changes, and making these streets an obvious success for residents and businesses that we’ll build momentum for wider, city-wide changes. It’s only then that we can reconfigure Toronto’s built form to a city of livable, walkable neighbourhoods, not simply a city you drive through.