Written by Naomi Lai
Bike to Work Day is being held this May 29th across the GTHA to kick off a series of other events being held throughout the month of June; Toronto's Bike Month.
The event aims to bring awareness to the various options Toronto has for commuters, and promotes biking as a healthy and environmentally conscious method of transport. A contest is being held for those who choose to ride their bike to work, or participate in a Bike to Work Day event. Show your support and register yourself to ride on May 29th by visiting the bike month website.
It is known that physical activity is an important part of any healthy lifestyle. Cycling to work, as opposed to driving or even taking public transport, is a fantastic way to fit exercise into a busy day. In addition to the health benefits, choosing to cycle to work has a positive effect on the environment. With more than 7 million people in the GTHA, and 35% of urban greenhouse gas emissions coming from cars and trucks, it's easy to see the immediate consequences this method of transport can have. In addition to air pollution, the need for parking garages, gas stations, and wider roads means less green space around the city. Bike lanes take up a fraction of the space needed for a car, and provide a safe path for city cyclists. Cities around the world like Copenhagen, Barcelona, Buenos Aires, and even Montreal are leading the way in safety and accessibility for cyclists. Now it's time for Toronto to follow suit.
The controversial removal of the Jarvis St. Bike lanes in 2012 was evidence that Toronto has a long way to go before gaining the title of a bike friendly city. Since then, a 10-year plan has been put in place to add 525 kilometers of bike routes throughout the city; doubling the current amount. Toronto is a congested city, and removing or narrowing vehicle lanes to make space for the infrastructure that cyclists need will be a difficult task to accomplish.
If more public transport and safe bicycle routes were made available, it would allow commuters around the GTHA to leave their cars behind, therefore decongesting the downtown core.
The lack of bicycling infrastructure also poses a serious safety risk. Every year, many cyclists are involved in car collisions because both parties are expected to share the road without designated bike lanes. In the last 2 years, 5 cyclists have died on Toronto streets, and the number of injuries has been steadily increasing over the years as Toronto continues to grow. A study found that 1250 cyclist collisions took place in 2012, and that figure doesn’t include those that go unreported. 2016, Toronto police statistics revealed that 541 cyclists were involved in a collision with a vehicle within a 4-month period from June to September.
In reaction to these staggering numbers, the city arranged for Bloor Street West to be the test subject of a pilot project, and installed separated bike lanes in August of 2016. The study found a sharp increase of cyclers on the road (36%), but also a significant increase in the average drive time for commuters (8 minutes). This project has since been used to assess the benefits and drawbacks of adding this style of infrastructure to the city, and intends to find a suitable alternative that works for both drivers and cyclists.
If Toronto can follow its 10-year plan and become a city in which cycling is safer and more accessible for commuters, it could create a multitude of positive results. Citizens will be healthier, traffic congestion will decrease, and the air we breathe will be cleaner.
Join us for Bike to Work Day, Monday, May 29th, and become a part of the movement towards a brighter and greener future!