City of Toronto to launch new priority network of snow routes for cyclists this winter

Check out the map & plan your winter route!

According to the 2009 City of Toronto Cycling Survey, only 10% of Toronto cyclists continue riding in the winter. When asked what the City could do to encourage individuals to ride in the winter, the number one thing respondents reported was better clearance of bike lanes, paths and streets.

While painted bike lanes are cleared during snow storms, the prevalence of on-street parking next to many painted bike lanes means that snow is pulled into the bike lane as cars enter and exit parking spots. Multiple freeze-thaw events make painted bike lanes unusable.

Cycle tracks on streets like Sherbourne, Richmond, and Adelaide receive dedicated clearing. While mid-block sections are often clear, driveways and intersections pose a challenge with perpendicular snow plows pushing snow into the cycle track entrances and exits.

Cycle Toronto worked hard on this file with a lot of internal and external advocacy (including our Shovel-in on Shaw in March 2014). Our hard work paid off, with a new $650,000 commitment per year added to the operating budget for the priority network of snow routes for cyclists as well as the creation of new snow route signage to clearly communicate the streets cyclists can rely on in the days following snow storms.


Priority routes are to take effect in the winter of 2015/2016 include all cycle tracks and contraflow lanes, as well as St. George/Beverely, Harbord, College, Gerrard, River, Shuter, the Bloor Viaduct, Strachan, Lower Simcoe and Lower Yonge. The decision to include these routes included a combination of factors, though the City set a minimum threshold for two-way painted bike lanes of 2,000 cyclists per day.

According to the report approved by City Council in June 2014, the goal of the network is to achieve "bare pavement" conditions with more aggressive plowing, salting and snow removal. You can find more in Appendix 1 of this document. The network will also include new signage to communicate the new standards to cyclists.

Quotes from staff report:

“It is difficult to achieve a bare pavement level of service on a bike lane solely through salting and plowing, as bike lanes do not receive the same benefit from the motor vehicle traffic as general purpose lanes would. The achievement of bare pavement on a bike lane of sufficient width can be enhanced through the removal of the windrow created by the snow plow. However, there are logistical challenges associated with the physical removal of snow in bike lanes where the bike lanes exist in between a parking lane and a general purpose lane. In the downtown core, it is difficult to coordinate the removal of parked cars that is required to facilitate snow removal on the arterial roads where the majority of bike lanes are located.”

Staff is proposing to maintain the priority bike network during the winter period through a combination of more aggressive salting, plowing and snow removal.

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