By Jared Kolb, Executive Director of Cycle Toronto
I love riding my bike in Toronto. In fact, I love it so much I spend my working life advocating for safer streets. But today, Toronto was awarded a Gold Bicycle Friendly Community Designation at the Ontario Bike Summit. I want to tell you about why I wasn't there to celebrate it with them.
When I think of gold, I think of a place that younger people and older adults would ride with ease. Yet what I hear most from Torontonians is that they're by and large too afraid to ride. For every safe cycling street like Harbord there are 10 Steeles and Morningsides. We need a city-wide minimum grid of protected lanes and bicycle boulevards to invite all Torontonians to ride.
Above: cyclists on Harbord St in Spring
When I think of gold, I think of a place with few collisions. Yet in Toronto in 2012, there were 1,475 cyclists struck by cars. That's one every 6 hours every day of the year. In 2013, 4 people were killed while riding their bikes. We shouldn't have to take our lives in our hands when we ride.
When I think of gold, I think of huge numbers of people traveling by bicycle for everyday trips. While a few neighbourhoods in the downtown boast impressive mode share as high as 20%, city-wide, only 2% of people ride regularly. 55% of all trips Torontonians make are less than 7 km, which takes the average person about 30 minutes to ride. But we need leadership from City Council to cultivate cycling’s city-wide potential.
When I think of gold, I think of significant investments in mass cycling. We spend more than $6,000 per person per year in Canada on health care, yet in Toronto, we spend only $3.08 per capita on cycling infrastructure. Ottawa spends more than $8 per person on cycling. Doubling cycling’s budget is long overdue.
Toronto is fortunate to have an ever-more talented group of staff implementing bicycle infrastructure at the City. Cycling events and programs across the city are fantastic. And I’m encouraged by the City’s recent move to pilot protected bike lanes on Richmond and Adelaide and extend them east to Parliament this summer.
The momentum is shifting. We should use the gold award not as a goal that's been achieved, but as a rallying point to drive our work forward. We need to demand more from our elected officials. 73% of Torontonians say they want to ride more but that on-street safety is holding them back. We know cycling is the best way to get around town and we need to rally together and demand better infrastructure. Over the coming months we're going to ask you to take action to build safer streets for all and create a more people friendly Toronto.
There’s a reason why cyclists are the happiest commuters. Riding a bicycle is awesome. Take a ride along Harbord and you can’t help but feel inspired. People who ride bicycles in Toronto have hearts of gold. Let's use this moment to do better as a city and invest more in cycling to truly unlock its potential.