Bike lanes on Bloor Street, are they a safety concern?

August 30, 2016

On Friday, August 12, 2016 Bloor Street will change forever, at least that’s what some cyclists are hoping. Over the next calendar year, the much-anticipated Bloor Street bike lanes (from Avenue Road to Shaw Street) will open to bicycle traffic. As the city struggles to keep up with the demand for more cycling infrastructure, opinions on this new project are divided.

Many cycling advocates see the Bloor Street pilot project as a significant win. At a cost of only $500,000, including installation, maintenance, snow clearing and a study of their effectiveness, this project appears to be affordable and repeatable.

However, the looming question is how do bike lanes – these bike lanes in particular – improve safety? The safety of cyclists, pedestrians and vehicles will surely be under the microscope for the duration of this experiment.

Opinions about safety and feasibility are split with cycling advocates indicating that separating cyclists from traffic is safer, whereas business owners in the area are concerned about parking and traffic issues.

Over the years many cases have been brought before the courts by cyclists, pedestrians and drivers making personal injury claims. Quite often bike lanes and cycling safety play a prominent role in these cases.

It’s worthwhile to keep a close eye on the safety ramifications of these new bike lanes, both as studied by the City of Toronto, and as evidenced through the inevitable litigation. If, as many expect, these bike lanes will increase safety and decrease accidents, then the City must take heed and increase the scope and ambition of the project.

Whether it’s bicycle-vehicle, pedestrian-bicycle, or pedestrian-vehicle, when you’re in an accident it’s important to know your rights according to current traffic laws.

Hearing From The Experts on the Safety Issues of Bike Lanes

We asked personal injury lawyer Adam Tanel of Thomson Rogers what he thought about the new bike lanes on Bloor Street. Here’s what he had to say:

“There’s nothing new about seeing bicycles on Bloor Street. What is new, and long overdue, is a safe place to ride them. The City is currently rolling out a one-year pilot project where bike lanes have been installed along Bloor Street from Shaw Street to Avenue Road.

The purpose of this project is to study the effect of bike lanes on both driver and cyclist behaviour and evaluate their long-term feasibility. Typically, a major focus of bike lane research is simply measuring how many cyclists use the lanes, and how commute times are affected – for both drivers and cyclists. However, a more important question is: how do these bike lanes affect cyclist and pedestrian safety.

Bike lanes come in all shapes and sizes: from fully separated lanes (Sherbourne Street) to lanes with a visible barrier (Richmond Street). Then there are bike lanes separated from traffic by parked cars, bike lanes “protected” by simple lane markings, bike lanes with painted buffer areas, “sharrows” and contra-flow lanes. Suffice to say, when adding bike lanes to a street, the City has many options to suit particular scenarios and budgets.

Assuming the Bloor Street bike lanes generate sufficient ridership to make them feasible, it’ll be very important to build appropriate cycling infrastructure. As every Torontonian knows, Bloor Street is one of Toronto’s busiest thoroughfares. It’s used by cars, bikes, cabs, motorcycles, rollerbladers, tourists, students, and hoards of shoppers, and is subject to seemingly endless construction. In such a busy area combining safety and functionality is paramount. As the City continues to study the efficacy of bike lanes on Bloor Street, safety – for all road users – must be its primary consideration.”

Contact Thomson Rogers today for more information about vehicular, cyclist, or pedestrian accidents and traffic laws.

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