Councillor pushing city to keep Toronto’s secondary bike lanes clear of snow this winter

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Toronto councillor pushes for improved snow clearing on city bike lanes
WATCH: After last winter left much to be desired in Toronto’s snow clearing efforts, a city councillor is taking advantage of the current mild weather to push the transportation division to do better in 2024. Matthew Bingley reports – Jan 5, 2024

The relatively mild weather that has recently been gracing Toronto may have some residents forgetting how bad the city’s reputation was for clearing snow last winter. However, a city councillor is pushing the transportation department to do better when it comes to bike lanes this winter.

Councillor Diane Saxe said that while the city eventually figured it out last winter with the separated bike lanes on many main thoroughfares, the routes on side streets which are often just as popular for cyclists, remained unsafe. Saxe said that needs to change and will make a motion before the city’s Infrastructure and Environment Committee next week, urging the transportation division to change their standards.

“Most of the cycle routes in Toronto are just on the road, like painted bike lanes, and the city standard is that they should be ‘safe and passable’. What they mean by that, is ‘safe and passable for a car,'” said Saxe. “My point is that a bike lane has to be safe and passable for a bike.”

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Saxe said anything other than bare pavement will turn to ice. Even with studded tires that ice makes bicycle travel dangerous. The councillor is an all-season cyclist, but after experiencing a spill on black ice in a bike lane, which sent her tumbling into traffic, she said she sticks to the TTC when the routes aren’t clear.

Michael Longfield, executive director of the advocacy group Cycle Toronto, is applauding Saxe’s effort to improve winter safety on routes that are often overlooked.

Longfield said the painted bikeways may not be on the busy arterial routes that get the top priority for snow clearing, but many are just as important to the Toronto’s cycling network. “(They) might not be getting the same attention from snow clearing because they’re not as important to cars, but often they’re really important routes for people riding bikes,” he said.

Longfield said by not keeping the routes safe, it adds ammunition to cycling infrastructure opponents, who often point to the lack of winter cyclists as an argument for why the lanes are a waste of space and money.

“If they’re covered in snow or if it’s icy, it just means few people are able to choose to ride a bike,” he said.

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