Want more cyclists? Build more infrastructure and make it safer

Watch above: Ipsos Reid poll shows three times the number of downtown residents cycle to work over the citywide average. Alan Carter reports. 

TORONTO – Only three per cent of Torontonians bike to and from work each day, according to a poll done by Ipsos Reid exclusively for Global News.

But advocates say more people will bike to work if there’s a place for them on the road.

“For someone to feel confident and safe doing it here, they need a physically separated bike lane to feel like they have the confidence to ride,” Jared Kolb, the executive director of Cycle Toronto said.

He also questioned the poll results saying they don’t show how many people want to cycle.

But there is a huge disparity between regions: in downtown Toronto nine per cent bike, in Etobicoke the number is so small pollsters didn’t bother to include it.

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READ MORE: 90% say life in Toronto is increasingly difficult for average people

In fact, downtown Toronto is the only place with a significant cycling population. In every other region, the number varies between zero and two per cent.

However more Torontonians than ever are riding a bike at some point during the year. A 2009 poll by Ipsos Reid found 54 per cent of Torontonians had biked at least once in the year.

But people need to get the attention of politicians before they’ll do anything about it.

“[Cyclists] tend to be very active, very interested in the issue and very supportive of a bike agenda,” Darrell Bricker, the CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs said.

“But people have certainly been trying and they haven’t had a lot of success. I would suggest it has a lot more to do with weather and danger than simply whether or not we can simply get people on bikes.”

The desire to ride a bike is outstripping the needed infrastructure.

READ MORE: Half of Torontonians willing to pay more to spend less time on TTC

The 2009 poll showed 77 per cent of recreational cyclists and 66 per cent of non-cyclists would ride more if there was secure bike parking at transit stations.

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Kolb echoed that idea in an interview Tuesday saying an integrated network could get more people in the suburbs out of their car.

“So ultimately what we need to do in the city of Toronto is be able to connect Torontonians at their homes to places of destination, main streets and transit station,” he said. “Once we do that, what we’ll see is a greater number of people who are choosing to combine trips, so bike and TTC or bike and GO.”

Toronto currently has 536.5 kilometres of on-street bike lanes and 294 kilometres of off road trails.

READ MORE: Poll shows Scarborough residents feel neglected by local government

In 2001, city council voted to build a 1,000 kilometre network of bike lanes by 2011. The city is obviously behind schedule but is making progress: council recently voted to look at bike lanes on Bloor Street and bike lanes are on Shaw Street are in the works.

But how does the current network compare to other major cities?

Vancouver has over 500 kilometres of bike lanes.

Calgary has 700 kilometres of bike paths in the city – but only 30 kilometres of that is on-street.

Chicago, a city roughly the same size as Toronto has over 320 kilometres of on-street bike lanes. And the city is planning on building over 160 kilometres of protected bike lanes by 2015. According to the city of Toronto, there are currently 6.2 kilometres of “cycle tracks” (separated bike lanes) in Toronto.

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And New York City has built over 400 kilometres since 2006 for a total of over 1126 kilometres.

“As cyclists and citizens express a desire to make cycling a part of their daily lives, I think local officials need to be very sensitive to that and respond in kind because I think they grow hand in hand,” Samuel Slaton, the director of communications for Bike New York said.

With files from Alan Carter

Ipsos surveyed 1,252 Torontonians on Global News’s behalf via an online panel between September 22 and 25. The survey is reliable within +/- 3.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The data, summaries and commentary in exclusive Global News / Ipsos Reid polling are subject to copyright. The data, summaries and commentary may only be rebroadcast or republished with full and proper attribution to both Global News and Ipsos Reid in all web articles, on social media, in radio broadcasts and with an on-screen credit for television.

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