City begins program to clear snow from bike lanes

Watch above: Mark McAllister explains the city’s pilot program to clear Toronto bike lanes of snow. 

TORONTO – The city is planning to spend nearly $650,000 of its $85 million road clearing budget removing snow from some bike lanes in the city.

The money is slated for the 2015/2016 winter season but the decision was made in May to look at the busiest bike lanes in the city. The city has started a pilot project to determine what type of equipment is needed and how best to clear some of the bike lanes this winter. That program will be expanded in 2015.

A staff report noted clearing all the bike lanes in the city could cost nearly $3 million. Instead, they chose to clear only those lanes that have at least 2,000 bicycles a day.

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Part of the rationale behind the program is to get more people cycling.

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“Statistically, we know that more people would cycle in the winter if the bike lanes were properly maintained,” Councillor Jaye Robinson, the chair of the city’s Public works Committee said.

The decision was made before John Tory was elected mayor, but he said in an interview Wednesday it only makes sense to have them plowed.

“There are many people that still use the bicycle lanes and I’ve always said let’s focus more on a network of safe, sensible, separated bike lanes, the ones that are going to be used at all times of the year,” he said.

“And if you’re going to have them, those ones, what is the point in not plowing them. In fact, it’s even worse if you just plow all the snow of the road onto the bike lane.”

Jared Kolb, the executive director of Cycle Toronto noted the money spent on clearing bike lanes amounts to less than one per cent of the city’s total road clearing budget. The amount would still need to be approved as part of the 2015 city budget.

“We’ve got seven per cent of Torontonians that are riding throughout every day of the year,” he said in an interview Wednesday. “I’d say that spending less than a per cent of transportation services budget that they usually spend on road clearing is a great investment.”


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