FAQ: What about cities removing bike lanes? What’s up with that?

Recently, someone has claimed that cities in Canada are taking out bike lanes!  What’s the story there?  Well, apart from cherry-picking incidents out of context, a review of the Canadian scene reveals that cycling infrastructure is growing in leaps and bounds on a net basis.

There are a few interesting cases of bike lanes being removed that are easy to find, yet put in context, they don’t offer evidence of “backing off”.

In Edmonton, bike lanes removed on 95th Street were revealed in retrospect to be a weak design and implementation. The city did learn from the experience though, and rolled that knowledge into design of other cycling routes that are much better designed and implemented.

A closer look at the activity in Edmonton shows a plethora of completed routes, and several major projects underway that will feature protected bike lanes on busy roads. Here’s a CTVnews piece from last year on the plans.

Some also point to Toronto, where in 2012 bike lanes were removed on Jarvis, Pharmacy and Birchmount (the only removals). The Jarvis lanes were working well, yet became a political statement for Rob Ford. Interestingly, during Ford’s reign, more kilometers of cycling facilities were installed than during the previous council’s term.

While the bike lanes on Jarvis did not return, a protected bike lane implementation on parallel Sherbourne proved to be an instant success, as this news report indicates. That success has fueled the beginning of many more protected bike lane projects. Just in the downtown area alone, this page shows the extensive development of protected bike lanes underway, many of them upgrades of existing lanes, in addition to the existing network of cycling facilities.

Further afield, in Montreal, protected bike lanes now comprise about 1/3 of the cycling network. In Portland, Oregon, protected bike lanes are now the default.

Back to Toronto – they’ve also ramped up public education on protected bike lanes (a.k.a. protected cycle tracks) and you can learn more on Toronto’s website page of “Cycle Track FAQs“.

Across the rest of Ontario, in the 28 Bicycle Friendly Communities, home to 60% of the population, there have been NO bike lane removals, and much growth in on-road cycling facilities.

Examining the Ontario scene, there are no examples of protected bike lanes causing an increase in collisions or injuries. There are examples from all over North America, including some very strong data from Thunder Bay, that show conclusively that these types of facilities lead to lower incidences of speeding, fewer collisions between people driving and people cycling, fewer collisions between people driving and other people driving, and lower rates of illegal and dangerous sidewalk cycling.

Just down the road from us in Cornwall, installation of bike lanes on 2nd Street were contentious and Council almost yielded to the naysayers.  And then this report (below) came along.



Author: Alan Medcalf

Alan is a post-corporate, volunteer, community builder living in Brockville, Ontario. He seeks to create sustainable lifestyle advantage for the community by creating opportunities for more people to choose to walk and to ride bikes. He promotes the health, social, environmental and economic benefits of active mobility.