For the first time in Toronto’s history the city will boast dedicated bike lanes when they officially open on Monday morning.
And for Michele Cossette, it might spark her to start using her bike to get to work.
An avid cyclist, the 27-year-old says it’s too dangerous to cycle to work, but the new dedicated bike lanes on Sherbourne St. bring much needed safety to non-motorists.
“There still needs to be a good east-west route,” she said.
However, as part of $4.1 million upgrades along the street, the $2.5 million bike lanes will provide a necessary dedicated north-south route for the growing number of cyclists in the downtown area.
“We use them all the time,” said Meldon Lobo, 27. “Sherbourne is in much better condition than it used to be before.”
Before the lanes and road upgrades were completed earlier this year, blowing a tire, especially on a street bike, was a definite possibility, he added.
Curbs and a painted buffer strip will be employed to separate bikes from cars. Street parking will be lost, but delivery zones will be provided.
Lobo said the city should have educated drivers and cyclists better on how the lanes work. Living on Sherbourne, just north of Gerrard St., Lobo said he hears squealing tires all the time from drivers not aware of the new lanes and the four-inch curbstones that separate them from the roadway on the northern stretch of the lanes.
Some delivery drivers, he added, aren’t using the dedicated drop-off spots either.
“Delivery trucks are parking half-on the road and half-on the bike lane,” he said.
While building the bike lane network in the downtown core has been a challenge, public works chairman Denzil Minnan-Wong said fundamentally, the bike lanes are about sharing and understanding.
“There are those on the margins who are unwilling to adapt, and I’m talking about people who park and block the lanes, and that’s just rude,” he said Sunday. “The vast majority of cyclists and motorists will be supportive of the bike lanes.”
While there will be an adjustment period, drivers and cyclists will adapt, he added.
“You have to accommodate for police, transit, handicapped people, fire, there is a real balancing of interest,” he said.
Sherbourne was touted as a safer route for cyclists than Jarvis St., where painted bike lanes, added in 2010 under former mayor David Miller, have been a hot-button issue for drivers.
Council voted 24-19 in October to remove the $59,000 bike lanes to restore a reversible fifth lane at a cost of $300,000 to improve commute times for drivers.
The Sherbourne lanes are the east route in what Minnan-Wong said will be a square network of dedicated lanes in the downtown core. Designs for Wellesley St. have been completed and he said construction will begin later this year.
Richmond St. and Adelaide St. bike lanes, entering an environmental assessment in the future, will be constructed next year.
The west side route to complete the square network, he said, has been the biggest challenge.
“We’re having a hard time finding a route on that side of the city,” Minnan-Wong said. “There’s been opposition to it on a number of angles, especially on council.”