Olivia Chow is promising a huge expansion of bike lanes in Toronto, saying that pro-car councillors can be convinced that this will help relieve traffic congestion.
The mayoral candidate rolled out her bicycle policy Friday, pledging to build 200 kilometres of lanes for cyclists on the city’s streets. Some of these would be physically separated from motorists and others simply would be painted on the road, but the exact mix and locations remain to be seen.
“This is what city planners are for,” said Ms. Chow, who cycled to her announcement in Cabbagetown.
“Remember, grid is what’s most important. We need a network. Having a grid means that you can continuously be on a bike lane. If it’s just a stub, you can’t get people out of their cars. They are not going to feel safe.”
A spokeswoman for John Tory, one of Ms. Chow’s main rivals, suggested that drivers cannot be inconvenienced by new bicycle infrastructure.
“John does not support anything that increases commute times for drivers,” Amanda Galbraith said in an e-mail. “John is in favour of building a network of separated bike lanes where it is practical, to ensure cyclists can safely travel throughout our city.”
The ambitious Chow plan – which calls also for improved maintenance and snow-clearing of bike routes – would more than double the on-road bicycle lanes the city has now. Doing so would require accelerated environmental assessments and temporarily diverting an unspecified amount of money from off-road bike trails to on-road lanes.
Ms. Chow noted that city hall spends more time talking about bicycle lanes than building them. Asked, though, how she would persuade councillors who bought into the “war on the car” rhetoric to support her plans, she said that bicycle infrastructure benefits everyone.
“We do know that a lot of cyclists have a car,” Ms. Chow said. “Having a cyclist on the street means less crowding in the subway, less crowding on the road. It’s one way [to] break the gridlock.”
Also Friday, rival mayoral candidate David Soknacki unveiled a plan to ease traffic by restricting parking on major downtown routes. The policy would be phased in over three years and would be accompanied by a push for multilevel parking facilities to be built at up to eight city-owned surface lots.
“By major streets, we mean streets like Bloor and Front, College and University,” Mr. Soknacki said in a statement, suggesting that the part of the city affected would be “likely … no larger” than the area bounded by Bloor, Spadina, Jarvis and Front streets.
At her event, Ms. Chow panned the idea, characterizing it as overly broad and potentially harmful to small businesses.