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Ontario eyeing new cycling laws to make province more ‘bikable’

Commuters ride bicycles on the Hornby Street bike lane in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia on July 2, 2013. (BEN NELMS for The Globe and Mail)

Ben Nelms/The Globe and Mail

Ontario will consider tough laws to crack down on "dooring" as part of a 20-year strategy to improve bicycling in the province.

Dooring – which refers to motorists hitting cyclists by opening their car doors – is one of the greatest dangers to riders, particularly on congested downtown streets where there is little room between bicycles and other vehicles. Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Glen Murray vowed Friday to do something about it.

"We will be working with the attorney-general's office and Attorney-General John Gerretsen to start to bring forward, to start the consultations to strengthen those kinds of laws," he said as he unveiled the plan at a park on the Toronto waterfront. "We have to really get engaged, look at the laws and not look at this as a series of one-offs."

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The anti-dooring push will be just one part of the strategy, titled with the Twitter hashtag "#cycleON."

It mandates that, in 20 years, Ontario's cities will be criss-crossed by new networks of bicycle lanes and paths, while the province itself will have a series of intercity cycling routes.

Among other things, the strategy calls for planning policies that ensure new developments are more compact and easier to cycle in.

"The future generations want bikable, walkable communities," said Eleanor McMahon of the Share the Road Cycling Coalition, one of the groups that helped design the plan. "Cycling is critical to attracting jobs, to creating communities where quality of life is paramount, where people want to work and live."

It also outlines methods for developing bike-based tourism, such as by linking up trails and other province-wide cycling routes.

"[It] will actually define not just a very exciting and bold vision to make Ontario the most cycling-friendly jurisdiction in Canada, to make sure that a number of our cities are in the top ten most cycling-friendly cities and towns and rural areas in the world, but that we have a dynamic and coherent system," Mr. Murray said.

New Democrat MPP Rosario Marchese, however, said the plan is still too vague. It does not, for instance, outline exactly what new routes will be built or commit any new money.

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"We were hoping that we would have more than just another draft," he said. "The vision is a good one, but people were looking for more specifics."

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