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A cyclist on Queen Street West in Toronto. City staff are recommending enhancements to downtown cycling infrastructure, potentially setting up a conflict with motorists and pro-car councillors.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

City staff are proposing a series of improvements to cycling infrastructure in downtown Toronto, including a pilot project for separated bicycle lanes on parts of Richmond and Adelaide.

The recommendations coming to the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee next week represent a marked increase in the amount of space for cyclists in the core. But staff are warning that there will be "some traffic capacity reductions" as a result, potentially setting the stage for a battle with pro-car councillors.

The changes will have to be approved by the committee and then full council for the pilot projects to begin. If those roadblocks are cleared, either regular bicycle lanes painted on the road or so-called cycle tracks – with a physical barrier separating cyclists from vehicular traffic – would be installed on a variety of streets across the downtown while environmental assessments for more permanent infrastructure are underway.

The core of the proposal is a combination of cycle-tracks and regular bike lanes that would create a loop on Richmond, Adelaide, Bathurst and Simcoe. This would result in the loss of one lane of vehicular traffic during peak period on Richmond, according to a background report appended to the staff recommendation. The effect on Adelaide road capacity was not immediately clear.

There would also be a contra-flow lane on Richmond west of Bathurst, allowing cyclists to ride against traffic as far as Niagara. And bicycle lanes are being proposed for Peter, forming another north-south option in the downtown core.

"The implementation of these cycling facilities can be achieved within the existing pavement width; however, this will require the re-allocation of road space, which will result in some traffic capacity reductions along these corridors," the staff recommendation reads, in part.

"Transportation Services is proposing to install a portion of the preliminary preferred alignments as a pilot project as part of the EA Study. The pilot project will provide an opportunity to evaluate and adjust, if necessary, the preliminary preferred alignments."

The background report said that the cycle-tracks would be separated from vehicular traffic with flexible stanchions, a tactic already being used on Wellesley, west of Parliament.

The recommendations are being made amid growing numbers of cyclists in the core. Even in the winter, city figures from 2010 showed close to 4,000 people riding each day on Queen and King West.

A separate staff proposal calls for bicycle lanes on both sides of Harbord Street, between Spadina and Borden, as well as where it intersects with Bathurst and Ossington.

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