Bike lanes will finally come to Bloor Street this summer, after decades of lobbying by activists.
The debate at Toronto City Hall took the better part of a day – complete with accusations of a "war on the car" and dark references to the "bike lobby" targeting opponents – but most of council ultimately backed the pilot project for one of the city's main retail streets.
"An overwhelming majority of councillors today, from north to south and east to west, voted to install bike lanes on Bloor," said Councillor Joe Cressy, who helped spearhead the project. "It reflects and shows that our city has moved past the debates and divisions of old, and demonstrates that bike lanes are a win-win for everybody."
By a majority of 38-3, council agreed to install separated bicycle lanes late this summer between Avenue Road and Shaw Street. A variety of motions that could have delayed the lanes were voted down. The city will track a host of criteria over 12 months, and a decision on the lanes' future will come next year.
"This sends a signal that the City of Toronto is taking cycling seriously, taking cycling as a legitimate mode of transportation seriously," said Jared Kolb, executive director of the advocacy group Cycle Toronto.
The project will result in the loss of parking on one side of the road and less room for drivers. But it will create safe space for cyclists and, according to research elsewhere, could have a positive impact on local businesses.
"This pilot is an important pilot project in helping us answer the question as to how to best build the 21st-century Toronto that we want," Mayor John Tory told reporters before voting in support.
"For me, this bike pilot will be a success if it provides us with all the information to make informed decisions, not just about Bloor Street, but to help us make informed decisions elsewhere in the city."
But critics said the city would not have enough data next year to make a proper decision. Councillor Stephen Holyday pushed in vain for polling to get more detail on how people in the area felt about the project. And deputy mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong said it was important to establish specific measures now so they could be used next year to determine the success or failure of the project.
Mr. Minnan-Wong also questioned the location of the lanes.
"My view on bike lanes is that you should put [them] not on the major roads where there's a lot of traffic, east-west traffic," he said, adding that he fears this is the thin end of a wedge.
"My concern is … the creep that there be bike lanes all across Bloor; you know, from one end to the other," he added. "As a local councillor … this particular section doesn't materially and substantially affect my residents, but, you know, are there going to be bike lanes on the Danforth next?"