Photo: Removing Bloor bike lane would be mistake, Olympic cyclist says

By Gideon Forman, Transportation Policy Analyst

This fall, Toronto city council will debate whether to make the Bloor bike lane a permanent feature.

If councillors vote against it, the lane (currently a pilot) could be removed — its road markings obliterated, its "flexi-post" dividers yanked out of the ground.

It's a possibility that Olympic cyclist Curt Harnett finds baffling. "Why would we go backwards and remove bike lanes? Drivers are adapting to them. We're all getting used to them," he says.

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Harnett is the recipient of three Olympic medals — two bronze for the match sprint and a silver for the 1,000-metre time trial — and makes his home in Toronto's east end.

He says he likes bike lanes because they make the street safer for everyone. "I think separated lanes are the better way — distinct spaces for bikes and cars keep each out of the other's way. They help us all get along."

The Olympian contrasts the sometimes-negative view of cycling in Toronto with the sport's status in much of Europe. "I've spent years riding in France and Italy," he recalls, "and the attitude to cycling there is very supportive. In Provence, for example, cycle-tourism is huge. So their attitude to bike riders is more positive — which leads to positive attitudes to bikes in the cities."

Despite his passion for cycling, the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame inductee isn't afraid to offer riders constructive criticism. Last year while biking across Toronto's Bloor viaduct with his daughter he felt fellow cyclists created a dangerous situation by passing too quickly. "Cyclists do need to be more cognizant of the rules, of our place on the road," he says. "We need to share and compromise."

Whether one is piloting an automobile or operating a bicycle, one needs to exercise caution. "Bikers need to be aware of what's going on behind them and in front. They need to treat their riding just as they would their car-driving," Harnett argues.

Unafraid to critique cyclists, the Olympic Hall of Fame member also has advice for motorists. The latter should realize bike lanes are not onerous. "We need drivers to understand that it's good for them to have these safety zones."

The lanes foster increased bike use and that means society as a whole enjoys greater convenience and health benefits. Given this, Harnett wonders why removal of the Bloor lanes would even be considered.

"Taking them away would just be a mistake," he concludes.


September 6, 2017

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