image via flickr / Sweet One
A group of 22 physicians from St. Michael’s Hospital have signed an open letter to City Hall to advocate for more bike lanes in Toronto. The doctors are led by Dr. Tomislav Svoboda, who was charged with mischief for blocking the removal of Jarvis St. bike lanes last November by sitting in the street. Svoboda also has support from fellow cycling enthusiasts, Councillors Kristyn Wong-Tam and Mike Layton. What these bike advocates want is for the City to either rework the current bike plan or follow through with the goal set in 2001 to create 495km of bike lanes; at date Toronto remains 382km away from the proposed goal.
The City of Toronto has been steadily removing bike lanes throughout 2011 and 2012, while other major cities create more lanes to support their inhabitants’ health and reduce the effects of smog and global warming. Beyond reasons of exercise and environment, bike lanes serve to protect the biking community from potentially fatal accidents, with on-street bike lanes reducing the rate of injury by 50 per cent, according to the physicians.
Before the Jarvis St. bike lanes were removed, City staff reported the number of collisions on the street had reduced by 23 per cent and pedestrian-vehicle collisions reduced by 89 per cent, yet the lanes were removed without public input and with a cost to taxpayers of nearly $300,000. As Wong-Tam wrote of the lanes’ removal:
“[The bike lanes] were a welcome buffer between cars and pedestrians. They were an alternative to bikes sharing the lanes with faster vehicles. They were a reflection of Toronto’s commitment to expanding cycling infrastructure and consideration of all the road’s users as they kept people safe.”
According to today’s reveal of the 2013 budget, $2.3 billion will go to all transportation maintenance over the next 10 years which, in addition to road repairs, includes 100 km of off-street bike trails, 80 km of on-street bike path connections, and 8,000 new bicycle parking spaces. Though the timeline and combined 180km of additional bike lanes are a far cry from what Svoboda and his supporters want to see in their city.