Published On Mon Nov 30 2009 - Of Bikes and the City
Amsterdam is known as "The Bike City," but Toronto remains a long way from earning any such designation. The evidence for that is painfully apparent, from city hall to the city's streets.
City hall recently spent $10,000 on an in-house program that involved buying 10 high-end Dutch bicycles for environmentally conscious municipal workers to use during the day instead of a car. The program was launched in June, but the bikes have been used by city employees just 28 times since then. This from a city workforce large enough to represent Canada's sixth largest government.
Perhaps there would be better uptake for the program if there were more safe places to ride. But Toronto has been disappointingly slow in following its own bike-lane plan. That strategy originally called for creating 500 kilometres of on-street bike lanes by 2011. With less than half that amount completed, the deadline has now been pushed back to 2012.
And even where bike lanes are already established, the cycling community doesn't appear to get much respect. A rival newspaper recently found a police cruiser illegally parked in an Annette St. bike lane. When even those obliged to enforce the law feel free to ignore a rule designed to accommodate cyclists, it becomes obvious that a cycling culture has yet to take root here.
Toronto's bike plan directs the municipality to "shift gears toward a more bicycle friendly city." Unfortunately, some key spokes appear to be missing. (Note: Meanwhile, Montreals' Bixi program appears to be a big success. Go figure.