Building Toronto’s Bicycle Infrastructure

July 2016

Developing a bicycle infrastructure in Toronto requires bike lanes on city streets. It also requires that bicycles become an accepted form of transportation by more people. Finally, it requires that people have a place to store bicycles when not in use.

With more people living downtown and fewer of them owning a car, bicycles make sense. They are appropriate for short distance travel as an alternative to public transportation and cars. Investing in this infrastructure can reduce other infrastructure costs.

A bicycle infrastructure can work. Copenhagen, a city of 1.9 million, has 5.2 bicycles for every car. Over one third of residents commute by bicycle to school or work. Copenhagen residents consider cycling to be just another form of transportation. This is the result of ongoing efforts since the 1970s.

There are hurdles to overcome. Toronto, like Copenhagen, is a cold weather city subject to snow, ice, sleet and rain. Unlike Copenhagen, Toronto lacks the bicycle lane infrastructure to entice cyclists. Toronto has 114 kilometers of bicycle lanes. Montreal, a smaller city, has over 700 km of bicycle lanes. Chicago, with a comparable population to Toronto, has 320 km of bicycle lanes.

While Toronto has developed an impressive bicycle infrastructure over a relatively short period of time, even more is required.

Some new condo developments have reduced the number of car parking spaces they provide. In place of car parking are spaces for car sharing services and bicycles. Approval of this change required that the condo developers donate funds to support the bicycle infrastructure.

Public transit allows for bicycles to be transported on TTC buses and subway. In October 2015 the TTC installed self-service bicycle repair facilities at ten subway stations. Each facility includes a stand to mount a bicycle and tools that include a bike pump and wheel chocks plus a selection of wrenches, Allen keys and screwdrivers. This allows for basic repairs including tire changes.

Bixi, the original bicycle rental program with about 1,000 bicycles and 80 rental stations throughout the downtown area, failed when unable to make payments on its loan which was guaranteed by the city. An additional $1,000,000 was donated to Bixi by condo developers in return for permission to provide fewer parking spaces in their developments. Bixi filed for bankruptcy in 2014. It is now Bike Share, a project of the Toronto Parking Authority and supported by TD Bank.

Thank you to CondoMadness for their contribution to this article.


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