Yonge Street bike lane pilot data shows cycling jump, slight rise in vehicle trip time

The city's midtown ActiveTO pilot program has shown increased vehicle travel times along with more cycling and pedestrian use. Mark McAllister gauges reaction form businesses and residents.

Newly released data by the City of Toronto on a pilot project that brought bike lanes and more patios to a midtown portion of Yonge Street shows an increase in cycling activity as well as a midday increase in vehicular travel times.

Cycling activity, according to the data released in a statement Monday morning, rose between 35 and 193 per cent in the pilot project area, which is between Bloor Street and Davisville Avenue, during the period of May 2021 to June 2022.

The busiest part of the corridor, near Yonge Street and McPherson/Rowanwood avenues, saw 1,760 cyclists between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m., an increase of approximately 1,160 people.

There was also a large increase in pedestrian activity, but City of Toronto staff attributed that to seasonal changes and shifting walking behaviour seen during the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, when it comes to Yonge Street between Bloor Street and Davisville Avenue, staff said there was some change to vehicular traffic patterns.

The biggest increase appeared to be during midday periods with a 1.5-minute in travel time compared to pre-pandemic travel times in fall 2019. During morning and afternoon peak periods, City staff said there were generally delays of less than a minute. City staff said the delays were largely northbound.

RELATED: Midtown neighbourhood groups ask city to remove bike lanes

The part of the pilot corridor near Davisville Avenue saw considerably more traffic (18,900 vehicles) versus near Bloor Street (7,200 vehicles).

They also noted there wasn’t a noticeable increase in traffic shifting to Avenue and Mount Pleasant roads.

The pilot project was approved in April 2021 as part of a COVID-19 mobility recovery program and earlier this year Toronto city council extended the pilot project to January in order for more data to be gathered.

City staff while community feedback has been received, there will be further opportunities to comment on the pilot project. They are scheduled to bring forward recommendations to council by January on whether or not to make the road changes permanent.

Jacquelyn Hayward, the director of project design and management with the City of Toronto’s transportation services department, said the feedback received to date has been mixed.

“There’s quite a bit of interest in that complete street design, being able to go outside and sit on a patio on Yonge street, improved safety being able to bike and the feeling of safety that pedestrians have when they’re a little bit further away from moving traffic with the buffer of the bike lane there,” she told CityNews on Monday.

“But there are also some concerns from local residents who live in the area who are trying to access and egress … onto young Street, so we are continuing to monitor those data points in order to present recommendations back to council early in the new year.”

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Hayward said they are looking at potential ways to reduce travel times, including through tweaking signal timing.

Irene Zelden, the owner of Zelden’s Deli and Desserts, praised the pilot project and said it hasn’t greatly impacted Yonge Street.

“We love it. It’s helped our business so much and in the wintertime they change it to parking, which for us is also very good because our customers can park right in front rather than trying to go around the block and park,” she said.

“As far as the patio goes, I believe it’s probably saved us through the pandemic and everything it’s helped a lot. It doubles my seating.”

However, Midtown resident Carolyn Baxter said she feels the pilot project’s fate has already been decided and that will become permanent.

“From my 25th-floor balcony looking down to Yonge Street, this lane is continuously filled with traffic at any time right up to 11 at night,” she told CityNews.

“I worry for the sake of emergency vehicles. It impedes their flow.”

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