Motion passed in hopes of creating safer Toronto bike lanes in winter

As cyclists battle hazardous conditions, there is a renewed push for safer winter bike lanes this year. As Tina Yazdani reports, a motion has passed at city hall that could soon require the transportation division to clear bike lanes to bare pavement

By Tina Yazdani

While slush, ice, and snow cover bike lanes on the Danforth, creating sloppy and dangerous conditions for cyclists, there is a renewed push for safer winter bike lanes.

A motion passed during the City of Toronto’s Infrastructure Committee meeting could soon require the Transportation Division to clear bike lanes to bare pavement every time.

Until now, the minimum standard of ice and snow management on Toronto’s streets has been described as “safe and passable,” but winter cyclists say that’s not good enough. 

“There’s a different standard for what safe and passable means when you’re in a car versus when you’re on a bike,” said Michael Longfield with CycleTO.

In her motion presented to the infrastructure and environment committee, City Councillor Diane Saxe argued that the layers of snow and slush that are passable for cars quickly become icy and unsafe for bicycles, and no bike lane is safe and passable unless it is cleared to bare pavement. 

“We should now see the city clearing those to bare pavement as much as possible, and that will make it safer for many more people to ride,” said Councillor Saxe.

“This cycle track was full of slush, ice, and snow; I was shocked that the state of the track was this bad, especially since the road next to it was well-cleared.”

Cyclists have been documenting the unsafe conditions for years, and advocates argue that improved bike lane maintenance is necessary for Vision Zero, the city’s strategy to eliminate all traffic deaths and severe injuries. 

Councillor Saxe tells CityNews that the motion will head to council in February, but she’s been working with the transportation division for months, and they are looking at what changes they can make this winter. 

In another motion that could make streets safer, changes could be coming to how the city processes speed and red light camera disputes.

City council previously voted to double the number of speed enforcement cameras in Toronto from 75 to 150 by 2026. Still, city staff say they had identified a limitation to that plan was the processing of additional tickets they would be taking on. 

Staff said in 2021, it took about 68 days to conclude a parking dispute. In comparison, the average time to meet for an early resolution or trial for a red light camera dispute in court was between 300 and 400 days.

The new process would involve going through a faster, more efficient system, similar to how the city processes parking tickets, instead of going through provincial courts.

“We do know that the speed camera system is working; we know that from data from SickKids, people do slow down when those speed cameras are there,” said City Councillor and Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie.

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