October 26, 2020

Increasing Suburban Cycling in Toronto - Revisited

Back in late May, I wrote about the need to expand cycling in Scarborough, Etobicoke, and North York and suggested roughly 150 kilometres of routes that would be needed to build a robust cycling grid in Toronto. A lot has happened since then including the building of almost 40 kilometres of bike lanes – the largest expansion in Toronto’s history – and some new proposals issued by the Toronto Community Bikeways Coalition (which I am part of). Here is a review of what has been built under ActiveTO, the TCBC proposals, and which gaps remain to be filled.

Bayview from Rosedale Valley to River was one of this year's ActiveTO installations

ActiveTO Roundup

Most of the bike lane installations called for in 2020 have been completed as of late October. Except for a gap between Indian and Symington caused by utility work, Toronto now has a 15 kilometre continuous east-west bike route from Runnymede to Dawes to help relieve the Bloor-Danforth subway line. The gap is expected to be painted in by the end of this year per the City’s latest update, though protection under the West Toronto Railpath has been delayed until 2021.

University Avenue now has bike lanes from Bloor to Adelaide to help provide a safe north-south route, while gaps have been filed along Dundas and Bayview-River. There was a motion calling for Avenue to be extended to Eglinton, though nothing has been announced at this time. In the suburbs, Scarborough has a north-south cycling spine in the making along Brimley while Huntingwood is becoming a useful east-west connection to Fairview Mall and Don Mills subway station. North York was supposed to have bike lanes along both Wilmington and Faywood, but Faywood was unfortunately downgraded to sharrows.

There is one route – Overlea – which remains identified as “under consideration” which would provide a much needed connection for Thorncliffe Park and Flemingdon Park residents. Cycle Toronto issued action alerts to its mailing list to help make Overlea a reality, while one of the TCBC’s proposals calls for a Donlands – Overlea – Don Mills route to extend connectivity to Danforth and the future Eglinton Crosstown LRT. Members of the Women’s Cycling Network gave several supportive video testimonials, while City Council approved a motion in July calling for a second north-south route from Danforth to Cosburn which helps the case for Donlands. One challenge with this area is the lack of council champions with Jaye Robinson undergoing cancer treatment and Denzil Minnan-Wong having voted against ActiveTO in late May.

Recent TCBC Proposals

On October 21, 2020, the Toronto Community Bikeways Coalition sent a letter to Becky Katz – Toronto’s Manager of Cycling and Pedestrian Projects – with seven bike lane asks totalling 45 kilometres to be considered for 2021 installation. Their letter also supported Our Greenway to enhance active transportation in Northwest Toronto; most notably along the Finch West LRT and Jane Street. The asks are as follows:

  • Bloor (Runnymede to Mississauga)
  • Keele-Weston (Bloor to Cardell)
  • Yonge (Bloor to Avondale)
  • Donlands-Overlea-Don Mills (Danforth to Eglinton)
  • Victoria Park (Gerrard to Dawes)
  • Danforth (Dawes to Thora)
  • Kingston (Dundas to Brimley)

One of these proposals – Yonge Street – will be debated at this week’s City Council meeting for 2021 implementation after being deferred from last month’s meeting. The original motion called for bike lanes from Lawrence to St. Clair, but amendments were proposed to extend Yonge south to Bloor. Some have argued for a further extension to Gerrard to align with the final yongeTOmorrow design, though that project is due at the Infrastructure and Environment Committee (IEC) in December. The REimagining Yonge proposal for North York is also expected at IEC by the end of this year.

Local advocates in Ward 5 (York South Weston) have launched a petition supporting bike lanes along Keele and Weston. The latest bike plan update did not have anything proposed along that stretch, though a study is expected in the near future for Weston north of Highway 401. Given how wide parts of Weston are – especially with the slip lane at Black Creek – there is no excuse not to install protected bike lanes there. If Weston uses the tag line “home of the bicycle”, then why don’t they have any bike lanes there?

One good thing about the Donlands-Overlea-Don Mills and Keele-Weston proposals is they go through neighbourhood improvement areas; a designation applied to lower income neighbourhoods and often have the most COVID-19 cases. Here is a map of the proposals along with this years ActiveTO projects and neighbourhood improvement areas.

Map showing 2020 ActiveTO installations (in blue), 2021 TCBC asks (in green), Our Greenway
(new on-street infrastructure in purple), and Toronto's neighbourhood improvement areas

Looking to 2022 and Beyond

Even if these 45 kilometres of bike lanes do get implemented next year – something which will be contingent on city staff capacity – there are still several gaps that will need to be addressed. With the Eglinton Crosstown LRT now expected to open in 2022, the City of Toronto needs to fund Eglinton Connects as part of the 2021 budget process to ensure protected bike lanes are built from Weston to Brentcliffe while Metrolinx works on the ones along the surface section from Brentcliffe to Kennedy.

Scarborough will need some further extensions to properly flesh out their bikeway network. Brimley needs to be extended across Highway 401 to connect with the Huntingwood bike lanes and the Finch hydro corridor, while Kingston needs to be extended further east to at least Eglinton where the RapidTO lanes will accompany people who bike. Eventually, the City needs to replace the RapidTO lines with the Eglinton East LRT along with the accompanying bike lanes for Eglinton, Kingston, and Morningside.

While there are still a lot more potential routes that will need to be discussed – especially in Etobicoke – the message is clear that Toronto cannot afford to go back to its pre-pandemic pace of installing less than ten kilometres of bike lanes annually if they are to achieve Vision Zero. Road safety advocates have the obligation to keep up the pressure to ensure this year’s 40 km pace is made the new standard.


  1. This is a great round-up, identify numerous problems and containing many excellent proposals. What's your take on the Meadoway project? It strikes me as being far too slow.

  2. Great round-up Rob - extremely useful.