April 22, 2023

Dissecting Toronto's By-Election Bikelash

One unfortunate recent development of Toronto’s mayoral by-election has been candidates and campaigns opposing bike lanes on arterial roads. As of this morning, I could identify at least six candidates and two campaigns that are opposed to them. As a public service, I will identify who these candidates are – so road safety advocates know not to support them – as well as put everything into perspective.

Opponents to the Midtown Yonge complete street on January 30, 2023 (via Jun Nogami)

Mark Saunders

While fifty candidates have registered to run for mayor, several polls have identified six candidates with at least 5% support. These include Olivia Chow, Josh Matlow, Mitzie Hunter, Ana Bailao, Brad Bradford, and Mark Saunders. Among the top six, Mark Saunders is the only one that has publicly admitted “adding bike lanes to our busiest streets is not our biggest priority.” In one of the campaign videos , he ranted about “insiders worried about public bike lanes instead of public safety” and referencing Josh Matlow as an insider. Not only is this line distasteful coming from another insider – a former police chief to be exact – it brings up the false narrative bike lanes and public safety are separate. Road safety IS public safety and is one that leads to far more deaths than homicides. Saunders has resorted to blocking people on Twitter who disagreed with him – myself included – and goes to show he must be stopped at all costs.

Lesser Known Candidates (and Campaigns)

Along with Thursday’s launch of the “Keep Toronto Moving” campaign to oppose bike lanes – a website owned by Trevor Townsend who also represented BeRationalTO which opposed the Midtown Yonge complete street – former Toronto Sun columnist Anthony Furey issued a statement calling for bike lanes to be removed on University Avenue, as well as stopping them on other arterials. Giorgio Mammoliti – who was one of the biggest cycling opponents on city council before losing to Anthony Perruzza in 2018 – issued a video that same day saying his priority was to “put a roof over everyone’s head, and not a lane under somebody’s bike.” Again a false narrative pitting cycling against housing. Former councillor Rob Davis voiced his opposition to bike lanes on Friday and launched a “No New Bike Lanes” campaign. It turns out he was responsible for those “Save Bloor St.” signs that were put around the neighbourhood.

Mayoral candidate Rob Davis (via No New Bike Lanes)

Two candidates whose opposition to cycling were not picked up in the mainstream media include Blake Acton - who embarrassed himself on Moore In The Morning by refusing to disclose how he would make the TTC free – and Chris Sky given his ranting against 15-minute cities over false claims of government control.

A Questionable Poll

Back to the “Keep Toronto Moving” campaign which got about 200 signatures at the time of writing, it falsely interpreted a poll which was done by Navigator and needs to be called out. The online survey was done from March 3 to 6 and saw 501 people respond. The poll showed the following:

  • 65% noticed an increase in bike lanes in Toronto
  • 46% (of the 65% who noticed) have been personally impacted by the bike lanes – 29.9%
  • 66% (of the 29.9% personally impacted) reported a negative impact – 19.7%

Having 20% of respondents reporting negative impacts to bike lanes does not make for a convincing argument, while other polls done a few years back showed over 80% supported bike lanes. While I am not against the idea of collecting more data – heck why do we still not have those counter displays in Toronto ?! – moving bike lanes to side streets to avoid inconveniencing drivers is the wrong approach.

Time To Fight Back

Before we go all doom and gloom over the recent bikelash, hope remains eternal and me must fight back. Josh Matlow announced his climate action plan on Friday which includes a pledge to “connect Toronto’s bike lanes to make a true city-wide network”. Among the top six candidates, Josh Matlow is the one who impressed me the most so far with his sound policies – including how to fund them – and a track record of standing up to former Mayor John Tory.

Mayoral candidate Josh Matlow was part of this group photo when Community Bikeways recognized Yonge4All as the Emerging Road Safety Champion (via Arthur Klimowicz)

Olivia Chow supported Cycle Toronto’s Minimum Grid campaign of 200 kilometres of protected bike lanes and bicycle boulevards during her 2014 mayoral run, so she can be counted on as a reliable supporter. While I supported Olivia Chow in 2014, I wasn’t as impressed with her this time around with her delays entering the race and issuing policy statements, but will wait and see where the polls stand shortly before the election before making a final decision to avoid splitting the progressive vote.

Ana Bailao and Brad Bradford have both been attacked by progressives through various social media campaigns, but their most recent city council records have shown they tended to vote in favour of people who bike including the 2022-24 plan approved in December 2021. Mitzie Hunter has yet to release statements regarding road safety at this time.


The recent bikelash goes to show we road safety advocates cannot take our progress for granted and that we need to keep up the fight every step of the way. Some ways you can help out include completing the Bloor West Complete Street Extension survey by Thursday, April 27, as well as signing and sharing petitions in support of the Bloor and Danforth-Kingston complete street extensions. And of course, vote on June 26.

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