On Aug. 23, a non-profit organization called 8 80 Cities radically altered a small stretch of Danforth Avenue between Woodbine and Woodmount avenues by removing two lanes of vehicular traffic and replacing them with dedicated bike lanes and more pedestrian space.
This pop-up demonstration lasted only until the late afternoon the following Saturday, but it gave people in the area a glimpse of what the Danforth could look like if it was reconfigured to give cyclists and pedestrians priority over the automobile.
I don’t think there is any major street in Toronto that is a better candidate for bike lanes and more space for pedestrians than Danforth Avenue. Anyone who walks on the Danforth will tell you that it’s a pedestrian’s paradise, which is why the street’s sidewalks can get very crowded, especially during the warmer months. Walking my dog in the morning on the Danforth, it’s hard not to bump into other people on the sidewalk.
Cyclists love the Danforth, too. In fact, I’ve rarely seen more cyclists on any other major street in Toronto. I consider myself lucky compared to them, because although the sidewalk can be crowded, at least we pedestrians don’t have to share the same space with cars, trucks and buses. I can safely survive being bumped into by another person. I can’t necessarily say the same for a cyclist that gets bumped into by a car. Hence, I can definitely understand why people who ride their bikes on the Danforth would really appreciate dedicated bike lanes.
I can also, however, understand the concerns of motorists, because I am one myself. If you’ve ever driven on the Danforth, especially during rush hour, you know how much of a traffic snarl it can become, so the prospect of fewer lanes for cars may make drivers feel uneasy. Another issue is the possibility of losing on-street parking that helps businesses in the area attract customers.
Nevertheless, I cannot ignore the potential benefits of bike lanes and additional pedestrian space for people who don’t have the privilege of driving a private vehicle. I have no doubt, for example, that more people will cycle down the Danforth if there are dedicated and protected bike lanes, simply because it will be a lot safer than sharing lanes with cars.
Recent statistics show a sizeable increase in the number of people commuting by bicycle, especially close to the downtown core, so creating more infrastructure for these people just makes sense, not to mention
the fact that more people cycling and walking means fewer people driving.
Fewer people driving means fewer cars on the road and less pollution, which is something we should all appreciate in the era of climate change.