By: Heather Jackson
For women, safety is big part of the decision to cycle. Safety is an even bigger concern if they have children. According to Toronto’s 2010 Bike Count Summary, woman cycle less than men (62% of cyclists are male, 38% are female). However, where there’s a bike lane, the gender gap between riders narrows to 59% male and 41% female. And that’s just painted bike lanes; not even separated! Also, only 0.3% of cyclists in Toronto had passengers in a child seat or trailer. Parents concerned for children’s safety often stop cycling and drive instead, which only adds to Toronto’s traffic congestion.
So for women who want to cycle but may be discouraged by the lack of cycling infrastructure in Toronto, here are some questions to ask the candidates in your ward:
1. Do you support completing the Toronto Bike Plan?
Did you know Toronto created a roadmap of cycling routes to be installed in the city – called the Toronto Bike Plan – all the way back in 2001? Almost 500kms were promised, but 13 years later only 111km have been built. Check out Cycle Toronto and the City of Toronto website for more info. If the candidate doesn’t support implementing the Toronto Bike Plan, ask them why and what alternative they propose.
2. Do you support the expansion of Bike Share Toronto?
Bike Share Toronto (formerly BIXI) is in need of expansion to become viable. Last year Councilor Kristen Wong-Tam persuaded three condo developers in her ward to invest in BIXI stations in exchange for not having to build parking spaces that go unused in their buildings, and believes other wards could do the same thing. Read more here. What do the candidates think of this idea?
3. Should more city resources be allotted to cycling infrastructure?
Cycling infrastructure is relatively cheap and fast to build, and would reduce congestion on Toronto’s overcrowded roads and maxed-out transit system, so why doesn’t the city invest in it? I couldn’t find any recent figures online (the City of Toronto’s own website seems woefully out of date in regards to its cycling information, stating data from 2006 and a Coroner’s report from 1998 even though a new one came out in 2013), though I did find an article citing that Toronto’s Transportation Services employs over 900 people, but only 11 work on transportation issues related to cycling.
Most importantly, because cycling seems to be such a divisive issue between councillors, ask the candidates how they propose to work with other councillors who represent areas of the city that have different wants and needs than their own. Fighting over bike lanes, putting them in and then tearing them out, does nothing but waste money and certainly doesn’t improve Toronto’s transportation problems. Will the candidate help bridge the divide or exacerbate the situation?