The age of cycling is upon us. Toronto Mayor David Miller announced last month the city will resuscitate its plan to build more than 1,000 kilometres of bike lanes across the city by 2012. More money and staff have been thrown in for the first time in years.
A growing number of councillors see cyclists less as large flies on their windshields and bicycles more as a clean, healthy and – most importantly – legitimate form of urban transportation.
“The political stars are aligned,” says De Baeremaeker, who pulls up into his underground parking space at city hall on his 21-speed. He dutifully parks it between Councillor Maria Augimeri’s black Honda Accord and the empty space reserved for Councillor Gord Perks, a TTC fanatic who doesn’t have a driver’s licence. “If we don’t get it done now, we never will.”
Lots of time spent with Glenn De Baeremaeker in this article, a year-round cyclist who gets to City Hall every day from Scarborough on two wheels.
This article offers yet more hope for cyclists and Torontonians who want safer streets, cleaner air and more humane neighbourhoods (as opposed to those dominated by cars). Let’s hope the politicians deliver what they think they can.
Mayor Miller says it will happen.
“It’s very connected with climate change and when people see it’s connected, people will make sure it happens,” he says. “It’s a realistic – if ambitious– goal. It’s the right goal.”
What’s ambitious for Toronto would spell failure in other cities. Berlin boasts 860 kilometres of separate bicycle paths. In Copenhagen, one in three trips is on a bike.
“Those improvements have been over the last 15 to 20 years. The city wasn’t built differently. They’ve just taken a lot of car lanes away,” says Guillermo Penalosa, executive director of Walk and Bike for Life, a local non-profit agency. He’s also the former parks and recreation commissioner of Bogota, where 280 kilometres of separate bicycle lanes were built in three years.