Torontonians Need Safe Streets
Regular physical activity is one of the most important determinants of health and well-being. For many of our patients, an increase in physical activity would have significant health benefits. Symptoms of coronary artery disease, depression, and many pain conditions improve with exercise, and people who exercise regularly live longer and have better health. Cycling is an easy way for our patients to fit exercise into their busy lives. Increasing the proportion of travel done by cycling would improve public health through an increase in exercise, in addition to reductions in the deleterious health effects of air pollution and global warming.
Safety is one of the most important factors that promotes cycling in cities. A recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health suggests that on-street bike lanes reduce bicycle injuries by 50% while physically separated bike lanes reduce them by 90%.
The current lack of adequate bike lane infrastructure in Toronto is the result of policy decisions that have seen Toronto decline from being North America’s best city for cycling in 1995, as rated by Bicycling magazine, to what the BBC recently called the “bike collision capital of Canada.” We live in an era when cities around the world have realized that bicycles help build healthy and vibrant urban environments, and accordingly are building infrastructure that supports cycling. In comparison, nearly 400 kilometres of bicycle lanes remain unfinished from the 2001 City bike plan.
We encourage the City of Toronto to implement evidence-based policy by increasing and improving bicycle infrastructure in the City.
We particularly encourage the implementation of separated bicycle tracks, and, where these are not possible, the construction of on-street bike lanes. City staff reports have shown that the rate of bicycle injuries, pedestrian-motor vehicle collisions, and the overall number of collisions on streets decrease following the installation of bike lanes. Traffic capacity on streets also increases after bike lanes are installed, with little or no change in motor vehicle volumes and with an increase in the number of bicycle trips.
A call for increased and improved bicycle infrastructure in the City of Toronto is consistent with similar calls by major medical organizations in Ontario including: The Ontario Medical Association, Toronto Public Health, and the Chief Coroner’s Office of Ontario.
Toronto has a 10 year bike plan that has been approved by City Council (as summarized by Cycle Toronto). Ensuring that it gets implemented is our priority.