Bloor businesses disagree on bike lanes

The outcome of the bike lanes pilot project on Bloor Street is just around the bend, as city officials prepare to vote on their permanent installation this fall. However, the year-long pilot has been a bumpy ride, with residents and businesses on both sides of the debate.

According to a study conducted by the City of Toronto in June, of the 140 local businesses surveyed, opinions were split in opposition and support. For those against, lack of parking and delivery issues were prevalent concerns.

Albert Koehl, an environmental lawyer who sits on the board of the Annex Residents’ Association and co-founded Bells on Bloor, said the Bloor bike lanes pilot had the support of five local residents’ associations. 

Koehl said Bells on Bloor and Cycle Toronto even set up a campaign called Tour de Bloor to encourage more cyclists to shop locally. Hundreds of businesses were asked to participate, and 73 agreed.

Snakes & Lattes, a popular board game café near Bathurst Street, decided to take part. 

Ansis Kalnins, brand manager for the mini chain, said he fully supports bike lanes. Kalnins, a cyclist himself, noted the café’s clientele skews toward those less likely to drive. 

“Making our venue more accessible to cyclists in a safer way is going to be a good thing for business,” said Kalnins.

However, Kalnins did admit the current configuration could use some work as the business has had issues with loading and delivery.

Soo Yoo, owner of Annex Mart, a convenience store a few doors down from Snakes & Lattes, chose not to participate in the campaign. 

“I disagree with the bike lane because it’s been very hurtful to business. People try to park their car, but they can’t find a spot anymore,” she said.

Yoo added many customers have complained about a lack parking, particularly during rush hour. 

But according to the June 2017 study, Bloor Street has lost less than 10 per cent of convenient customer parking as a result of the pilot, amounting to 160 parking spaces. There are still more than 1,553 public spaces that remain.

Koehl has also heard from local drivers who find the bike lanes inconvenient. But, he argued, with several large developments in the pipeline for the Annex, the area can’t accommodate more cars.

“People are finding new ways of getting around, and we have to promote those ways instead of setting up obstacles,” said Koehl. “If thousands of new residents expect to park on Bloor, it’s not going to happen.”

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