This week, Gil Penalosa dodged streetcar tracks and swinging car doors while cycling to his downtown Toronto office, but all he could see were smooth roads ahead.
Above him, blue skies promised ice-free streets were on the way. To his left and right, gas stations advertising soaring fuel prices provided greater incentive for drivers to trade four wheels for two.
But Mr. Penalosa – a consultant who has travelled the world observing bike-friendly initiatives in ground-breaking cities such as Copenhagen, Melbourne, New York and Montreal – says there’s another reason Toronto’s embattled cyclists might be in for a good ride this summer: Rob Ford’s in the mayor’s chair.
His optimism springs from the Ford administration’s pair of proposals that would enhance the city’s natural bike pathways and build protected bike lanes in the downtown core.
“I think those two things would be major contributions – much more than what has been done in the last ten years to promote cycling in Toronto,” said Mr. Penalosa, executive director of 8-80 Cities, a Toronto-based non-profit organization that promotes walking and cycling initiatives around the world.
Considering Mr. Ford was famously sworn into office by hockey commentator Don Cherry deriding cyclists as “pinkos,” this statement might take a few people aback. And some veteran cyclists say they aren’t holding their breath.
“I’m not feeling the love,” said Michelle Perrier-Martinen, who helps run West Side Cycle on Roncesvalles Avenue. She said her winter commute on the West Toronto Railpath has routinely been interrupted because of spotty snow removal by city workers. She also fears that curbed-in bike lanes will create new problems as cyclists are herded into confined routes.
But other key players in Toronto’s cycling community feel that after a stagnant period under David Miller, Mr. Ford is the best chance they’ve had in years to bring Toronto up to speed with other world-class cities.
“I think that one of the very encouraging things about the new administration is with councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong coming out and supporting this plan for separated bike lanes,” Andrea Garcia, spokeswoman for the Toronto Cyclists Union, said of the plan to create a grid of barrier-protected bike lanes in the core.
On a map, Mr. Minnan-Wong’s proposed network looks roughly like a square, with curbs built to protect the existing bike lanes on Wellesley Street to the north, St. George and Beverley Streets on the west, and Sherbourne Street to the
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