Bloor Street store owners say business is down and data is wrong, but bike lanes should stay – with a few modifications

Oct. 18, 2017

By Arianne Robinson

“If we had our choice we’d like to see automatic gates go up [during certain bike access times] and automatically go down or put lights and streaks so that people know that this is strictly for cycling,” said Barry Alper, owner of Fresh on Bloor and on Crawford, and CEO of the Annex Business Bike Alliance.

Alper is one of a number of business owners who came to speak at the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee meeting on Wednesday that wants to see a different configuration with the lanes, because he thinks there is too much happening and Bloor is no longer accessible for passenger dropoffs.

“We feel [the solution is] redesigning [the lanes], but of course we’re not traffic experts nor are we bike lane designers. But living in the area, we understand that we don’t need parking 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year,” Alper said after the meeting. “We don’t believe the cyclists require those bike lanes for that amount of time, and we need to get into a place where we’re all listening to each other and trying to accommodate each other.”

Alper also explained to the committee he thinks that the consultation study didn’t get the main economic issue in the Annex. “Let’s just agree that business is down. Let’s just take that off the table,” Alper said outside the meeting, so frustrated with the city’s data collected for the city’s report that he did his own survey, available in a letter he submitted online.

He’s not alone. Miranda Black, owner of Theodore 1922 (and also a member of the Annex Business Bike Alliance) told Signal Toronto her reason for coming to city hall was that the study, meant to look at the local economic impact of bike lanes on Bloor, and conducted by the Toronto Centre for Active Transportation (TCAT), was not successful. “If they had asked even one economic data question on their economic impact study, none of us would be here today.”

5:50 p.m. Oct. 18, 2017. Michel Sauve (left) and Miranda Black speak at the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee meeting about their businesses on Bloor Street.
5:50 p.m. Oct. 18, 2017. Michel Sauve (left) and Miranda Black speak at the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee meeting about their businesses on Bloor Street.

Michel Sauve, of Midoco Art & Office Supplies and the Annex Business Bike Alliance, told the committee that she doubted the validity of the TCAT study based on what happened with her stores, located in the pilot area and on Danforth in the control area for the Moneris analysis. “Survey takers actually attributed answers to my store manager that she didn’t give. I want to have everyone hear that… No one in my company gave any answers in my Danforth location, and yet TCAT attributed answers to her,” she said. Sauve went on to explain that she was given the opportunity to retake the survey but thinks the incident shows there were “holes in the data collection process.”

The three business owners, cyclists themselves, want more consideration from the city, but insist they are not opposed to the bike lanes. “Our argument is that it’s not being studied properly,” Sauve said. “The proper questions are not being asked – you can’t get the proper information or data if you’re not asking the right questions.”

Councillors at the committee pressed city staff on what happened with the study. City staff said they were confident in the methodology used for the survey and that the report states there are diverse opinions from businesses.

In the end, staff recommendations to keep the lanes passed at committee with a number of amendments, including a permanent bike count station technology to collect year-round data on cycling volumes along the Bloor Street West cycle tracks in time for the winter 2017-18 season. Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti’s request for access to a copy of the city’s thousand hours of video footage of Bloor Street bike lanes was rejected.

A motion by Councillor Stephen Holyday that would have opened the door to the lanes being modified lost in a tie (voted for: Jaye Robinson, Giorgio Mammoliti, and Stephen Holyday; voted against: Christin Carmichael Greb, Anthony Perruzza, and Chin Lee). It asked that “the General Manager, Transportation Services consult with the Annex Business Bike Alliance and report directly to Council on the feasibility of modifications to the Bloor Street bike lane project, and the feasibility of direct polling by the City Clerk to businesses, that may arise from the ideas proposed.”

The recommendations and report are expected to come before city council this fall.

Correction: An earlier version of this article erroneously stated the three business owners are opposed to bike lanes. The story has been updated to accurately reflect their views.