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It’s a contraflow bike lane! 

A contraflow lane is a bike lane that travels down a one-way street in the opposite direction – like this existing one on Montrose. If you’ve ever used it to get your kids to the Bob Abate community centre, you know how great it is.

Check out the details about Shaw’s new contraflow here. This is part of an ongoing — and stalled — effort to connect existing cycling routes and improve the experience of riding in Toronto’s downtown west end. It’s a relief to finally get bike lanes on a less well-travelled street such as Shaw. Why not send a thank-you note?

Having this new lane will allow cyclists travelling north (say, from Trinity-Bellwoods) to continue up Shaw all the way from Dundas to Harbord. It will also link Shaw St. going north from Barton St. to Dupont. Not perfect, but a great stride forward.

Presumably, riders looking for continuous route north to Christie Pits will jog east on Harbord and continue northward on the quiet contraflow lane on Montrose:

Montrose-Bike-Lane-Martin-Reis

PHOTO OF MONTROSE ST CONTRAFLOW BY MARTIN REIS

There is a terrific, detailed overview of the recent open house and consultation on the Shaw St. contraflow by Sarah Greene here on the Dandyhorse website. Incidentally, these lanes were approved waaaay back in 2009 but were held up by City of Toronto staff over concerns over the Highway Traffic Act. (That last link includes an account of how these lanes made it out of City Hall purgatory.)

Why are contraflow lanes great news for families who cycle?

While there are some efficient north-south routes in the city, there are precious few actual bike lanes. Some parents who feel comfortable on existing north-south routes when riding by themselves think twice when it comes to taking their kids. There are no north-south bike lanes west of St. George anywhere in the west end, south of Dupont — except for one-block-long lanes on Grace and Montrose, and that highway-like route along Strachan.

This means there are basically no north-south bike lanes that people biking with kids feel good using. It’s a crazy situation, and it’s another reason parents need to make noise for bike lanes in Toronto — even if they haul their kids around in a car more often than by bike. Happily, the understanding and appreciation of bike lanes by the general public is growing.

Kudos to Cycle Toronto! Express your delight to Councillor Mike Layton and the staff and volunteers of Cycle Toronto and their great “thank-you petition” right here:

After all, it never hurts to say thanks, whether as a cyclist or driver or pedestrian — or friend or parent of a cyclist — or future cyclist. And consider writing your own city councillor to show your support for contraflow bike lanes on smaller side streets — even if you drive. Bike lanes make safer roads for everyone.

Check out Cycle Toronto’s explainer on the Toronto Bike Plan (already approved!) here.

Helen Spitzer has been biking uphill in Toronto since 1991.

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