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Things We Learned From the City’s 2010 Bicycle Count Report

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Photo by Mike Scott, from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.


In September, the City conducted its first ever systematic count of the number of cyclists entering and exiting the downtown core, between Jarvis Street and Spadina Avenue on the east and west, and Bloor Street and Queens Quay at the north and south. The resulting report, the first in an anticipated annual series, was just released and is now available for download, either as a precis [PDF] or in full [PDF]. Some of the findings are surprising, and so here are the best of them, point by point:

  • Fall is a peak cycling period. The City chose to conduct the count in September because of the confluence of nice weather, students back from break, and workers returned from vacation, all of which make for a spike in traffic. The report says that on a typical September 2010 weekday, 19,162 cyclists entered the core.
  • Cyclists prefer bike lanes. Okay, maybe this isn’t a surprising finding, but if nothing else it’s empirical confirmation of something many of us have suspected. The report says that during September, bike lanes carried 45% of all cyclists entering and exiting the core, even though the lanes were only present on 24% of the roads being monitored as part of the count. Arterial roads carried 91% of cyclists, despite making up only 76% of the sample.
  • Most cyclists are men. For whatever reason, ladies are underrepresented among Toronto bike riders. Overall, the count found that 62% of cyclists were male, while 38% were female. (Apparently the gender split is similar in other North American cities.) The highest proportion of female riders to males was on the western edge of the study area, at Spadina Avenue, where 41% of the counted cyclists were women.
  • The west end is a cycling stronghold. The report says that 45% of all cyclists who entered and exited the downtown core in September did so at Spadina Avenue, meaning they were likely travelling from points west.
  • Waterfront cyclists love riding on the sidewalk. Across the study area, about 5% of cyclists were observed riding on sidewalks, but on the southern edge of the count, at Queens Quay, the proportion of sidewalk riders was 15%. This was “likely because the cycling conditions are more challenging in that area,” say the report’s authors.
  • About half of cyclists wear helmets. The report gives conflicting information on the exact percentage of cyclists that were observed wearing helmets. It’s either 54% wear them and 46% don’t, or 46% wear them and 54% don’t, depending upon whether one trusts the text or the charts. Either way, the split is close to even. We’ll update as soon as we know the correct percentage. [UPDATE, DECEMBER 22, 10:00 A.M.: Jana Neumann from the City's Transportation Services division now tells us that the correct percentage of Toronto cyclists who wear helmets is 46%. The Bicycle Count Report is being updated to reflect this.]

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