Survey Says: Toronto Likes Bike Lanes
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Survey Says: Toronto Likes Bike Lanes

Maybe councillors will notice the poll too?

Political rhetoric often lags public sentiment. Politicians don’t like to change their views, and it’s difficult to incorporate new evidence, or respond to the changing needs of the city.

Which brings us to a recent poll that shows seven in 10 Torontonians support bike lanes in principle, and 52 per cent support the Bloor bike lane project in particular. Forum Research polled 882 Torontonians on September 30, with a margin of error of 3 per cent, 19 times out of 20 [PDF]. Support for bike lanes was strongest among young Torontonians, and people who live in the old City of Toronto.

This could be a case where supporting something in the abstract is a lot easier than getting behind bike lanes when they’re in, well, your backyard. After all, there’s a big drop between supporting bike lanes in principle and a specific example—despite the extraordinary amount of local support behind the Bloor bike lanes.

But you also wouldn’t know bike lanes are so popular by watching city hall debates on the issue. There, you have the likes of Giorgio Mammoliti (Ward 7, York West) who argue that bike lanes shouldn’t be installed because they’ll increase pollution (due to idling cars). Citing Mammo may be a bit of a straw man argument (guilty as charged!) but the arguments from lots of other councillors aren’t really that far off.

So it’s encouraging to see a poll on bike lanes trending in the other direction. If the extensive evidence on the subject doesn’t move some councillors who hold up cycling policies at city hall, there’s one thing that probably does, and that’s pandering to voters.