Leading Edge / Spring 2014
Where People Pedal

Why are some wards more popular among cyclists than others?


Percentage of all trips in each Toronto ward that are taken by bicycle, 2011

On a warm sunny morning in Toronto, so many cyclists zip along College Street that bystanders might mistakenly think they were in bike-crazy Amsterdam, where 60 per cent of downtown trips are made on two wheels. As this map shows, Toronto’s central core – with its many bike lanes and slower traffic – is the most popular area in the city for cycling. Eight out of 10 bike trips occur in the city’s 14 downtown wards.

But what makes some central wards more popular among cyclists than others is not always clear. U of T researcher Trudy Ledsham (BA 2011 Woodsworth, MA 2012) says urban design and the presence of desirable destinations within the ward are important factors, but people’s values, childhood experience with cycling, social relations and recent life events can also strongly affect whether they will take up cycling.

Ledsham is a member of the Toronto Cycling Think & Do Tank – a research group hosted at U of T’s School of the Environment. Another member, Emma Cohlmeyer (MA 2013), created a “cycling adoption toolkit” designed to accelerate participation in bike commuting. As their studies (and this map) show, building bike lanes is only half the battle. You have to change attitudes as well.


Reader Comments

# 1
Posted by hamish wilson on April 1st, 2014 @ 2:22 pm

Toronto’s core lacks good, continuous bike lanes, though in some places and at some times we can see near-European levels of cycling. Former Toronto Mayor John Sewell has said that, for him, biking is now the only effective method of transport in the core.

There is a dire need to improve bike lane connectivity in Toronto. As long ago as 1992, Bloor Street was designated the best place for an east-west bike lane, yet only a tiny portion of the street made it into the Bike Plan — and even that, between Church and Sherbourne, has still not been implemented.

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