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How safe are bicycle lanes on Oakville streets? Some say they provide 'no protection' from traffic

More bike lanes being added around town
Aug. 23, 2021
Mansoor Tanweer

Earlier this month, Peter Miasek visited Oakville from Markham to go cycling with his daughter and granddaughter.

While riding through Lakeshore Road East, he noticed something concerning.

“There is absolutely [no cycling infrastructure] on Lakeshore Boulevard (sic),” he told the Oakville Beaver. “It is a very major artery. There is no other way to go from west to east or east to west except on the sidewalk or on an informal beaten up path."

The safety of cyclists is a major issue across the province, including in Oakville.

Just this summer, a 52-year-old mother was struck and killed while she was crossing the QEW on-ramp on Third Line. Last May, there was another collision with a cyclist near the QEW on-ramp on Winston Churchill Boulevard.

Oakville is among the many Greater Toronto Area municipalities investing in active transportation networks. Active transportation is a mode of travel that is human powered, like walking and cycling.

Specifically, cycling lanes are popping up all over the town to ensure cyclist safety. Spokesperson for the Town of Oakville, Jill MacInnes, told the Beaver before that there are “over 240 kilometres of on-road lanes and off-road cycling paths.” The municipality is poised to add 30 more kilometres this year.

While opinions may vary, some users of cycling lanes say they are not safe enough because the lanes often consist of simple painted corridors.

“The issue here is the issue with most of Canada. Most of the bicycle infrastructure is what I refer to as painted bicycle gutters,” said Jason Slaughter.

Slaughter is a native of London, Ont. who lives in Amsterdam. He runs a YouTube Channel called Not Just Bikes where he, often sardonically, compares transportation infrastructure, including biking, in Canada and the Netherlands.


“I’ve actually cycled in Oakville a couple of times,” Slaughter added. “They’ll put a strip of white paint down the side of a 80 km/h road. That’s not safe. I wouldn’t ride on that… A line of white paint is not infrastructure. It provides no protection from traffic.”

He says that he relishes the peace and safety of the Netherlands’ cycling paradise when he returns to the country after visiting family.

MacInnes says the municipality is moving ahead with creating protected bike lanes. Wide, protected lanes are far more common in Amsterdam and the city is often called a cycling paradise for this reason.

MacInnes says that the “first phase of full protected bike lanes” will open on Speers Road between Third Line and Fourth Line. A further expansion will happen along Dorval in 2022. The stretch along Speers Road will include, MacInnes says, “concrete barriers” between car traffic and cyclists.

Dr. Raktim Mitra of Ryerson University’s School of Urban and Regional Planning says that more urbanized municipalities like Toronto and Hamilton are moving towards a cycling friendly environment.

But he laments that more suburban cities are not, and safety is one of the reasons why. “Many cycling collisions happen when cars start turning right on a red signal,” Mitra said.

The other reason is the lack of a continuous network. “In more suburban settings, when we look at the infrastructure that is being provided, often they are fragmented,” he continued.

“So on both accounts bicycling infrastructure being unsafe in many places and bicycling infrastructure not being part of a network or not providing connections to any destinations may have played a role in lower uptake,” he summed up.

According to the town’s Active Transportation Master Plan, only one per cent of Oakvillians travel to and from work using a bicycle. The vast majority, about 81 per cent, commute to work by car.

By contrast it was estimated that in 2017 (latest study available) 68 per cent of Amsterdammers cycled to work and school and cyclists accounted for 36 percent of all traffic in the city.