Which Toronto neighbourhoods are most bike-friendly? New tool will tell you
Veteran cyclists may know which streets to avoid, which roads have bike lanes, and where to find the best parking. But not everyone knows which Toronto neighbourhoods are most accommodating to cyclists.
Thankfully, researchers from the University of British Columbia have got so-called bike friendliness down to a science.
A team from the university’s School of Population and Public Health has developed a “bikeability index” — a tool that measures and maps accommodation to cyclists by the neighbourhood, based on key factors that encourage people to bike. The map debuted in Vancouver, but researchers announced Monday that Toronto is among 10 Canadian cities they will measure within the next year.
“Certainly this is something that cyclists in Toronto are interested in. They want to know how bikeable their area is, or other areas in the city,” said lead researcher Meghan Winters.
Through opinion polls and focus groups, the research team identified the most important factors that encourage people to bike in the city, including presence of bike lanes and number of hills.
They then compiled data on each factor by the neighbourhood. The finished map shows an area’s overall bike accessibility, as well as specific details, such as how many streets have separated lanes.
While the information is intended to encourage cycling, Winters also wants urban planners to take advantage of the tool to identify neighbourhood-specific problems. “It’s a suggestion for planners on how to change things,” she said.
It may also be a way for home buyers to choose healthier places to live, Winters added.
Work has yet to begin on Toronto’s map, but Winters already has an idea of a likely city-wide problem area: bike lanes.
Research has shown that, in particular, women, children and those using bike-share programs like Toronto’s new Bixi system say bike lanes are important, Winters said, “specifically those facilities that are separated from traffic.”
Winter’s research is also slated to measure the bikeability of neighbourhoods in Victoria, Calgary, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal, Halifax, Charlottetown, Moncton and St. John’s by 2012. The program is funded by the Heart and Stroke Foundation and Canadian Institutes for Health Research.
Wendy Gillis, Staff Reporter
What is “bikeability”?
A team of researchers from the University of British Columbia conducted opinion polls and focus groups to determine the most important cycling factors. Here’s what factors into a person’s decision to bike:
Bike route density: “What’s crucial to cyclists, over and over again, is having bicycle facilities, places where they feel safe and that they have road space available to them,” says Winters.
Bike route separation: Most feel safest when physically separated from vehicles on the road.
Connectivity: People want numerous intersections between local streets and bike paths, so they aren’t disconnected from the neighbourhood.
Topography: The more hills cyclists have to climb, the less conducive to biking.
Destination density: The higher the number of business, education, or entertainment facilities in the area, the better.