Cycle Toronto held a “Bagels for Bike Lanes” event yesterday at the Harbord Bakery. This was partially in response to the controversy over the proposed separated bike lanes for Harbord St that was summarized by an article in the Toronto Star titled “Famous bakery leads flight against harbord bike plan” Here is the bakery in the pouring rain with a small number of cyclists and others out front.
Jared Kolb of Cycle Toronto was having a discussion with this fellow from the BIA. The BIA maintains a position that they are pro-bike, but they are against the specific details of the proposal for a bidirectional bike lane on the north side of Harbord along this stretch.
Both these ladies and the fellow out front said that the Star article was grossly unfair in terms of how it portrayed the Harbord Bakery. Not to question their opinion, but I have heard from various people that I trust that over the years that this bakery has indeed actively opposed bike lanes along Harbord, which is why in its present state, there are only sharrows in this part of the street, as opposed to proper bike lanes on the rest of Harbord all the way to Ossington.
It is clear that not all cyclists are in support of the new bike lane configuration. However, the BIA is also somewhat disingenuous in claiming that they are pro-cyclist, and yet they raise various technical objections to the proposed plan.
Some cyclists have also called for a boycott of this business. I would disagree, and in this respect I strongly support Cycle Toronto’s initiative for yesterday’s event. About five years ago, when there was a big fight over the installation of the bike lanes on Annette, there was a well known local business that spearheaded the opposition. Their specific objection was to the reduction of on street parking, and the fact that this would make unloading and loading for both suppliers and customers more difficult. The owner, her husband and I would see each other at City Hall, making opposing deputations in front of PWIC. At the end of the day, the bike lanes went in over the objections of both some of the local businesses and the councillor at that time, with strong support from local residents and the Bloor West Village neighbourhood association.
About a year or two later, when our family needed lawn furniture, we went to that exact business and spent quite a bit of money. Why? Because in my view, a vital part of any walkable or bikeable neighbourhood are the local businesses. Supporting small, local businesses is at least as, if not more important to the vitality of any neighbourhood than the details of any bike infrastructure. Also, anything that can get local merchants to see that some of their most important and loyal customers are pedestrians and cyclists is a good thing.
In this respect, I’d love to see Cycle Toronto or someone else develop a sign showing pedestrians and cyclists shopping, with a slogan like “Think Local, Shop Local” that can be distributed for free. I’ve heard various proposals for a sign saying “Bike Friendly Business”, with similar intent, but I think more merchants could get behind the idea of “Shop Local”.