I made a New Year's Resolution to never drive alone downtown all winter but to use my bike no matter what the weather. I already broke it last week when I had to carry books to a class that I teach at Ryerson University, but even though we had a foot of snow last night and many schools were declaring a snow day, I thought it might be interesting to see how the City copes and how much concern they have for the bicycling crowd.
The short answer is not much concern at all. I am very fortunate to have some form of bike lane for almost the entire distance between my home and the University. The start was not promising; as you can see they have ploughed the road nicely, dumping all of the snow into the bike lane. In fact, they might as well just rename it the snow lane, for the snow always seems to end right on the painted line.
As you can see from the signage, this is both a bike lane and a snow route; these are designated streets where if the Mayor announces a snow emergency, all the cars have to move or be towed so that the loaders and dump trucks can take away the snow.
But they don't bother doing that anymore because with recent changes in the climate, almost every blizzard is followed by a heat wave that melts the snow, so they let mother nature do their work. And if they are not going to load it or melt it then there really is nowhere else but the bike lane to put it
and they just ignore the cars and trucks that not only fill the bike lane but straddle it and push cyclists out into the road.
Closer to downtown, Bay Street has a lane devoted to taxis, buses and bikes. Nobody pays the least bit of attention to this and the cops don't ever enforce it, but being open to cars it got a lot of plough love and was clear all the way down. Funny how that works.
In the end my biggest problem was trying to find a place to lock my bike for the class; The University is responsible for shovelling the sidewalk but they use small tractors and don't bother digging around the bike rings, who would ride on a day like this?
While I can complain about the bike lanes being full of snow, I also have to admit that there really is nowhere to put it and the dump was just yesterday. There were fewer drivers than usual and they all seemed to be understanding; nobody honked at me once when I was forced out into a lane and they were forced to slow down to my speed until the road widened. I think perhaps that the snow brought out the best in Toronto drivers; I might even conclude that the best days to ride are right after a blizzard.
See more on how to ride your bike in winter at Planet green: