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Critics say London, Ont.’s bike lanes are under-utilized and seasonal— but here’s the ridership data

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If you build it, they will ride.

The installation of new protected bike lanes can be a contentious issue for neighbouring homes and businesses because of the impact to traffic lanes and street parking.

However, new data reveals that London, Ont.’s expanding network if cycling infrastructure is experiencing a ridership boom.

Between 2021 and 2022, ridership on protected bike lanes along Dundas Street and Colborne Street increased 48 per cent to an average of 12,300 riders each month.

So far this year the trend continues.

“Year over year on our core cycling network, it’s another 45 to 50 per cent increase,” explained the city’s Manager of Active Transportation Daniel Hall. “People are learning about the lanes and they’re becoming habits.”

“Doesn’t surprise me at all,” said Andrew Hunniford, manager of the new, larger London Bicycle Cafe on Thames Street. “We’ve been looking at that same data for a long time. We’re not aggregating demand here for bicycles; we’re utilizing the demand that’s already here.”

Electronic counting devices have been installed within the asphalt of many core area bike lanes.

Each time a bicycle or scooter rides over the device its presence is added to the monthly total.

A cyclist passed over an electronic counting device buried in a bike lane in London, Ont. on May 26, 2023. (Daryl Newcombe)

The data also shows that Londoners are no longer just fair weather cyclists.

Last winter, an average of 2,600 bikes per month were recorded on the Dundas Street protected bike lanes.

However, the painted bike lanes on Ridout Street only counted 1,000 cyclists.

“Protected bike lanes have shown to retain more of the summer ridership because of the feeling of safety [and] because we are snowplowing them,” suggested Hall.

Hunniford believes the ridership data shows the growing demand for more active transportation infrastructure.

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that where you see the [construction] cranes building the tallest residential towers right now in the downtown, they are closest to the best active transportation infrastructure that we offer,” he added.

Last year, city council authorized spending a total of $40 million from the three levels of government to fast track cycling and pedestrian infrastructure projects across the city.

“The city is committed to improving safety, to improving the viability of cycling, and as it continues to grow and we expand the network, we’re only going to see more ridership,” predicted Hall.

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