I love the idea that Toronto can build a cycling infrastructure that will encourage more people to bike to work.

I also love the idea that city council can bypass Rob Ford’s screw-everything-that-is-not-a-car approach to city building. Such as the $1.2 million bike station  with 380 secure parking spots and shower facilities that the city’s government management committee approved on Monday of this week.

Chicago’s bike station (Image: Toronto Star)

Having biked to work in six different cities on three continents, knowing your bike will be parked safely and having a place to shower before work is pretty much nirvana for bike commuters. Most of the media coverage of the story mentions the popular and successful bike stations in places like Chicago.

However, from a communications perspective, I wish that the city government management committee and City Council’s biking advocates had done a better job in explaining and defending this project (which is part of a larger Nathan Phillips Square revitalization plan and which has been on the back burner for a few years).

Because, once again, this served up a grapefruit for Rob/Doug Ford and Ford Nation. We heard the usual “gravy train” comments and questions about political judgement in the context of strained budgets and many other urgent needs. I don’t buy any of the Ford’s arguments on this issue, but I haven’t yet heard a comprehensive justification for the bike station as the smartest use of resources for Toronto cyclists.

I think we need to hear exactly why this is $1.2 million well spent, who benefits and why did it not get spent on existing cycling infrastructure.  I would like to hear why the $1.2 million wasn’t some subsidy to 380 of City Hall’s elite bike commuters. Will there be full cost-recovery user fees for the facility? Is there not a better use of this money for cycling infrastructure in Toronto? One that would perhaps benefit a broader group of cyclists?

I’m not saying the bike station is a bad – far from it. It is simply that if cycling advocates in Toronto want to more effectively articulate why investing in cycling is a net benefit for the city, they need to do a better job. Hopefully we’ll get to hear that when the issue goes to a full City Council vote.

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