On Brampton’s clogged suburban streets bike lanes are commonly used to park cars
City of Brampton/YouTube

On Brampton’s clogged suburban streets bike lanes are commonly used to park cars

Brampton is a city built for the car. Its wide streets and sprawling layout are attractive and accommodating to those with a single-occupancy vehicle. But as climate change has forced the City of Brampton to reconsider its car-focused suburban design, the alternative of more environmentally-friendly, “complete” communities comes with its own set of concerns. 

The latest of these sees Brampton’s cycling community clashing with drivers who are parking in designated bike lanes, posing serious risks for residents forced to navigate between illegally parked vehicles. 

Two weeks ago, Brampton Council approved recommendations from a staff report to increase penalties for stopping and parking in designated bike lanes. Moving forward, drivers caught blocking bike lanes will face fines of $150, up from $35. 


The Brampton house above had seven cars on it, including one that was illegally parked below the sidewalk.

(The Pointer file photo) 


Like any new enforcement measures, time will tell if stricter penalties will meaningfully address the problem. While acting as a deterrent for drivers, they may not have any other place to go. Due to Brampton’s surging population which has seen households with six, eight or even more vehicles on a driveway proliferate across the city over the last couple decades, available parking spaces on residential streets are now at a premium. 

Full driveways and boulevards, and in some cases illegally expanded driveways that have cars parked on space that is supposed to be covered by lawns, are an all too common sight in Brampton. City Hall’s lack of investment into public transit which has left many routes overburdened and core infrastructure neglected is also contributing to a reliance on personal vehicles. 


Multi-vehicle households in Brampton create a sea of cars, leading to expanded driveways and residential roadways clogged with parked vehicles.

(Google Satellite)


The new fines were decided on after carrying out a scan of the penalties in other cities, which found Brampton’s were much lower than other municipal comparators. 


An excerpt from the staff report which shows Brampton’s previous $35 fine for parking in a bike lane is not in line with other municipalities.

(City of Brampton) 


“We have to do things to change this city to make it livable,” Barry Lavelle, Citizen Member of the Active Transportation Advisory Committee, said during a delegation at the February 7 City Council meeting where the staff recommendation was approved. “Livable means different things to different people. We have to include all citizens and their right to be able to get around our community safely in their actions of work, recreation, whatever the case may need to be.” 

He shared a video presentation highlighting the issue of cars parking in bike lanes across Brampton. The video provided a glimpse into the experiences of local cyclists who are all too often forced to leave the safety of the designated bike lane and travel in the car-lane as a parked car is blocking their way. This poses serious dangers to the cyclists, who as the video documents are quickly subject to impatient drivers tailgating them once they are  forced onto the roadway.

“It is common for car drivers to intimidate cyclists to try to get them to pull off to the side of the road,” the video states, showing how cyclists have to repeatedly pull onto the road due to cars parked illegally in the designated bike lanes, obstructing their way. 

Screenshot from the delegation by Barry Lavelle depicting dozens of cars parked in bicycle lanes on North Park Drive in Brampton.

(City of Brampton/YouTube)


Councillor Dennis Keenan of Wards 3 and 4 asked for clarification at the meeting on whether some bike lanes are allowed to be parked on while others aren't, citing confusion he has heard from residents on the matter. Staff responded that there are “urban shoulders” that are different from bike lanes, with the former being lanes cars can park on. “Bike lanes are clearly marked with symbols on the ground and also the signs on the side that say ‘this is a bike lane,’” a staff member clarified. He also said that some urban shoulders were implemented with the intention to potentially turn them into bicycle lanes later on. 

The video by Lavelle presented during his delegation highlights how on Bloor Street in Toronto, where there is considerably more traffic and cars, physical cycle barriers provide superior safety for cyclists compared to Brampton’s undivided bike lanes.

According to a study examining the safety effects of cycle tracks in the City of Toronto, the implementation of cycle tracks, which provide “a physical separation or barrier between the cyclist and the traffic,” in comparison to the bike lanes found in places like Brampton which are only separate by lines painted on the road, was “associated with increased safety for cyclists.” 


Bike lanes with physical separation barriers along Richmond Street in Toronto.

(Dylan Passmore /Flickr)


The study found that installing cycle tracks, or bicycle lanes that are separated by a physical barrier, not only had the benefit of reducing cyclist-motor vehicle collisions (CMVC) by 35 percent on some streets, but they also “were associated with an increase in the volume of cyclists at the locations where cycle tracks were implemented and a reduction in the risk of CMVC,” the study states. Both of these results, it found, “support cycle track implementation as a safe and effective built environment intervention to promote cycling.” The study suggested targeted interventions should aim to focus on bringing cycle tracks to roads to protect cyclists and encourage alternative modes of transportation. These barriers should also be implemented strategically in higher risk areas, the study found, such as intersections where more collisions occur (75 percent of CMVCs on cycle tracks occurred at intersections).


(Hafsa Ahmed/The Pointer)


While Council has made an effort to curtail vehicle parking in designated bike lanes by heightening fees for violations, plans to implement physical separators are severely lacking in a City looking to urbanize and move away from car-oriented roads. The City’s Active Transportation Master Plan discusses buffers for new and existing bike lanes, but it's unclear how much the city has advanced to improve cyclist safety.  The City has a number of ongoing projects to add bike lanes across Brampton, but it's unknown whether these will include physical barriers. 

Adequate investment in public transportation for the growing needs of the population is also failing under current leadership. Data from the City’s 2021 Census shows that driving in cars, trucks or vans “was the most popular method of transportation to work, representing 77[percent] of the labour force aged 15 and over.” Meanwhile, public transit was the second most common method, at 10.4 percent. Only 3.7 percent were people who walked or cycled, or used other methods. With active transportation and meeting its climate targets being a priority for the City, it is unclear if Brampton will consider implementing physical bike lane barriers to not only address risks to cyclists and curtail drivers from parking in designated bicycle lanes but to also encourage more people to take up biking in the city. 


Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @_hafsaahmed

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