Bicycles can be found in nearly every corner of Toronto, but not in the least because of a law that prohibits bike shops from opening within the city limits.
In the first year of the legislation, Toronto’s bike shops were allowed to operate, but only within the downtown core.
In 2016, a small number of businesses opened on King Street East near Bathurst Street.
But the number of locations in the city is shrinking.
The number of shops opened is down to just 15 in the 416, down from more than 100 in the previous year.
“The bike shop experience is really different from walking in a bike shop,” said John Fadiman, executive director of the Bicycle Association of Canada.
“The bike store is like walking in an urban forest.
You’re not allowed to do much in it, but it’s a place to have a bike, to have fun.”
The law was passed in 2011, and it is one of the main reasons the city has one of Canada’s lowest cycling rates.
Since it was passed, the number per capita of cycling in Toronto has dropped from 3.3 per cent in the early 2000s to 0.7 per cent today.
In a recent survey of more than 1,600 Toronto residents by the city’s transportation department, just over half of respondents said they have ridden a bike at least once a week.
Many people who do not regularly cycle would like to see the law changed to allow them to do so.
“I’m all for the idea of allowing people to ride a bike,” said James Smith, an organizer with the Toronto Cycling Alliance.
“But I would also like to have more shops that have the space to operate.”
A study by the Toronto City Council’s public health committee last year found that only about 25 per cent of people aged 15 to 34 in the GTA cycle at least monthly.
Only 10 per cent are able to ride bikes for the majority of their trips.
The majority of people who cycle are not involved in their neighbourhoods, and they often do not cycle for work.
The Toronto Cycle Alliance, a cycling advocacy group, said the city should make it easier for people to get around, and allow for more bike infrastructure.
“There’s an abundance of bike infrastructure that is not built,” said Josh Gershon, the group’s executive director.
“People have to find a way to make their city a safer place to cycle.”
While some businesses, like the bike shops, have been operating in the core, other bike shops have been expanding to other areas of the city.
The bike shop at the end of Bathurst Avenue near the University of Toronto campus is a popular spot for commuters and visitors to the city who like the feel of an urban environment.
It opened in 2015, and now has five locations across the city, as well as in the suburbs of Scarborough and Etobicoke.
The shop has an extensive bike collection and a variety of merchandise, including bike locks and bags for people who don’t want to ride with the bike.
“Our customers are very happy with our services,” said Jessica Pimentel, the owner of the shop.
“We’ve always been very accessible to the cycling community, and we have the most friendly customer service you’ll ever find in any bike shop.”
The city is considering extending the law to include businesses with more than 500 people.
Councillor Adam Vaughan, who represents the area, said he has been in contact with other councillors to see if they could support the concept.
“It’s a very unique situation, it’s not the norm,” he said.
“If it’s something that’s a reasonable way to deal with the situation, I’d be all for it.”
While the city council is considering the issue, other city leaders have voiced their support for a more relaxed licensing system.
Toronto Mayor John Tory, who has pushed for more cycling infrastructure in his ward, told a Toronto radio station earlier this year that there should be a “flexible” approach to licensing.
“Licensing has to be flexible, it has to accommodate different needs of different people, different cities,” he told CTV’s The House.
“What we’re talking about is different businesses operating differently.”
The Toronto Bike Alliance, which represents bike shops and businesses in the area of Bathursts and Jarvis Streets, also supports allowing people in certain areas to get a licence.
“In a city that’s very urbanized, where a lot of the people who have bikes ride, we need to be able to have the flexibility to allow people to use bikes for things that are not necessarily a cycling activity,” said Fadman.
“For example, if you’re going to be working downtown, and there’s a lot going on, maybe you’re not going to ride the bike for the day, or maybe you want to have lunch or go to the gym.
And maybe there’s not a bike lane that goes through, or you’re on the corner of Jarvis Street, and a parking lot and bike