The difficulty of getting around Newmarket by bike

Like most suburbs, Newmarket is frustratingly difficult to get around by bike. Residential streets are generally safe, regardless of whether they have bike lanes or not, but few of them actually go anywhere practical, other than those in the grid-pattern downtown core. To really get somewhere–shopping, professional services, work–you need to use the arterial roads, which are actually operated by the Region of York. And these are often unsafe because they are multi-lane and traffic is too fast.
We are making some strides. From the first on-street bike lane on a stranded portion of Bathurst St, we now have lanes on Leslie St south of Mulock, an extension of the Bathurst lane to Davis, and grade-separated lanes on Yonge St from Sawmill Valley to Davis, part of the Vivanext Rapidway. (I’ll blog about my experience on that one once the snow and road pebbles are all gone). We also have lanes on mixed-use Town roads: Harry Walker Pkwy, part of Prospect St, and Main St N. Further, speed limits on arterials have been reduced to 60 km/h within the town limits.
But other arterials present an almost insurmountable barrier to cycling to the commercial and institutional destinations along those same routes. Davis Dr is of course the poster child: bike lanes were part of the initial design for the Rapidway but were scrapped due to limited space. I have nothing against Bus Rapid Transit lanes and wide sidewalks–indeed I fully support anything that is an alternative to driving–nor do I begrudge the plantings that double as low-impact water drains. But Davis Dr is highly unsafe for cycling without bike lanes.
Similarly, Mulock Dr (for which the Town is studying an off-road multi-use trail) is downright dangerous. The issue for both is speed. Drivers regularly move well over the 50 km/h (Davis) and 60 km/h (Mulock) speed limits, and rarely have any regard to the laws that state you must leave a meter of passing distance around a bike. I don’t blame the drivers as much as I blame the wide roads, which encourage speeding, and the overall car-dependent development pattern which forces people to use cars to get anywhere.
The bottom line is, I need to carefully plot my route anytime I venture out on bike for an errand. Sometimes a car is the only choice. Sometimes I have to take a circuitous route to get there. Sometimes I actually choose which plaza to visit based on its accessibility by bike! And sometimes, maybe in the early evening when traffic is a little lighter, feeling a little defiant, I just take the dangerous arterial road. Welcome to Newmarket.