Flip-flop on bike lane freezes $1M Jarvis makeover
The Jarvis St. bike lanes were installed last July. Colin McConnell/Toronto Star
A city committee vote to remove the 11-month-old bike lanes from Jarvis St. has derailed a $1 million makeover that would have greened the street and sped up car commutes, says the ward’s councillor.
Kristyn Wong-Tam says colleague John Parker (Ward 26, Don Valley West), an ally of Mayor Rob Ford, did not consult her before moving a last-minute motion to kill the lanes at Thursday’s public works meeting.
Parker’s motion, made after hours of public deputations on a proposed network of downtown separated bike lanes, quickly passed 4-2.
City staff said Friday that, if councillors confirm the decision next month, they will have two options: Put a fifth car lane in the road’s centre for left turns by north- and southbound traffic, at a cost of about $80,000. Or resurrect the reversible centre lane, which would cost “considerably more,” because of the need to reinstall overhead signals.
Wong-Tam (Ward 27, Toronto Centre-Rosedale) said Parker had no idea she was working with city staff and residents on a major redesign of the Jarvis-Charles St. intersection to accommodate an influx of new residents.
Greenery, new features to improve street life, straightening out a “weird jog” in Jarvis and synchronizing stop lights to improve flow, all funded with so-called Section 37 funds already earmarked, are suddenly on hold, she said.
“What Councillor Parker did was irresponsible. This looks like a vengeful move to take away the bike lanes,” she said. “That’s not good urban planning.”
Parker did not respond to the Star’s interview request.
The lanes were installed last July at a cost of $65,000 amid fury from some Rosedale and Moore Park residents.
They said losing a fifth lane in the road’s centre, which changed from northbound to southbound depending on the time of day, would prolong their commutes, and that bike lanes already exist a block away on parallel Sherbourne St.
A city report released in April said the lanes added anywhere from zero to four minutes to car commutes, depending on direction and time of day. Bike traffic on Jarvis, on the other hand, was up 30 per cent.
Tim Costigam, president of the Moore Park Resident’s Association, was delighted by Thursday’s vote.
“We are strong advocates for better bike lanes in the city, in the right location,” Costigam said, adding that, based on his observations during daily commutes up and down Jarvis, the city’s estimates on commuting delay and bike traffic are “hard to believe.”
Cyclist Harry Song, meanwhile, locking up his bike near Jarvis and Gerrard St., was confused by the flip-flop after less than a year.
“I thought they were going the other way — I thought they were putting more lanes in, not taking them away,” Song said. “What are they doing? It doesn’t seem like they have a set plan.”
Public works chair Denzil Minnan-Wong said he favours returning Jarvis to the reversing centre lane for traffic.
“I thought it was cool — it was six lanes for the price of five,” he said.
Minnan-Wong rejected allegations the Ford administration has launched a “war on the bike,” saying the city spent $21.7 million on cycling infrastructure during former mayor David Miller’s last four-year term, while the current five-year plan totals $43.7 million.
David Rider, Urban Affairs Bureau Chief