Scrap Jarvis bike lanes, committee says
Some 900 cyclists may need to look for another route downtown after a city committee recommended scrapping the Jarvis St. bike lanes.
The motion from Councillor John Parker came at the end of a long day of discussion about the city’s bike plans at the public works committee.
The motion passed easily as did motions that fulfill a campaign vow of Scarborough Councillor Michelle Berardinetti by removing six kilometres of bike lanes installed in late 2008 on Birchmount Rd. and Pharmacy Ave.
A final decision is to be made by council at its meeting in mid-July.
Mayor Rob Ford didn’t attend the committee, although key mayoral officials were there, but he made it clear to reporters earlier in the day where he stood:
“Yeah, I want to get rid of the bike lanes on Jarvis,” Ford said. “I got a lot of people calling me — they want to get rid of them. I do what the taxpayers want me to do. They want them gone, so I’m going to try to get rid of them.”
The committee also voted to look at a pilot project for separated bike lanes on Richmond St. between Sherbourne and Simcoe Sts.
But it was the recommendation to remove lanes, especially on Jarvis, that riled cycling advocates who called the committee’s move part of a “war on the bike.”
“Today is an extremely disappointing day for cycling advocacy and public safety in general in Toronto,” said Andrea Garcia of the 1,100-member Toronto Cyclists Union.
“This is the war on the bike,” said Garcia, who stressed there was no advance notice that Parker’s motion was coming and thus no time to mobilize opposition.
Parker (Ward 26, Don Valley West) said what became the Jarvis St. bike lanes, which opened last July, had initially been billed as a beautification project for the historic street.
When the matter got to the David Miller-led council in May 2009, it was to remove the reversible centre traffic lane from Jarvis and add bike lanes from Queen to Charles Sts.
“The decision was done without the ordinary consultation process,” Parker told reporters. “Somehow in the midst of the discussions, council shifted gears and left all the pavement in place and put in bike lanes instead of streetscaping.”
Parker said Sherbourne St. is a more suitable cycling route.
The staff report said car traffic on Jarvis has remained constant since the bike lanes went in but cyclists increased from an average of 290 to 890 per weekday.
Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, chair of the public works committee, said motorists weren’t happy notwithstanding the staff report’s conclusion that car traffic hasn’t been curtailed.
“I think the reality is there are a number of individuals in the city who use Jarvis St. and this has been a sore point for them. They would like those lanes removed, and I think that’s where we’re headed.”
Minnan-Wong said Jarvis is a major north-south arterial route for cars while that’s not the case with Sherbourne, which is his preferred cycling route.
“We’ve got a congestion and traffic problem,” he said. “This administration would like to address that. Creating more congestion is not something we would like to do. We’d like to ease congestion in the city.”
Paul Moloney, Urban Affairs Reporter