Why I voted to kill Jarvis bike lanes: Parker
A memo from Councillor John Parker to the residents of Ward 26, Don Valley West.
From: John Parker
Toronto City Councillor
Ward 26 - Don Valley West
Toronto is a large and growing city. As bad as our gridlock problems are at present, they can only be expected to become more challenging in the future. We cannot grow enough roads to accommodate every new resident in a private car; alternative means of mobility will be required. Included among these measures will be increased use of rapid transit for long trips and bicycles for short ones.
To be fair, it is important also that we make the most of the motor vehicle carrying capacity that our roads can provide. And there will always be a robust debate between competing modal priorities and other considerations as investments of scarce land area and taxpayer dollars come under consideration.
Bike lanes provide a logical way to accommodate bicycles and cars on the same roadways. If well thought out and implemented, bike lanes can serve the interests of both cyclists and motorists, keeping each out of the way of the other. The value and importance of establishing a responsible bike lane network in Toronto is beyond debate.
Since 2001 the city of Toronto has had a comprehensive bike plan that envisions a network of bike lanes throughout the downtown area. It was drawn up after widespread consultation and was prepared by the city's transportation services department together with Marshall Macklin Monaghan, one of Canada's leading engineering firms.
The plan includes bike lanes on Sherbourne. It does not include bike lanes on Jarvis. Sherbourne is about one block to the west of Jarvis. Bike lanes have been implemented on Sherbourne and they provide ample capacity for bike traffic.
In the last council session a plan was drawn up to make improvements to the Jarvis Street corridor. It featured the removal of the centre lane (reducing Jarvis from five lanes to four) and measures aimed at enhancing the streetscape with generous landscaping and other humanizing elements along widened sidewalks.
A debate ensued between those who favoured the efforts to rescue Jarvis from its status as an unsightly traffic corridor and those who favoured retaining the valued fifth traffic lane.
Somehow, close to the end of the process, the decision was made to abandon both the fifth lane and the plan to improve the Jarvis streetscape, and instead to implement bike lanes. The decision to implement the bike lanes was then expedited and the bike lanes were installed in short order.
At last week's meeting of the City of Toronto Public Works and Infrastructure Committee the matter of bike lanes was the main item on the agenda. The key proposal included a number of measures to intended to improve elements of the existing bike plan - in many cases proposing "separated" bike lanes to provide greater safety for cyclists, as has been done in other cities. The proposal included separated bike lanes for Sherbourne.
I voted in favour of these proposals, and they were approved.
In the course of the day I brought forward two motions. One was to ask staff to consider establishing a bike path as an extension to Redway Road near Thorncliffe and Leaside in order to provide a link between Millwood Road and Bayview. The other was to reverse the earlier decision concerning Jarvis Street. Both motions passed and will proceed to consideration by the full Council.
Some have suggested that my Jarvis motion was a step backward for the cause of bike lanes. It was not. It was a recognition that the bike lanes on Jarvis are redundant. It also creates the potential for a return to the earlier discussion regarding Jarvis, a discussion that got started in the last council session but somehow got sidetracked.
This memo was sent out to Ward 26 residents who subscribe to Councillor John Parker's e-news newsletter.