Battle over Jarvis bike lane rages on
Paul Moloney, Urban Affairs Reporter
Cyclists who packed the city council chamber will have to return Wednesday to learn whether the Jarvis St. bike lanes will be retained or scrapped.
After four hours of debate, council ran out of time to vote on a controversial plan by Mayor Rob Ford’s administration to spend $200,000 to remove the Jarvis lanes, installed last July.
A staff report said it will cost another $210,000 to remove three-year-old bike lanes on Birchmount Rd. and Pharmacy Ave., as urged by local Councillor Michelle Berardinetti (Ward 35, Scarborough Southwest).
“It is a disgrace,” said Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker, who cycles downtown daily from Scarborough and took personal exception to the plan because he uses the Birchmount bike lane.
De Baeremaeker (Ward 38, Scarborough Centre) was asked to apologize after he accused Ford of threatening bikers’ personal safety through his opposition to bike lanes.
He apologized to Ford while continuing his contention that removing bike lanes imperils lives.
“I do hope this council — if anyone gets killed or maimed in a car accident after we take out these bike lanes — I do hope our mayor and members of council will send flowers to their funeral,” he said.
The council chamber was packed with cyclists who were repeatedly warned by council’s speaker Frances Nunziata to refrain from clapping. She said they could wave their hands in the air instead, which they did when pro-cycling comments were made.
The high turnout in support of keeping the Jarvis lanes isn’t a true reflection of public opinion, said Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong (Ward 34, Don Valley East), chair of the public works and infrastructure committee.
“I think there are a lot of individuals who use Jarvis St. and a lot of people in communities all across the city who feel a different way but, hey, don’t always come to city hall,” Minnan-Wong said.
There are about eight councillors on the list to speak on the bike lane issue before the 45-member council votes.
Cycling spokesperson Andrea Garcia said she was heartened by the tenor of the debate.
“I think there’s a lot of councillors pointing out how senseless it is to remove the Jarvis bike lanes and for that matter the Birchmount and Pharmacy bike lanes,” said Garcia, of the 1,100-member Toronto Cyclists Union.
In other council news:
• Mayor Rob Ford announced three new task forces to be led by community development and recreation committee chair Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti.
Task forces on finding “alternative” ways to fund child care and on developing public-private partnerships for ice rinks were previously proposed by Mammoliti. The third task force will focus on homelessness, though Mammoliti said he did not know exactly what its goals would be.
“At this point, I can’t answer the question with respect to what we’re going to do, but I could say to you that we need to be looking at everything. And it’s just not right for a city like this to continually see this going on,” he said.
• The city’s new graffiti plan, which seeks to strike a better balance between aggressive enforcement and engagement with artists, passed unanimously after it was amended at the request of Councillor Adam Vaughan (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina) to exempt the famed “Graffiti Alley,” near Queen St. W., from enforcement.
With files from DANIEL DALE