Just a few days ago, Catherine Porter from the Toronto Star asked the question: Will John Street be the next Jarvis? A more appropriate question can now be asked: Will Jarvis St. be the next Jarvis?
Yesterday, at the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee meeting, a surprise motion by Councillor John Parker to remove the Jarvis St. bike lanes passed in committee, as did recommendations to remove the bike lanes on both Birchmount Road and Pharmacy Avenue. (In positive news, the committee also voted for a separated bike lane trial on Richmond Street between Sherbourne and Simcoe streets).
Mayor Rob Ford, who seems to be on a contradictory quest to at once listen to and respect the taxpayers of Toronto while simultaneously attempting to make them obsolete, spoke about how he had received calls from people who wanted the Jarvis bike lanes gone and so he’s just doing what the taxpayers want. Apparently, in Rob Ford’s city, there are two tiers of taxpayers. Ones to listen to, and ones to ignore. Guess which ones cyclists are?
Parker also lamented the fact that the implementation of the Jarvis bike lanes was done without the proper consultation process. I guess the way to get back for that is to remove the bike lanes without a proper consultation process. An eye for an eye and all that.
Speaking about the move to remove the Jarvis bike lanes, Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong was quoted in the Toronto Star this morning as saying “We’ve got a congestion and traffic problem. 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.”
You know what increases congestion? Cars. You know what increases the amount of cars on the road? More road space. If Minnan-Wong and the other Public Works and Infrastructure gang were really serious about easing congestion on Toronto’s roads, they would encourage more people to get on their bicycles and ride. You know one way to encourage people to get on their bicycles and ride? Build them bike lanes. Hair = pulled.
What the Jarvis bike lane did cause, though, was huge increase in the number of cyclists using the route. The average number of weekday cyclists jumped from 290 to 890, while, as Dave Meslin pointed out on his blog, the number of cars stayed the same. In the parlance of Rob Ford, removing the Jarvis bike lanes is a clear waste of taxpayers money.
I’ve heard the argument that the Jarvis bike lanes are redundant due to the Sherbourne bike lanes to the west. This argument makes about as much sense to me as arguing that any given street is redundant for cars because there are other streets that run parallel. These are two different streets that serve different cyclists and car drivers. I always wondered at the poor network connectivity in Toronto’s cycling network. Now I understand. Apparently you can’t have a bike lane near another bike lane because that is redundant. I guess all those extra cyclists on Jarvis are redundant, too.
But, unfortunately for the Jarvis bike lane, reason and facts do not matter because it is more than just a bike lane. It is a symbol of a former kind of politics in this city that can be added to the list of things that apparently must be undone by the new kind of politics in this city. It’s almost as if Rob Ford is running around with a big Wite-Out pen and gleefully erasing everything he can of the Miller years. Transit City? Check. Fort York Bridge? Check. Jarvis bike lanes? Check. It’s important to note that in each one of those cancellations, Ford also forfeited any taxpayers money that had already been committed or spent on the projects. A strange way of respecting the taxpayer, indeed.
All is not lost just yet, however. The removals still have to be approved by council at their meeting in mid-July. But if the removal of the bikes lanes on Birchmount, Pharmacy, and Jarvis pass, it could very well mean that Toronto could see a negative number of bike lanes installed in the city this year.
That means that as other cities move ahead with bicycle infrastructure, Toronto is moving backwards.
Photo by Neal Jennings