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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Removal of Jarvis bike lane to cost $272,000

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Installing a bike lane takes money, but uninstalling it can take even more. And sometimes, as with the case of the removal of the Jarvis bike lane, a lot more.

The Toronto Cyclists Union, through a request to City transportation staff, has obtained numbers related to the cost of implementing the Jarvis bike lane versus returning the street to its former state. They noted that the installation of the bike lanes cost the City a total of $86,000, with $21,000 for removal of overhead wiring and signal hardware, and $65,000 for the lane markings. The reinstallation of the overhead wiring and signal hardware for the bi-directional fifth lane is pegged at approximately $200,000, while the lane markings will cost approximately $72,000. This adds up to a total cost of $272,000.

Originally, the City had estimated the cost at only $200,000; the Toronto Cyclists Union says that the “increased cost is due to the installation of new overhead wiring hardware to comply with current electrical safety standards.”

These costs stem from a decision back in July 2011 when City Council voted, without public consultation of any kind, to pull the plug on the bike lanes on Jarvis Street and return the road to its former state as four lanes plus a bi-directional centre lane. This, despite a report from city staff [PDF] detailing minimal increases in travel time on Jarvis post-bike lane installation.

To summarize that report, staff noted southbound travel time increases consistent with what they had originally predicted of around 1 minute on average, while the longer northbound travel time increases were attributed to traffic turning left at Gerrard and Jarvis. Staff recommended a northbound advanced left turn to help with this.

But, alas, no amount of sane reporting from city staff could stem the desire of Rob Ford to see the Jarvis bike lane perish. And so it was to be.

So, at a time when City Council is mired in debates over which social programs and grants to cut, at a time when we’re all but drowning in a sea of wasteful spending rhetoric, the City will be spending more than a quarter of a million dollars to reverse a bike lane that works for cyclists and drivers. Andrea Garcia, Director of Advocacy for the Toronto Cyclists Union, referred to the reinstallation of the bi-directional fifth lane on Jarvis as Ford’s “gravy lane”.

There are a thousand things plus one that this money could go towards right now, but instead we are going to spend $272,000 to make this city just a little bit less safe.

photo by Dylan Passmore



  1. Reinstating the fifth lane for southbound traffic into downtown during morning rush hour? That’s like trying to make an overcrowded room less crowded by adding another doorway into the room.

  2. Given the way the bike lanes were installed in the first place (counter to the EA recommendations), I will not shed a tear over the loss of these facilities.The Cyclist Union forced this one and now everyone will lose: no improved streetscape, no new street trees, no revitalized Jarvis.  Thanks for nothing.

  3. List of all cities in North America that removed bike lanes in 2011:




    Nothing more to say.

  4. I understand that the focus is on Jarvis, but I would like to comment about the Birchmount bike lane if I may. I loved my lane and was sad to see it go but the thing that irks me the most is the so-called benefit of removing it. One would assume that with the bike lane removed, the car lane would be restored. As it happens, when the bike lane was removed on Birchmount, the car lane was not restored. I just don’t get it. Why remove it using taxpayers money when the benefit of removing it is not gained!!!! Now we have no bike lane and stupid wide car lanes.

  5. It seems to me that some concentrated civil disobedience and peaceful protest targetting specifically the bike-lane-removal and fifth-lane-restoration work could make this cost balloon significantly. And the current city council is mighty sensitive about costs getting out of control.

    On the other hand this might not be the hill to die on. The symbolism isn’t quite right, and council has a large surplus they might be happy to fritter away on the costs of protesters, if only to blame that cost for cuts elsewhere.

    Well, it’s a thought anyway.


  6. End of my Rope: I was going to say something about Birchmount as well until I read your comment. The lane’s removal was stupid enough as it was, but the way they’ve handled it just boggles my mind. Why I’m surprised by anything they do is beyond me.

  7. $200k of the $272k is tied to the reversible centre lane. The City could simply say that the cost would be mitigated by not reinstating the reversible lane. Make the fifth lane a standard continuous left turn lane, like it is on most other streets in the city. Or maybe it runs full-time with 2 lanes one way, 3 lanes the other (with one of the 3 reverting to parking in the off-peak) — see Woodbine south of Kingston Road.

    Have the Jarvis lanes actually been removed yet? I was on Pharmacy a coule of weeks back, and the bike lanes and symbols have been sandblasted off the pavement. The car lanes haven’t been adjusted yet, though.

  8. The city should release collision + pedestrian injury stats on that middle lane vs. a comparable street… I’m sure there’s something we’re conveniently not being told.

  9. It was a waste of time, money, and political capital hijacking the Jarvis project. You should have spent it fighting for a lane on Bloor. Stop being so short-sighted and learn to see the forest.

  10. Not quite correct on the removal part. New York City also removed at least one lane, although they had a net increase in miles. Did Toronto?

  11. I want more cycling infrastructure in the city. But the removal of the lanes on Jarvis and Birchmount and Pharmacy are the result of the previous administration trying to ram the project through with virtually zero public consultation (especially with regards to Birchmount and Pharmacy). In fact, as anyone who lives in the Birchmount/Pharmacy area knows, the main reason former Councillor Adrian Heaps was that he did a very poor job of consulting his constituents on these two bike lanes. I know that’s not what most people on this site want to hear. But if you want to make lasting change as a politician, you need to take the time and effort to get others on board. Otherwise, you will pay the price come election day.

  12. Before the bike lanes were installed on Jarvis, cyclists routinely cycled on the sidewalk, endangering pedestrians. Now the pedestrians are safer, the number of cyclists has tripled, and according to the city report, drivers see insignificant delay (2 additional minutes between Bloor and Queen.) In short, the street works for everyone. The notion that Jarvis is only for motor vehicles is not just one-sided but invites even more congestion with thousands of more people. Don’t think so? Just look at the new highrise condos going up (e.g., X, X2, Couture, and Pace – all over 40 storeys, with undoubtedly more to come.) In addition, plans to pedestrianize the intersection at Charles East, Jarvis, and Mt. Pleasant have been put on hold. To cross on the south side, pedestrians have to detour through not one, not two, not three, but four separate walk signals. Council can blindly close its eyes and return the street to the 1951 configuration or it can move forward into the 21st century, recognizing that all city streets should be safe for everyone.

  13. Let them take it…
    Wear your appropriate gear and take the lane and signal. Thats the law. You may need some cojones to deal with assholes that fly around you and flip the bird at you, but you have the right to that lane just like any motorist.

    Have fun drivers!