The Jarvis bike lanes, slated for removal this summer, may be sticking around a little longer than expected.
The Toronto Cyclists Union announced today that they believe (as do their lawyers from Iler-Campbell) the decommissioning of the Jarvis bikes lanes requires a Schedule C environmental assessment (EA).
The 10-page document outlines their case, specifically stating that, “A Schedule C environmental assessment would address the potentially significant adverse effects of decommissioning the bike lanes and adding a reversible traffic lane on safety, air quality, efficient transportation, healthy lifestyles, cultural heritage, and the economy.”
At the press conference, the Cyclists Union’s director of advocacy Andrea Garcia said, “City Council voted to reconfigure Jarvis Street without any consultation with the community or local Councillor. Now, we’re calling on City Hall to ensure this project is consistent with due process, and any steps to revert Jarvis Street to its pre-existing condition should be put on hold until the EA is completed and Council can make a decision with the proper information.”
To read the entire legal opinion download the PDF.
This challenge is music to my ears. For anyone who has had to endure a conversation with me on this topic over the last year has heard me state, in unequivocal terms, that the City should gets it’s ass dragged in front of a judge if the Jarvis lanes are removed. Why? Because when someone speaks in the city council chambers you’re not obliged to tell the truth. You can say just about anything without ever being held (legally) accountable. But in a court, gut feelings and ideology have to be left at the door.
Those inconvenient things, like facts and data, seem to be held in higher regard once you leave the confines of city hall and enter the real world. I doubt a judge or a panel will uphold the removal of the Jarvis bike lanes simply because Denzil Minnan-Wong says he thinks the reversible lane was cool (his words) or that Doug Ford was sworn at by an irate bike courier.
Any casual observer can see that the lane’s removal wasn’t based on facts or data; it was rooted in a dislike for a vocal and organized cycling community as well as an attempt to erase decisions made by former mayor David Miller.
By obtaining a legal opinion, the Cyclists Union has taken a very intelligent step in dealing with the Ford administration’s disdain for all things urban. Instead of the typical cycling activist action of taking over an intersection and holding bikes high overhead to piss off drivers, the Union is taking the game to the City. Too often, advocacy groups are always playing catch-up to governments or well-funded corporate lobbying groups. In this case, the City has 10 days to respond to the Union’s legal opinion that a new EA is needed or have the issue passed on to the Minister of Environment to make a decision.
What warms my heart is that potentially taking the debate into the world of judges or provincial ministers will force the City to provide documentation (ironically enough is produced by the City itself) that contradicts the vindictive decision made by a handful of councillors. Items submitted, such as traffic counts conducted by the City, will show that bike ridership on Jarvis has tripled since the bike lane installation and that vehicular traffic volume has stayed the same and caused minimal delays to travel times.
To add a little ironic gravy to this delicious situation is the costs associated with the removal of the Jarvis lanes. The installation in 2010 cost taxpayers $86,000. Removing the lanes this year will cost the City $272,000 (new wires, traffic lights, and signage don’t come cheap). And if the Union’s legal opinion is correct, the cost of a new EA — never mind the legal costs if the situation gets to court — could add tens of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of dollars to the bottom line.
The question to Ford and his allies on this issue is simple: is it worth it to spend close to half a million dollars or more to sacrifice safety for a minute or two of convenience? The answer should be clear — Jarvis is working for both drivers and cyclists and there is no sane reason to spend another nickel fighting this battle.
photo by Neal Jennings
EDITOR’S NOTE: Garcia’s quote was added after this post was originally published.