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Cyclists gear up to battle Ford for bike lanes

Cyclists gear up to battle Ford for bike lanes

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City council's move to kill bike lanes 'a massacre'
UPDATE, 15 JUL - The Toronto Cyclists Union is organizing a Ride for Jarvis event to protest the City of Toronto's decision to erase the bike lanes on Jarvis St. It's scheduled for Wednesday, Jul 20 at 6:30pm at Allan Gardens. Check it out here.

JUL 14 - For the hundreds of cyclists that packed city hall’s council chamber for two straight days this week, the fight for bike lanes on Jarvis St has just begun.

Just hours after the vote to kill bike lanes on three streets in the city July 13, about 120 cyclists strapped on their helmets to ride up and down Jarvis to protest what many are calling “a massacre by Mayor Rob Ford.”

Council voted to remove the bike lanes on Jarvis St and return the road to its original five-lane configuration at an estimated cost of around $200,000. That’s not supposed to happen until a separated lane is built on neighbouring Sherbourne St in 2012.

And the cuts kept coming. Councillors also voted to kill the bike lanes on Birchmount Rd and Pharmacy Ave in Scarborough. The city will spend more than $400,000 to erase the all the bike lanes. The lanes on Jarvis were installed last July at a cost of $59,000. However, there is one glimmer: a bike lane will be added on Dawes Rd.


The two-day debate was exhausting, frustrating, absurd and childish. Right-wing councillors dug in their heels while the left stood its ground and fought back. Behind them, more than 400 community members reacted with “jazz hands” waving high in the air.

Then, when Councillor Janet Davis was blocked from voting on each recommendation, a handful of left-wing councillors got up and walked out in protest. They included councillors Gord Perks, Kristyn Wong-Tam, Davis, Shelley Carroll and Mike Layton.

Wong-Tam says re-installing the fifth lane contradicts the main objective of the Jarvis St Streetscape Plan and Environmental Assessment. She says the community has been completely shut out of the process.

“This is not what the community is asking for,” says Wong-Tam, whose ward includes Jarvis. “This throws out all the local planning and community efforts to beautify Jarvis, which have been ongoing and council has earmarked money for. This council has decided Jarvis is not a cultural corridor.”

“Removing bike lanes does not remove cyclists from the roads,” she says. “They will still be there, but no longer be safe.”


The criticism came fast and furious. Twitter lit up with angry reactions and Facebook was flooded with comments. Cyclists poured into council chambers, many wearing helmets, demanding to be heard.

Cycling activists called it a “sad day for Toronto.” Toronto Cyclists Union founder Dave Meslin says Ford has ignored facts, ignored the democratic process, ignored public opinion, avoided community consultation and has put cyclist's safety at risk.

Andrea Garcia, advocacy director for the Toronto Cyclists Union, tells Xtra democracy was hijacked. “We are extremely disappointed with this entire process. The Ford administration chose to stifle citizens today. Frankly, it’s insulting to taxpayers. The councillors who walked out have principles and believe decisions should be made on evidence, not ideology.”

“Ford is more interested in running government like a corporation, not a democracy,” she adds.

Throughout the debate, other councillors stood to make impassioned appeals. Councillor Joe Mihevc says removing bike lanes is an attack on the environment. While other cities worldwide are installing bike lanes at a rapid rate to accommodate a growing number of people using bikes over cars, Toronto is alone in moving backward, he says.

At one point, Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker questions Ford’s manhood, triggering a sharp tongue-lashing from Nunziata. De Baeremaeker told council he hopes “Ford will send flowers to the funeral of dead cyclists if they are struck and killed” as a result of bike lanes being removed.

Councillor Pam McConnell says removing bike lanes is a dangerous liability for the city. “This is exposing us to a very serious lawsuit if anyone dies. Removing bike lanes is not banning bikes.” Councillor Adam Vaughan called the move another example of Ford’s wasteful spending, and Mike Layton, who presented a petition with 2,000 signatures to save the Jarvis lanes, says bike lanes save lives.

“Frankly, I’m confused and I’m scared,” Layton told council. “Those 13 cyclist fatalities between 2005 and 2010 are only bound to rise if we reduce our cycling infrastructure.”


Day two of debate began with Councillor Shelley Carroll screening an old video clip of Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti vehemently supporting the Jarvis bike lanes that he now wants out. Mammoliti angrily left the council chamber while the video played.

More protest actions are now being organized on Facebook. An invite has been created for Toronto Take Up The Whole Lane Day on July 16. Organizers are reminding cyclists that it's legal to take up an entire lane on streets where there are no bike lanes, according to Toronto Police Const Hugh Smith, who helped found the Toronto police bicycle units back in 1989.

The bike lane debate is not about saving money or making streets safer. Councillor Michael Thompson, who voted to kill the bike lanes, called it a “political decision,” pitting downtown residents against suburban drivers.

A report by city staff in June shows the Jarvis lanes are a success. Cycling use has spiked since the lanes went in. The number jumped from 290 during the peak eight hours on a weekday in 2009 to 890 cyclists after. Meanwhile, the number of motor vehicles on Jarvis remained constant, at 13,000 during the same peak hours.

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Comments

Toronto has to seperate from
the 905 idiots and home to backward hicks. Anything east of Victoria Park, west of Islington and north of Sheppard might as well be a different planet. Separate now, and charge each and very one of them a fortune to bring their urban assault vehicles into the city.
Wong-Tam for Mayor!
Kristyn Wong-Tam was exceptional in her arguments on council against this...this petty decision. That fat piece of turd and embarrassment for a Mayor has another 3 years. I suggest we now support Kristyn Wong-Tam for Mayor. She showed great leadership and practicality and a love for the ENTIRE city!
re: don't need them
AZ, I partly agree with you but remember a few points. First, motorists respect lines. When people learn to drive a vehicle they learn to stay in their lane, so that painted line that separates the car from the bicycle actually serves a purpose. Also, and this is the sad truth, most cyclists will easily submit to motorist intimidation on the road. Meaning, they will hug the curb rather than make full use of a lane. As a seasonsed urban cyclist, I've learned to tame the shockwaves that go thru my body when a car honks at me from up close, but most cyclists get scared and move towards the curb where as you say it's actually more dangerous. Using the roads shouldn't have to be a battle. The city needs to keep the Jarvis lanes - pave the potholes and clean up the broken glass while they're at it - and create new lanes throughout the core. It's the only way to teach motorists and cyclists alike how to share the roads with eachother. But trust me, if the Jarvis lanes go, I plan to take the full lane and I don't care how many cars I piss off.
In favor of the bike lanes
I live on the corner of Jarvis and Wellesley and love the new bike lanes. I frequently ride my bike to work and never felt safe on Jarvis before the bike lanes. People drove very fast through the corridor. I also drive a car and have not noticed a significant slowdown of traffic since Jarvis lost a car lane. As I am hearing talk of budget cuts within City Hall, I am disgusted that there was even a vote to get rid of the Jarvis bike lanes. What a waste of money, time and resources!
don't need them
I am a hardcore cyclist, I used to be a bike courier downtown (4 yrs) and now I am driving a semi long distance- I've a lot of time on the road. Bike lanes provide a false sense of security and do not help instill the safe fundimentals for riding in traffic. Where do you ride when you have no bike lane ? The sidewalk ? and imperil infirm, elderly, children of the same you fear on the road ? The fact is, a bicylce is a proper means of transportation and should be treated as such. As a cyclist you can and should be aware of your surroundings; look ahead for road conditions, potholes debris etc that you need to avoid in advance, look behind and see if it is safe to go left further into the lane before you need to ( a quick glance is all it takes- for some it may take some practice if glancing backwards cannot be done quickly or without causing imbalance). Ride far enough in the lane ( about 1 m ) that you can always go to the right (the curb) to avoid something in your path. You should not fear getting hit or clipped from behind if you ride steadily in your lane, it is the responsibility of drivers to not run into things. If this your fear then you either need to learn to deal with it or give it up. You don't need to worry about holding other cars/trucks/buses etc. up- let them go around you. Don't ride so close to the curb that other vehicles feel they can drive right past you at speed; by riding in the lane you are forcing them to observe you and take appropiate measures to go around you safely. That said police need to relax when small children or elderly/ infirm ride on sidewalks; at their pace they are highly unlikely to cause injury to anyone other than themselves in event of mishap.
take the full lane
I would encourage cyclists to take the full lane on any roads without bike lanes as is their right under our laws. Start doing it now to impress upon car drivers, especially single occupant car drivers, that bike lanes are in their interest too. I'm only an occasional cyclist but at times where I feel my safety is at risk I will take the entire lane since that is safer for me instead of being squeezed and nearly side-swiped too many times by cars passing me when I stay to the side, especially when it comes to corners or left turn lanes. Its your right to take the entire lane, exercise your rights by doing so, so what if it pisses off car drivers, maybe then they'll support bike lanes too, and besides taking the entire lane is safer for you as cyclists. There never was a war on the car in this city but there clearly now is a war on cyclists and transit riders.
wasteful spending
I both can't believe and yet am not surprised that Ford keeps spending our tax dollars like a drunken sailor. First cancelling the VRT which provided much needed income and was a very small tax on motorists, $5/month, but provided much needed tax income for the city. The Ford scraps TC which wouldn't cost the city a penny to build and would've done something concrete to reduce road congestion due to it being a network that improved transit in some of the areas most desperate for improved transit and instead decides to spend well over $4 billion on an un-needed subway to a low density suburb that could be much better served by LRTs, no private company is going to pay to build that line without the city guaranteeing they recover all their costs and profits, plus greatly increasing the TTC's annual operating budget, then insisting that the entire Eglinton line be buried un-necessarily which means no transit improvements for other areas that desperately need them as well as massively increasing the TTC's operating costs yet again due to all those un-needed stations, elevators and escalators when outside the city core there's plenty of room on Eglinton for an LRT without affecting traffic flow. Now Ford wants to spend over $400,000 to remove bike lanes. It seems to be that Ford is trying to bankrupt the TTC if not the entire city and how many citizens in need in this city are going to lose the services they count on to get by so Ford and company can get rid of bike lanes which have zero effect on car traffic but which tripled bike traffic, the most environmentally friendly mode of transportation which takes up the least amount of road space. Besides which if the extra 2 minutes in travel time on Jarvis is too much for those drivers to bear its much easier for them to switch to Sherbourne or other routes than it is for cyclists. Ford and friends are ideologues, the worst sort of politicians since their decisions are based on ideology alone and not objective reality.
bike lanes
establishing dedicated bike lanes on major roads should be something that the majority of constituents want...clearly, in this case, only a minority of people are in favour of the bike lanes that are being removed, even if that minority is more vocal and demonstrative than the silent majority...
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