Toronto claims to be “shifting gears” towards a bike-friendly city. However, their actions appear to be speaking louder than their words, as council is removing a bike lane on one of the busiest arteries in the city.
One of Mayor Rob Ford’s first statements as he entered office last fall was that the “war on the car” was over. Ford promptly stopped work on light rail projects and canceled millions of dollars in other transit initiatives, leaving the city on the hook for millions in cancellation fees. Ford instead is choosing to put a light rail line underground and take other measures that have been deemed the “dumbest decision(s) ever” by the former head of the Toronto Transit Commission.
In his remarks last week, David Gunn warned that the city was headed for ruin with its current transit plan as it ignores maintenance and efficiency in favor of a fragmented, higher-cost, haphazard transit plan. Apparently, the end of the war on the car means the beginning of the war on any other modes of transit, despite their economic and environmental advantages.
The latest move: Council has voted to scrap bike lanes on Jarvis street in downtown Toronto in favor of reinstating a “tidal flow” car lane — one where cars move in the direction of the bulk of traffic flow at different times of the day. The bike lane was installed on Jarvis only last year. Removing it will cost $300,000, at a time when Toronto is already facing a budget deficit. Bicycle traffic on Jarvis has tripled since the bike lane was installed while car traffic has remained steady. Studies indicate that the bicycle lane has added an average of 2 minutes to a car trip down Jarvis street – certainly, not a substantial impact.
In two days of highly contentious meetings, bikers protested the removal of the lanes on the grounds of safety, health and environmental impact. Councillors, on the other hand, cited stories of people not being able to get home in time for supper while using the narrower Jarvis street – anecdotes, apparently being more valuable than actual data, since no actual studies on public opinion were done prior to either the implementation or the vote to remove the lanes. In a decision apparently driven by politics rather than sense, city council has nixed the Jarvis bike lanes, dealing a substantial blow to the environmental and health initiatives in their city.
Council claims that the bike lanes were installed on Jarvis and other streets for “political reasons.” Apparently, political reasons are good enough to remove the lanes as well. It remains to be seen how these same “political reasons” will affect councillors during the next election.
Photo Credit: Richard Drdul on Flickr.