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Toronto: An Anti-Bicycle City

Toronto: An Anti-Bicycle City


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.


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Photo Credit: Richard Drdul on Flickr.

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11:08AM PDT on Mar 17, 2013

I live in Copenhagen, and while I don't ride a bike myself, I can safely say that having a system of roads for bikes running parralel to the regular roads and sidewalks is a huge help and boost to society.

6:00PM PDT on Jul 14, 2012

Perhaps those who claim bike lanes slow traffic down, can explain why highways 6 lanes wide are constantly backed up? No bikes even allowed on these roads.

Perhaps Ford should take a look at how well Montreal has been with PROPER bike lanes (aka separated bike lanes).

6:28PM PST on Jan 18, 2012

I usually do not say things like this, but it seems to me that the reason the mayor hates bicycles so much and loves cars so much is related to how obese he is. Maybe he should get on a bike once in a while, lose some of that 50 lbs for charity he's trying for, when really he should be trying for 150 to come even close to being healthy.

8:28AM PST on Jan 18, 2012

Only when all our roads, whether motorways or side-roads, all those in the towns and cities in both business and residential areas, grind to a halt, totally full and blocked, only then will the car and road lobby realise that something must be done. In many cities progress by car is slower than in the early days of the car when a man had to walk a dozen feet in front of a motor vehicle waving a red flag. Progress?

9:48AM PDT on Sep 12, 2011

rob ford is a disgrace.....

6:48PM PDT on Aug 24, 2011

Ugh. I live in Toronto, and Rob Ford has only been making it worse here. -___-

1:43AM PDT on Jul 29, 2011

En Belgique ( le pays bizarre sans gouvernement depuis 1 an et qui fonctionne toujours, sans 1 seul tué ), le Nord ( plat ) est assez bien pourvu en pistes cyclables, le sud ( montagneux ) essaie d'en installer dans les villes, mais ça prend du temps. Aucun bourgmestre ( Mayor ) n'auresait s'opposer frontalement aux vélos...

11:02AM PDT on Jul 15, 2011

Perhaps he didn't have a bicycle as a child, or has forgotten how much fun they are to ride, besides all the other good reasons.

6:36AM PDT on Jul 15, 2011

We totally agree with the sentiment expressed by Brian P. Ford is an abomination, and we hope that the people who voted him in get sorely burned by his anti health, anti gay and generally anti everything constructive attitude. Perhaps he should actually get on a bike himself, he hardly looks healthy. He is even more loony than some of Toronto's nutty mayoral predecessors such as Barbara Hall and Mel Lastman. This man is throwing the baby out with the bath water, every stride in recent years is being unravelled. Talk about a waste of money undoing all these advances.

4:25AM PDT on Jul 15, 2011

My home town-Wellington NZ, is pretty impossible to bike in also. The only decent place for cycling where you are unlikely to be mowed down is the waterfront. However to get there from my house is rather tricky. There is a bike lane but it ends just as you approach the CBD so I then have the choice of getting off and pushing my bike through crowds of people or risk getting killed if I decide to take on the traffic flow. Great.

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