Also last week the City of Toronto announced its intention to proceed with the implementation of bicycle lanes on Jarvis Street from Bloor Street East to Queen Street East. While these bike lanes were previously approved by City Council, it was generally believed that an environmental assessment would be required before they could be installed. However City staff have now determined that this project can go ahead immediately. This decision has resulted in a re-opening of the “war on the car” debate within the media (see articles in the Toronto Star and National Post).
The primary recommendation in the Jarvis Street Streetscape Improvement Assessment Study was to remove the centre reversible lane on Jarvis Street and widen the boulevards to improve the pedestrian realm. This would have required an environmental assessment since the road width would be narrowed. However in May 2009, Toronto City Council approved that the reversible lane be removed, but instead of widening the sidewalks it recommended that bike lanes be installed instead.
While TCAT is in favour of bike lanes on Jarvis, it does not agree with the decision to do so at the expense of an improved pedestrian realm. Please refer to previous TCAT News, TCAT’s deputation, and our letter to Dandyhorse in which we argue that the Jarvis St. redesign is a case in point of why active transportation advocates should be working together from the outset. With both cycling AND pedestrian interests in mind, a bike lane AND widened sidewalks was clearly the preferred option.
The Jarvis Street controversy was also the flash point that prompted the Toronto Cyclists Union and TCAT to begin to work together on achieving a Complete Streets policy for Toronto. A complete streets policy would require that the safety of all road users be a requirement in any street redesign. The Jarvis Street controversy is the result of bicyclists, as legitimate road users, only being incorporated into the redesign as an afterthought. We believe that the Jarvis Street redesign would have been a much smoother process if Toronto had a complete streets policy in place.