As reported in a recent TCAT News, at its meeting on June 23, 2011 the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee made several recommendations regarding Toronto’s 2011 Bikeway Network Update. On July 12 and 13, 2011, Toronto City Council spent close to 12 hours debating a myriad and complicated bundle of items and motions. Since the decisions to build new off-road trails and Toronto’s first physically separated bike lanes (on Bloor St. E., Sherbourne, Wellesley and Adelaide or Richmond) were combined with the controversial elimination of bike lanes, several Councillors made unsuccessful attempts to amend the wording of the motions, or to separate them out.
In the end, a majority vote was reached to eliminate immediately bike lanes on Pharmacy Avenue (3.4 km) and Birchmount Road (2.5 km) and, in 2012, the Jarvis Street bike lanes (2.0 km).
A decision was also reached to discontinue the Bloor-Danforth Bikeway Environmental Assessment.
Other than New York, Toronto may be the only city in North America to remove bike lanes. And while the elimination of this many bike lanes at once is unprecedented, Toronto does have a history of removing bike lanes previously installed. In 1994, less than a year after it had been installed, 20% of the College/Carlton bike lane was removed and parking meters re-installed and in 2000, a section of the Poplar Plains bike lane was removed in order to facilitate car parking in front of an elementary school.
The decision to reverse the bike lanes is a major setback for the cycling community, and resulted in a large peaceful bike ride on Jarvis organized by the Toronto Cyclists Union. The Jarvis Street decision impacts not only cyclists. Torontoist summarized it well: “Strikingly absent: any real discussion of the original plan for Jarvis Street, which called for removing the centre/fifth lane of traffic, widening the curb lanes to accommodate cyclists, and widening sidewalks to create a pedestrian boulevard that was conducive to revitalizing the neighbourhood’s street life.”
Looking forward, TCAT wants to be involved in helping to define workable solutions to reduce this tension about how best to reallocate road space. We want to move forward on achieving a vision for streets as liveable, vibrant public spaces while also ensuring that all road users can get from A to B safely.