For a brief moment yesterday, bike lanes were less controversial than motherhood. By the end of the day, Toronto Cyclist Union representative Andrea Garcia told reporters this was the opening shot in the “war on the bike.”
That moment of harmony was when eight-year-old Adelaide Humphreys made her deputation for the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee.
“I think we should have more bike lanes, not less,” she said.
Her tiny frame and smart glasses were briefly the darlings of city council’s tweeting set. Councillors Mark Grimes and Shelley Carroll and cycling advocate Dave Meslin snapped her picture and posted them online. She was a model of good behaviour, except for when she briefly disappeared under the desk during her dad’s deputation.
By the end of the day, after nearly 25 deputations, the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee ended on a far less friendly note. The Mayor’s Bike Plan will be presented for a vote at city council July 12-13. City staff confirmed it would lead to a net loss in the number of kilometres of bike lanes in Toronto — including the removal of lanes on Pharmacy, Birchmount and, in a last minute amendment, Jarvis.
Humphreys was not at City Hall to comment.
The Mayor’s Bike Plan calls for 100 km of off-street bike trails, most of which have already been approved, and physically segregated bike lanes around the downtown core, connecting Sherbourne, Richmond, St. George, Beverley and Wellesley.
Chair of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong said it’s a real help for cyclists.
“We’re moving forward for the first time with a dedicated separated network in the downtown core where most of the cyclists are riding,” Minnan-Wong said. “For me when you net it out, it’s a great day for cyclists.”
Councillor Gord Perks said the plan is a major step backward, camouflaged by the mayor’s communication staff as progress.
“We’ve managed to convince ourselves — if we do what’s in here — that spending $250,000 to shrink the biking network is an efficient use of taxpayer dollars,” he said in his closing statement. (The removal of the Jarvis lanes hasn’t been costed yet.)
When it came to the vote, Minnan-Wong, Grimes, David Shiner and John Parker all voted to eliminate the aforementioned lanes and turned down amendments for public consultation. Councillors Perks and Mike Layton opposed the elimination of the bike lanes.
Councillor Krystyn Wong-Tam represents the ward that includes the Jarvis bike lane. She said Parker only consulted her in the minutes before he moved his amendment.
“This seems to be the order of how things are conducted. We saw the Fort York Bridge got nixed in the 11th hour,” she said. “Ad hoc planning gave us (the Jarvis) bike lanes. I understand that opponents to the Jarvis bike lanes weren’t happy with the process, this is no different.”
Wong-Tam said she hopes council will save the Jarvis lane. She also suggested that Parker got his orders from higher above to kill the bike lane, implying but not naming the mayor.
Toronto Cyclist Union founder Dave Meslin was visibly angry about developments at the committee. Councillor Minnan-Wong and Meslin had collaborated on the draft report.
Meslin confronted Minnan-Wong about the lack of public consultation during a press scrum.
“Why are you scared of hearing from them?” he asked, his hand shaking while he held out his phone to record the councillor’s answer. “Why wasn’t it on the agenda?”
“I like to move forward and take decisions,” Minnan-Wong responded. “I think with bike lanes in general, there’s been far too much delay.”
Cyclists are already organizing — they’ll have to act quickly if they want to save Jarvis. Friday morning, Herb van den Dool of the Toronto Cyclist Union and two volunteers canvassed at Jarvis and Dundas to warn cyclist of the upcoming city council vote on removing the lane.
A regular event called “Critical Mass,” typically a meandering ride through the city on the last Friday of every month, is taking on a political tone. Since tonight is the last Friday of June, cyclists will be gathering at Spadina and Bloor and messages on Facebook and Twitter already suggest they’ll ride on Jarvis.
+ The city will study expanding the BIXI bike rental network
+ $42.7 million is allocated for cycling infrastructure in the next four years
+ The elimination of the Pharmacy, Birchmount and Jarvis bike lanes and a net loss of about eight kilometres of bike lanes
+ The city is studying establishing a cycling education centre, a facility that will work with school boards to teach safe cycling
+ The Bloor-Danforth bike lane environmental assessment was cancelled. All other proposed amendments to develop a Bloor bike lane were voted down.