The public works committee approved today the pilot separated bike lanes on University. I had to duck out of the meeting early in order to do some real work, but the room was full of citizens and media, waiting for the decision on this and the public bike proposal.
The pilot project will begin after the G20 summit and end in September, going along the center median of University Avenue. The committee compromised on the length, agreeing to make it go from Queen to Hoskin / Wellesley. If it is successful, and the Richmond bike lanes are installed, the bike lanes will be extended to Richmond.
The move has been a long time coming, bike advocates argue, pointing to cities around the world that have experimented with dedicated bike lanes that set up barriers of some kind to keep them separate from motor vehicle traffic. Yvonne Bambrick, executive director of the Toronto Cyclists Union, said this will make the large, often high-speed artery safer for both motorists and cyclists.
Councillor Minnan-Wong, who just learned to balance on a bike last year, and is already an expert on all this bicycling, proposed a network of "secondary bike lanes", which will presumably have to either be built on top of the buildings or underground (says I who has biked just about every street in downtown):
Opponents to the plan, however, pointed out that this would take car lanes off a major road away in an already chronically congested city. Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong proposed creating a network of secondary bike lanes throughout the downtown core, instead.
I'm not sure why Minnan-Wong isn't running for mayor. It seems like all the other candidates have decided they are also expert urban planners when it comes to bikes.
As for the deputants, only the CAA was opposed to the idea:
But at the meeting, only one deputation by Faye Lyons, a lobbyist with the Canadian Automobile Association, came to oppose the plan.
She said staff needed to study it more.
"I encourage you not to move forward with this report for the safety of all road users," she said. "You need to send this back for a comprehensive analysis."
Most of the deputations were in favour of the plan. Tom Flaherty, an East York bike commuter, said he was planning on tearing up his CAA membership.
"I find it offensive that we accept statements from lobbyists to the automobile industry about our public safety, " he said. "Once every six hours a pedestrian is hit by a car yet we don't look for alternatives."
Thanks Tom! Anyone else up to ripping up their CAA card? Maybe we should go to their corporate office to make a public statement. I'd do it but I only rent cars occasionally so I never bothered to get a card.
And one last thing. In the funniest statement of the day, Councillor Palacio brought back the spectre of the "silent majority" by saying:
"The silent majority is clearly stating there is a need for public consultation," he said. "We need to communicate with other stakeholders."
Can you speak up Palacio, I can barely hear you. Councillor Shelley Carroll's response is dead on: "the silent majority was quite silent".
"This thing has been all over the newspapers - all over them," she said. "Where are the people in opposition to this? Where are the legions of CAA members and car drivers to fight the University lane?"