Campaign begins to save Jarvis

Photos of Critical Mass, June 2011 by Tino Reis.

Reaching across the divide.

Support from many.

Jarvis is turning out to be a hot topic encouraging hundreds of cyclists to show up for Critical Mass this evening.

Some advocacy is coalescing. The Bike Union has started a campaign to save the Jarvis bike lanes, calling cyclists to contact their local councillors, call Rob Ford, sign their petition, and show up on July 12/13 (we won't know the exact time) to show councillors that taking out the bike lanes is not all that popular (facebook event). Another petition has also been posted (maybe they can present the results together)

Dave Meslin was one of the strongest believers in giving Ford and company a chance. The vote against Jarvis, Pharmacy and Birchmount broke that belief as well as his belief that the Mayor is actually willing to listen to constituents. It doesn't mean that Meslin has given up, in fact, Meslin believes that Jarvis can be saved; that cyclists can organize and that enough councillors will listen to defeat it.


As the car-driving suburbanites out-vote the car-free downtown dwellers, it seems quite likely that downtown dwellers will continue to be downtrodden by the suburbanites car.

The battle to save the bike lanes on Jarvis will be very difficult; let alone saving any of the bike lanes in Scarborough.

According to this analysis, the voters who came out last time identified with Rob Ford's message of "ending the war war on the car" especially if it meant having a war against on-street transit and bike lanes.

We are going to need every ounce of energy we can muster to fight this battle...

I agree with Anthony. We as cyclists have little or no inflluence with these "suburban" Councillors. Getting our message across was the whole idea behind the Bike Union's Ward Advocacy program. Have strong prescence in each ward of the city. Councillors listen to their constituents but they are involved in committees and issues across the whole city. Councillors from outside the old downtown core voted down the Jarvis bike lane. Some changed. Councillor Grimes voted for the original Jarvis bike lane. He senses the political wind change and is now against it.

That in my mind is the biggest failure of the Bike Union. It has expanded numbers but is not a force outside the old City of Toronto boundaries. Looking at the Ward page I see there is a strong group in Ward 6. That is the only group in Etobicoke. Yet Etobicoke is home to the Mayor, two Deputy Mayors and is a real power in City Hall. At every Bike Union meeting, whenever Scarborough is mentionned, Lucy Perri represents the area. How are these Councillors to take cycling seriously if there isn't even a Ward Captain in their ward?

I see the Bike Union as regressing outside the downtown. All the board members from outside the old City boundaries have resigned. Today is the ward audit. How many wards outside the city core will do one today At the organizing meeting for the audit there was one person from Etobicoke and one from North York.

To counteract what is happening with Councillors from outside the old city are doing to bicycling there needs to be a concerted effort to build bases where traditionally the Cyclist Union has none.There was a power shift at City Hall last year. Mayor Miller had a downtown focus. The major players in his government were downtown focused too. Rob Ford's supporters come from the areas around the old city and commute downtown daily. They believe their issues and concerns have been ignored since ammalgamaton. We need strong voices in their wards to prove them wrong.

But the Bike Union has not even been an attractive organization for cyclists! They cannot seem to decide if they are an advocacy group, or a hemp-skirt and sandals festival.

MADD has been very succesful reducing the number of road fatalities since the 70s for a few reasons our Bike Union isn't:
- national scope
- focused message
- shocking ads (for the 70s)
- made it a child-safety issue
- concentration on the law

If we ever have an effective and powerful cycling group they should follow MADD's model:
- make a big umbrella with few and central ideas everyone can agree to
- make it about road safety, and enforcing the law on the vehicles which kill
- get some money, PR and legal expertise behind them
- make it a child-safety issue (your child can't ride his bike, because of how YOU drive)
- leave off on all the crap cyclists don't agree on (how to ride, helmets, bike lanes, green-living...)

The Toronto Cyclists Union was started as a Toronto initiative because the city was NOT installing new bike lanes fast enough to keep up with its own plan.

Toronto created a fantastic bike plan back in 2001, and we want the city to follow up on its own plan.Neither the Province nor the Feds have any plan for cycling. (only in Quebec does cycling seem to register at the provincial level)

The Toronto Cyclists Union has been trying to attract families (with the festivals). This has led to having kids advocate at City Hall (see what Adelaide did:

Myself, I am no longer on the board. However, I'm sure that there are current members of the Board of the Toronto Cyclists Union who would love to hear more about your ideas. Have you tried approaching any of them?

Cycling advocates can still reach out to non-cycling suburbanites by presenting these issues as a matter of fundamental fairness. That means you stop bashing car drivers but start talking about the need for more transportation choices and better and safer roads for all people. In other words, put yourself in the mind of a die-hard motorist, and imagine why that person would want to support bike lanes, appealing not only to self-interest but to a sense of basic fairness. I believe there is a strong case to be made here, but I am not sure the Bike Union has been making it as effectively as it needs to.

To me some of the strongest arguments are:

1) something like a million people will be moving to Toronto over the next few decades. Those people will need a way to get around. This indisputable fact, combined with the fact that there is little room available for building new roads, means that our existing roads have to become more efficient. One way of doing this is by encouraging more trips by foot or by bike. The alternative is gridlock, which is what you see in areas where there are few transportation options other than the car. But this also means that we need to frame bike lane debates around the question of how to make roads more efficient, and not just safer.

2) whether you like bike lanes or not, cyclists are not going anywhere. In fact their numbers are growing. You want that curb lane to be free and clear for motorists? Ain't gonna happen. Eventually, you will encounter a cyclist and you will have to change lanes, slowing everybody down. And by law, cyclists have the right to take up the entire lane, and it is safer for them to do so if they fear some impatient motorist will try to dangerously squeeze past where there is no room to do so. On commuter roads, it is better for all users to have traffic flowing smoothly in separate lanes. And besides, most drivers don't like mixing with cyclists any more than cyclists do.

3) Would you rather your child ride to school or their after-school job on their bike, or in your car (gas, insurance, $$$)? A bike lane that is safe enough for your children means more freedom for your family.

4) And more subtly, we need educate commuters that many intuitions about traffic are not actually true at all. More traffic lanes do not necessarily improve traffic flow. Empirical data shows that in many cases, slower but steadier gets you through more quickly than higher speeds with stops and starts. For example, three-lane Jarvis handled about 25,000 cars daily, but several single-lane streets handle similar volumes! This is why two-lane Jarvis handles the same number of cars as the three-lane Jarvis, with only a slight sacrifice in travel time (which can be fixed with a few signal changes). In exchange for this small sacrifice, Jarvis now moves nearly 1,000 more users, more safely. The data is clear and there's no trick: Jarvis remains a great commuter road, because it has become more efficient. And efficiency is good, right?

Anyway, I don't want to crap on the Bike Union, but I think they need to do a better job at understanding the interests and viewpoints of non-cyclists in order to frame this as an issue of overall fairness and road efficiency. Rob Ford's constituency is sincere in its belief that bike lanes represent a cultural attack on their lifestyle, and neither sneers nor earnest pinko pleading is going to change that. The Bike Union needs to show that it is working to improve transportation for all Torontonians.

And on a slightly different matter, why did BU choose now, of all times, for a campaign to expand Bixi? I love Bixi, but right now Bixi Montreal is bringing terrible publicity to the brand: "The city’s auditor general recently released a report saying the program suffered from poor planning and administration, lack of accountability and an illegal profit-making structure. Jacques Bergeron said the program is running a $5 million to $6 million operating deficit and owes $37 million to the city." Meanwhile, the city is curtailing loan guarantees to organizations like Artscape, the Evergreen Brickworks AND Bixi precisely in order to avoid the type of thing that is happening in Montreal. This is a terrible campaign to be launching right now, a waste of political capital, when we have much more important battles ahead. If we truly want Bixi to survive, we should be supporting its caution in a time of austerity, not demanding that it expand without there being a rock-solid business case. If there is such a case, for God`s sake make it, and not portray Bixi as another worthy pinko money-loser.

I doubt that a 687-word, four-major-point argument will make any headway against people who think in five words of one syllable each ("stop the war on cars"). That would include Ford (either one, take your pick).


How about: "Jarvis now moves about 1000 more people than before while flowing nearly as fast, and this increase in efficiency and safety cost only $63 grand."

Or if you need five words or less:

"Jarvis works. So STFU."

In any case, it's true you aren't going to win over the blog trolls, including our blog troll mayor. But you can reach out to the principled conservatives who (so far) support Ford (Ford is a populist, not a conservative, and principled conservatives will eventually peel away from Ford in the same way Frum and Krauthammer have peeled away from Palin). These people are indeed swayed by rational arguments and facts, and they will appreciate arguments framed in terms of road efficiency, cost-savings, and the general public interest. There is an excellent conservative case for bike lanes, which is why conservative mayors worldwide are installing them.

The problem is, whenever Toronto conservatives think of cycling advocates, they imagine only Naked Bike Rides, angry couriers, weepy pinkos and other performance artists. There may also be puppets. And drums. And however valid the lifestyle arguments, nobody wants to be told how to live their life, and certainly not by the government on behalf of a bunch of pinko kooks who ride bicycles and everything.

And possibly, just possibly, by reaching out to these folks and reassuring them that you only want the roads to work better for everyone, you might encourage non-crazy conservatives like Parker or Holyday or Doug Ford to stick their necks out a bit. But as long as our response to setbacks is the outraged pinko hissy fits that so satisfy and confirm the prejudices of Ford Nation, we will get nowhere.

How about: "Jarvis now moves about 1000 more people than before while flowing nearly as fast, and this increase in efficiency and safety cost only $63 grand."

If you could get Sue-Ann Levy or talk show hosts to make this point, it would probably work. I wouldn't mention any cost, though. Just say "all by painting some lines". Because painting lines (like on all the roads in the city) must be free, right? And if they argue that painting lines can't be free, well they have to be painted from time to time anyway.

"Jarvis works. So STFU."

Satisfying but likely ineffective.

Other than reminding my local councillor (Grimes) that I'm keeping my eye on his votes, and actually riding my bcycle even in places where some people say are no good to ride in "because an eight-year-old couldn't bike there", I'm not really sure what an effective lobbying means is.

I've been watching the arguments fly back and forth - cyclist vs cyclist - and wonder whether it's time for Plan B.

Let's recap:

  • the work on Jarvis was done to get a better street (instead of an ugly through road). The money was meant for the benefit of the folks that live in the neighbourhood
  • the bike path was an afterthought that we cyclists didn't ask for - but we took it as it would add to Toronto's total number of kms of bike ways. But it wasn't essential nor strategic for us cyclists. We have alternatives and more important fish to fry,...
  • once the bike lane was painted onto the road surface, I went to see what it was all about - and I was shocked how narrow (=substandard) and insignificant the "gift" to us cyclists was.

Now, with the administration threatening to remove the lanes, we react and start struggling to keep them. That effort is probably pretty hopeless in this political climate.

Here's Plan B:
Why don't we just let go of these bike lanes? And let's say so openly, and hand it them cheerfully - in public, while pointing out the consequences of their recent PWIC resolution! They'll have to live with it, even though it will hurt them.

After they take out the lanes the administration will become the laughing stock of the city. Because, when they get their 4 or 5 five feet of pavement back, it will hardly help any traffic throughput - the study has shown that. And it will be obvious that bike paths are not the root of their problems. Maybe the re-done sidewalks will make for a nicer street just as designed, but no one will notice it from the car because they are too busy negotiating the traffic.

The car lobby will be frustrated as there are no benefits from the move, but we (including the BU) will have a showcase for future action because we can point to Jarvis as prove that

  • car traffic problems cannot be solved unless you throw significant money and land resources in its direction - something the city hasn't got
  • beating up on the little guy (on two wheels) may get a redneck mayor elected but it doesn't solve anything. This is a glaring example of wasted opportunity.
  • the current elected powers are eager to sacrifice the safety of its commuters for political grand standing. That is evil and in the long run will tarnish their standing in the public eye.
  • the administration has found a new way to waste money by ripping out a useful facility that has bee built already. That's embarrassing for a government that promised spending our money wisely.
  • and every time a ghost bike goes up at a place where there should have been a bike path, we can point at their unwillingness to give us safety. The press will have a heyday pillorying these incompetent clowns...

Don't forget the flip side. When I take the bike, I leave the car at home thus creating less congestion, noise and pollution. A war on bikes is a war on city residents, not just riders. Life in Toronto shouldn't be dictated by a mayor who doesn't live here.

How many PEOPLE use Jarvis Street these days with the bike lanes compared with the number of PEOPLE before? Not vehicles, but people? That should be the question. That is people in the automobiles, people on bicycles, AND people walking on the sidewalks.

Allow the bike lanes to remain where they are!! If the City of Toronto wants to remove something that is complete waste of money and has put the community up in arms with each other then it would be the unfinished dola (dog off-leash) at Baird park. We would contact Ward 14 but the councilor may not listen unless a petition has been done. Bike lanes stay and dola in residential parks out!!

In a time where "union" is a four letter word, and the condemnation that the majority of cyclists must face for the sins of the few is of biblical proportions, having the Bike Union lead the fight for Jarvis is a drastic mistake.

I'm hearing nothing from Jarvis residents, drivers, the CAA, or insurance companies. While there's no question that the street is safer now for all users, at a minimal cost, the public arguments aren't being made.

Arguments based on safety in a residential neighbourhood and the cost of restoring Jarvis vs. the convenience of a few might have more traction with the mushy middle of council then the principle of bikes being allowed on streets.

There's a live feed from the council chamber describing the debate:

Jarvis lanes, as well as Pharmacy and Birchmount officially dead. Separated network will be built
by dmrider via twitter edited by Toronto Star 12:42 PM

pennyfarthing ok frye