Cyclists and Councillor Adam Vaughan: a rocky but productive relationship on separated lanes

In terms of downtown councillors who say they support cycling and who actually follow through, Councillor Adam Vaughan is often of the latter. Councillor Vaughan may have strong opinions on what cycling infrastructure should look like, but he is still supportive nonetheless.

Councillor Vaughan has not always seen eye to eye with Cycle Toronto and the local Ward 20 group. He has been generally supportive of many cycling initiatives, but he had strong opinions of what projects he figured should be a priority and he had produced his own document of the routes he felt were a priority and possible. These didn't always jive with the priorities of Cycle Toronto, but may be valuable additions to the bikeway network if and when they are implemented.

Initially when Cycle Toronto supported the separated bike lane network through downtown, Councillor Vaughan saw it as a barrier to getting a couple other plans implemented, namely a pedestrianized John Street and a one-way to two-way conversion on Richmond/Adelaide. He was also sceptical of the benefits of creating the separation.

Councillor Vaughan, however, has come around and has provided support for some of the key sections that go through Ward 20. Here is where Vaughan has grown to support separated bike lanes:

  1. Wellesley-Hoskin. When the separated bike lanes on Hoskin-Wellesley came up for public consultation, Vaughan gave his unconditional support for separated lanes on Hoskin. Given the traditional approach of councillors (both on the right and left) to protect on-street parking, this is a commendable move.
  2. Beverley-Peter-Simcoe. Councillor Vaughan also announced his public support of separated bike lanes on Beverley to Peter at a Public Works and Infrastructure Committee meetting this last year when he worked out a deal with Councillor Minnan-Wong to support the John Street EA that would turn it into a pedestrian mall with some vehicle access.
  3. Sherbourne. Vaughan criticized that the Sherbourne separated lanes didn't provide enough separation: "not a pronounced enough separation.... Unless you make it physically risky to put a car in that spot, you will get cars in that spot. You'll have taxis, you'll have couriers, you'll have vendors."
  4. Richmond/Adelaide. More recently Councillor Vaughan has been more supportive of separated bike lanes on Richmond and Adelaide. It's not clear yet if he will fully support them even if it means his proposal of two-way streets can't go forward in order to achieve them. But one can be hopeful.
  5. University. Under the previous mayor, David Miller, he helped push for separated bike lanes down the median of University Avenue. It never happened (because of a mistaken vote and a mayor who focused much more on transit than cycling) but it still could. Separated University bike lanes would work well with the connection between Wellesley and Hoskin ensuring that new cyclists could transition easily from Hoskin or Wellesley and go downtown along University. This concept, however, may have to wait until a new mayor comes along or political support builds enough to revive it.

It's commendable that Councillor Vaughan has been vocal in promoting a bike plan for Ward 20. We should be encouraging other councillors to draft up bike plans for their wards (in the current vacuum of the now-expired city-wide bike plan) so long as they are drafted with consultation with local and city-wide cycling advocacy organizations.

In the next year Vaughan as the councillor for Ward 20 will be in a pivotal position to assist the completion of the downtown network. A series of major cycling infrastructure initiatives all centred on Councillor Vaughan's ward will be proceeding within the next 12 months. We need Councillor Vaughan to support these projects to help make them a reality.

  1. The downtown traffic study's recommendations will be forthcoming which may address
    (i) separated bicycle lanes on Peter Street and Simcoe Street and, (ii) resolve the safe crossing of Queen Street West between University Avenue and Spadina Avenue; by addressing improvements to the crossing for cyclists at Simcoe, and at Soho/Peter. It will replace the existing route on John Street which will probably be lost in the longer term due to the John Street Pedestrian Plaza.
  2. The Hoskins Harbord separated bike lanes consultation and implementation process from St. George to Ossington may proceed. Wellesley Hoskins separated lanes between St George and Parliament are scheduled to be constructed in 2013.
  3. An environmental assessment process for separated bike lanes on Richmond Adelaide is commencing this fall.
  4. The proposal for separated lanes on Beverley Street which was adopted by Public Works and Infrastructure Committee in 2011 may proceed in 2013.

Based on his record at City Hall I think we can count on Councillor Vaughan but his constituents who are reading this blog need to give him their support to help him respond to the NIMBYism that surrounds all public initiatives in urban areas. Let Councillor Vaughan and PWIC know that you support a prioritized implementation timeline. Email PWIC, Councillor Vaughan and Councillor Minnan-Wong (avaughan@toronto.ca, councillor_minnan-wong@toronto.ca, pwic@toronto.ca). There are a number of balls to juggle in order to complete the square (Harbord-Wellesley, Sherbourne, St. George/Beverley/Peter, Richmond/Adelaide), and it would be nice that we can get it completed in a timely manner with no holes to be filled in at an undetermined later date.

Comments

Good on Vaughan for listening to evidence and getting on board. I don't always agree with his tune, but glad he's come around to better bike lanes.

Support for cycling is so seemingly low in Toronto that city politicians liken it to career suicide.

Maybe one day Councillors will be compelled to vote to build cycling infrastructure; until then, we remain cursed with the foul reputation as the only city in the world removing bike lanes.

The following is from Councillor Grimes community newsletter.

Minister of the Environment of Ontario Respects Council's decision on Jarvis Street
City of Toronto News Release September 18, 2012
The Minister of the Environment of Ontario has ruled that an Individual Environmental Assessment is not required for the removal of bike lanes on Jarvis Street. This decision was conveyed in a letter from the Minister, received by the City of Toronto on September 6, 2012. The decision permits the City to proceed with work on Jarvis Street to remove bike lanes and reinstate the reversible centre lane.
This was the right decision. Bike lanes were not recommended in the 2009 Environmental Assessment undertaken to improve the public realm on Jarvis. Nor is Jarvis Street identified in the Toronto Bike Plan as a north-south artery for cyclists. Instead, the Bike Plan identifies Sherbourne Street to the East.
As a result of a decision of Toronto City Council in 2011, work is underway to implement the first-ever network of downtown separated bike lanes in the City of Toronto, beginning on Sherbourne Street. In making his decision, the Minister has shown his support for City Council and for safe cycling infrastructure in the City of Toronto.
The City can now move forward in its efforts to coordinate the removal of the bike lanes on Jarvis with the implementation of the exciting first phase of the downtown separated bike lane network, the Sherbourne Cycle Tracks, expected to be open to cyclists this year. Cyclists will have a safe alternative to Jarvis Street and Jarvis bike lanes will not close until the Sherbourne Cycle tracks are open.

Ah yes, the Minister of the Environment saves Ontarians from the tyranny of bicycle lanes. I wonder how long it took his office to come up with this spin and collection of selected half-truths.

Of course Grimes is on the PWIC and voted "yes" to remove the lanes. So he's one of the Councillors responsible for this decision.

http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=...

5 - Motion to Amend Item (Additional) moved by Councillor John Parker (Carried)
That City Council rescind its decision related to the bicycle lanes on Jarvis Street.

Vote (Amend Item (Additional)) Jun-23-2011

Result: Carried Majority Required - REVOTE
Yes: 4 Mark Grimes, Denzil Minnan-Wong (Chair), John Parker, David Shiner
No: 2 Mike Layton, Gord Perks
Absent: 0

Have you ever met a Minister of the Environment who is not an Oxymoron?

As for Adam Vaughan supporting bike lanes, yes, as long as they do not interfere with traffic; and as long as they are considered to be "possible"... otherwise they would be in the way?

What nonsense is that? And be thankful for such support? As long as cyclists continue being servile and compromisers for crumbs, that's what they will get.