Have we appeased the gods with the Jarvis sacrifice?
Why kill the Jarvis bike lanes and at the same time claim to be building a bikeway network?
Everyone with half a brain and who was honest enough to the traffic experts knows that Jarvis works with bike lanes. Car traffic volumes were the same before and after. Logically, putting back the fifth lane wouldn't change car traffic volumes either. With bottlenecks at the top and bottom of Jarvis, it doesn't matter how many lanes you install in between, only so many cars can squeeze through the pinch point during any period of time.
We also know that the number of vehicles entering downtown hasn't changed in the last 20 years - there is no traffic congestion problem downtown.
We also know that the original Jarvis Street Environmental Assessment always called for a reduction to four car lanes, whether it be for increased sidewalks or bike lanes. At the City Council meeting a number of councillors brought up the ghost of the EA as an argument for removing the bike lanes, yet they were all to willing to ignore it as Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong called for the re-installation of the fifth car lane.
We know that the city is in a budget crisis and yet a councillor's pet project would cost $200,000 that would have no significant positive impact for anyone. We also had a pretty good idea that most motorists who use Jarvis aren't even actually anti-bike lane, even on Jarvis. So why did the Jarvis bike lanes die?
The answer is Politics, claims Marcus Gee. And politics follows a different logic:
The Jarvis lanes were a red flag to motorists from the start. Jarvis is one of the few broad streets taking car commuters in and out of downtown. Removing the roadway’s reversing fifth lane to make room for bikes added minutes to that painful commute. Suburban councillors with car-commuting residents denounced the bike lanes. They were doomed from the moment Mayor Rob Ford took office on a pledge to end the “war on the car.”
Jarvis had to be sacrificed if the mayor and hostile councillors were ever going to back bike lanes elsewhere. It was an unspoken tradeoff: You can have your lost traffic lane on Jarvis back if we can take away space on other, less vital roads for bike lanes.
That will strike cycling zealots as the worst kind of appeasement. In their world, cycling is so virtuous and car commuting so ruinous that making any kind of concession amounts to surrender. They are vowing to fight on to save the Jarvis lanes during the 18-month reprieve they won for the lanes at Wednesday’s council meeting.
I think Jarvis was much more of a red flag for the Ford block than for the average driver. I think there are far fewer anti-bike lane drivers on Jarvis than these right-wing politicians would like to think. But it would take some effort to disabuse them of their preconceptions. Gee's good point, I believe, is that cyclists have to pick their battles, particularly when we're fighting against such a car-centric, ideological mayor.
So even though it makes little practical sense to remove the Jarvis bike lanes, it made political sense to the suburban-based Mayor and cronies. The question is: did the removal of Jarvis (and Pharmacy and Birchmount) bike lanes appease them and provide the appropriate tradeoff? Or is this just setting the ball rolling for more councillors to look at their, or adjacent, wards for bike lanes to remove? Already Councillor Palacio came forward with a petition to call for the removal of the Dupont bike lanes. It wasn't even his ward; it's Ana Bailao's. But that didn't stop Minnan-Wong from dabbling in Jarvis either. Dupont was referred to staff for study.
The Bike Union needs to play a balancing act of trying to stop bike lane removal, and ensure that we still get the downtown separated bike lane plan that was passed yesterday, particularly Richmond. It's just not clear if cyclists should keep fighting for Jarvis or if we fight for a fulfillment and expansion of the promises the Ford block has made elsewhere.
And even if politics determines that Jarvis will be a five lane shithole, at least we don't need to go all the way to City Council to get something like the following mock-up. They're not ideal but I think they'll make drivers more considerate and encourage cyclists to take the lane:
Note: this is just a fictional future where we are back to five awful car lanes, but our consolation prize for Jarvis are: sharrows!