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:

Sharrows on Jarvis?
Note: this is just a fictional future where we are back to five awful car lanes, but our consolation prize for Jarvis are: sharrows!

Comments

Have we appeased the gods? Hell, no. They haven’t even started yet.

The sacrifices so far: Jarvis, Birchmount, Pharmacy, Bloor.

The score so far: Minnan-Wong 4, Toronto Cyclists 0.

And counting...

I've read that 5-car-lane Jarvis had sub-standard 3m lane widths, and would not pass City engineering codes today. There's a chance that City Works won't allow the old configuration to be put back in. And if council overrules engineering advice, they may open themselves up to lawsuits for resulting car-on-car collisions.

Appeasing...? Even if they were appeased now, that will be short lived once they realize their traffic problem has not gone away. They'll want more, and we know that no one can deliver that. Maybe be the Eglinton corridor in the west will get a relief with the subway (built with federal money that was meant for the city as a whole, not just the west end). It's funny, in a macabre sort of way. The rest, especially Scarborough, has been screwed as there will be no money to give similar relief - the subway in the east is a phantom.

For the councilors that voted with the Ford Pack, it's a dilemma though because they implicitly promised to make driving into the city "better". Their constituents will realize by the next election that they' ve been had. This is something the Bike Union could prepare for: building a consensus amongst the public that getting 10% of the drivers off the road is an inexpensive tool to make car traffic flow better. That will make it difficult to have an anti-bike stance at the next go-around...

I suspect that in the short term it makes no difference what the TCU or other cycling groups do. Maybe the separated lanes will go in and maybe they will turn out to be gravy to be poured on the Riverdale zoo animals. I would treat the actions of the current City council as some natural disaster such as hurrican or earthquake or volcano: you endure it, or escape it, but you don't negotiate with it.

In the longer term, either a majority of councillors will run away from Ford or they will continue to butt-kiss (hello Mark Grimes). This likely depends on a big shift in popular opinion, which is something that the pundits can't predict so how can I?

The most likely outcome I see is another 3+ years of eye-rolling, since there will be few more effective options for us to pursue. Then hopefully the same thing will happen to Ford and his cronies as happend ot O'Brien and his, in Ottawa.

In short, Gee's usual puffing is irrelevant, and the discussion of tradeoffs and balances is as moot as discussing how many cyclists can bunny-hop on the head of a pin.

No actually the vote was take out Jarvis 28 councillors versus keep them 19 votes
This isn't just about Ford
The thing to remember is we got little downtown under Miller
Jarvis lanes in the last year of 7 years of Miller
Miller only put forward the University separated lanes in the last 6 months For a trial period
Miller waited so long to even try this because cycling wasn't a priority for him
And remember Miller couldnt get the votes to even do that.
Why weren't you screaming about how little Miller did then
If the ford administration delivers what they have promised in their first year of office
Separated Wellesley , harbord , sherbourne , Bloor viaduct and a trial on Richmond Adelaide for separated lanes they will have done more than Miller administration in 7 years

True, Miller did little **for **us. BUT - he didn't take anything away, either.
This administration has made a few promises, but watch the budget showdown. On Jarvis, the Minnan-Wong amendment means that if Sherbourne doesn't proceed, the Jarvis demolition still happens.
If the Ford administration delivers what they have promised in their first year of office, there will be no service cuts, no layoffs, no tax or fee increases, and millions of dollars of gravy saved.
Sorry, my bet is that Jarvis lanes come out and the Sherbourne lanes don't even get re-painted, let alone rebuilt and separated.

Question from a curious observer: Won't cyclists on Jarvis just take the whole right lane? I would think with one car lane replacing what look like very narrow bike lanes, the width of each lane will be too narrow for a car to pass a bike.

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.

It's worth being careful with the word "vehicle". The quoted study doesn't include bicycle traffic.

Bicyclists should be using the whole right lanes on University Avenue. It was to have had bicycle lanes, but was defeated by one vote during the last year when Miller was mayor. Seems appropriate today to start with University Avenue.

You're right - downtown car lanes in Toronto are quite a bit narrower than in Calgary. However, as it works on most roads here, if you aren't a reasonably fast cyclist, you either ride in the gutter and get buzzed by cars passing in that lane, or take the lane and deal with the people who rush up behind, tailgate, and honk at you.

I have way more experience biking in Edmonton than Calgary; while biking in Edmonton left a lot to be desired, drivers tended to be a lot better for sharing the lane than in Toronto. I imagine Calgary is similar since you can fit a car and a bike on lanes there at least somewhat comfortably.

We have a long term and a short term project here. The long term project requires us to elect a city government made up of individuals with a genuine commitment to an equitable and environmentally sound civic policy. The short term project requires us to prevent the anti-bike crowd (which at this time, alas, includes Mayor Ford) from doing too much damage.

Car dependence doesn't work in the long or the short term, and in Toronto, we can see how badly it works more easily than those in some other major cities, in fact, because Toronto has fewer of the "major" roads that transportation planners of seventy years ago promised us would move traffic smoothly. In the midst of noisily removing the Jarvis bike lanes, Mayor Ford has quietly sold off the lands once bought as a right of way for the proposed Richview expressway. He has effectively conceded that the city has no resources for any serious road expansion.

This means demands for new roads will collide with a lack of resources, particularly land, to build them. I now believe that a critical mass of Toronto residents probably need to experience that for themselves. By electing Rob Ford mayor, they have expressed a need to experience first hand the failure of an attempt to restore auto-centric transportation.

We as cyclists face the challenge of getting through the next three (or seven) years without suffering too much harm. As gridlock continues, and it clearly will, the voices of cycling opponents will call for the removal of more bike lanes and more measures to discourage cycling. We as a community will have the job of reaching past those voices and countering the increasingly desperate argument that one more bike lane removal (or worse) will cure the problem of motorists sitting in stuck traffic for long wasted hours.

John G. Spragge
Mariner, cyclist, pilot

Wise words, John! ...and I hope the bike union folks are listening...

"Random Cyclist" claims that:

The thing to remember is we got little downtown under Miller
Jarvis lanes in the last year of 7 years of Miller
Miller only put forward the University separated lanes in the last 6 months For a trial period
Miller waited so long to even try this because cycling wasn't a priority for him

I believe that the Yonge and Simcoe bike lanes were done under Miller. The Dufferin underpass at Queen has space for bike lanes from the get-go. I am sure that there are any number of other improvements (Shuter, Davenport?) which would count under "downtown".

If the ford administration delivers what they have promised in their first year of office
Separated Wellesley , harbord , sherbourne , Bloor viaduct and a trial on Richmond Adelaide for separated lanes they will have done more than Miller administration in 7 years

Politicains' talk is cheap. I'll bet you $100 that we won't have the network you list above by the end of 2012. Or even 2013. If I lose the bet, well that's a good thing, actually. And if I win the bet, I'll be able to hoist a few beers to Ford's empty promises.

That's an interesting consideration. If it's true, the ramifications could be that the bike lanes stay, or Jarvis gets just 4 lanes, or ... the sidewalks get narrowed to allow for 5 lanes. None of those options is going to happen very easily.

Larry, I wish I could agree, but I can’t. There is NO WAY the Jarvis lanes will stay. And we’re not going to get Sherbourne in exchange, either.

Kristin Wong-Tam’s original motion was nicely unambiguous:

City Council rescind its decision related to the bicycle lanes on Jarvis Street, only after implementation of the proposed separation of bike lanes on Sherbourne Street from Bloor Street to Lake Shore Boulevard as an alternative.

Minnan-Wong insisted on changing it to read:

City Council rescind its decision related to the bicycle lanes on Jarvis Street, and co-ordinate implementation of the proposed separation of bike lanes on Sherbourne Street from Bloor Street to Lake Shore Boulevard as an alternative, and staff be directed to take all steps required to revert Jarvis Street to its pre-existing operation such that implementation can be achieved as soon as possible, with all work to be completed on Sherbourne Street and Jarvis Street in 2012.

Note that “co-ordinate” isn’t a synonym for “only after”. In fact, the second part of the amendment instructs staff to “take all steps required to revert Jarvis Street…as soon as possible”.

According to this, all work scheduled for Sherbourne and Jarvis is to be completed in 2012. This was to fool us into thinking that Sherbourne was a prerequisite for Jarvis. If they decide to do NOTHING on Sherbourne, then NOTHING will be completed on Sherbourne by 2012. And in any event, Jarvis gets reverted “as soon as possible”.

Denzil Minnan-Wong isn’t stupid. This was calculated and deliberate.

And while this won't be a popular two cents worth with some, to a degree the Cyclists' Union has helped bring all of this about with excessive naivete and "cooperation" with the Fordists.

Yes, it was a good idea to get bike safety within a major road rebuild, but Gee is right, that Jarvis is a major carterial and it would have been more strategic to have been easier on Jarvis changes given that there is Sherbourne right beside it - though it's too dangerous. So the "bike community" poked the Torontosaurus in the eye and they liked their perception of speed etc. so many then felt that bike lanes were taking over and creating congestion everywhere and now we have Rob Ford as mayor, and to what degree did Jarvis help bring Ford to power?

Too much building up of the separated bike lanes concept has also given the Fordkers great momentum and better press, though I for one think we needed more connectivity within our existing patchwork first, then road repairs, then getting to fancy things like Richmond/Adelaide, noted in the ten-year-old Bike Plan as perhaps being best with a separated lane, and so even that is not really "new", but finally getting around to a needed something.

And while we were going backwards in kilometers, with the removal of Jarvis and the two lanes in Scarborough and a bit of Dupont, plus the Bloor/D EAvaporizing, they were going to spend sooo many millions doing paths in parks and hydro corridors, how could those cyclists have a cause for complaint, though those millions don't help urban cyclists and to redo any street with bike lanes is only $25,000 a km, so the cost of the lane removals in Scarborough could repaint Bloor from High Park to Sherbourne....

The latest problem was just at PWIC today, where the KPMG report targetted cycling too, saying in places (c. 37-29) that "Bicycle Plan and Program are more extensive than warranted by bicycle volumes" - and with the hurry up and break everything for savings fix favoured by Fordists given what it actually costs for repainting streets, they have to have been talking about putting all those paths in the parks etc. right? So hardly a day went by before it seems that the great paths in the parks is under attack, and sure, many of the CU types are very Canadian and too young to really be remembering the Harris attacks on the City etc., but once again, despite a LOT of hard work and caring from the CU and all in the group, I'm feeling less "helped" by the CU's priorities and actions and choices, though I also know that there's both too much to do and too many choices for actions.

Given all of the content within the PWIC KPMG wreckmendations, http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=2011.PW6.1 and that includes not being so worried about the state of the roads too, maybe the next course is to again pressure Council, the City lawyers for liability, and beyond that to the province too, since it's clear there's a hate-on for cyclists and while the Liberals will not be wanting to have this problem land in their laps ahead of the election, there are too many cyclists in TO, and too many other reasons to give bikes better treatment with provincial policy implications eg. health care/benefits, and the need to trim climate change, that we need to go beyond the Fordists, while still trying to work within the possibly supportive councillors, working mid-range ie. closer to the core as I think we've got the old core pretty solidly for us as the B/Danforth vote showed..

In our spare time of course.

Somehow.

Hear hear, Hamish

I agree with Hamish. We don't need physically separated bike lanes but we really do need interconnection of the existing lanes and an E/W route along Richmond/Adelaide.

Wake up CU ... you've been had ...