There's more than one way to stop a bike lane

Bike Lane Closed by Tino

Councillor Vaughan said that he has never voted against a bike lane. Though that might be true, there are many ways to stop a bike lane. (Photo credit: Tino)

The obvious way to stop a bike lane is to vote against it. An example is University when the opposition to Mayor Miller passed an amendment to remove University from the bike lane plan that year.

The most egregious way to stop a bike lane, for which Toronto has become world famous, is to rip out existing ones. Thanks to spiteful Mayor Ford, Councillor Minnan-Wong and Councillor Berardinetti we are now three bike lanes fewer.

Those are the methods that get the most public attention. But even before a bike lane reaches a vote or is built, a bike lane can be stopped. John Street is a favoured north-south route for cyclists. Councillor Vaughan led a drive to turn it into a "pedestrian priority zone" (as well as a patio zone from what I can tell of the plans). The environmental assessment, which ended last year, resulted in a solution with no bike lanes. It didn't help to build trust in the process when the consultants largely ignored cyclists in the official count. Dave Meslin revealed the fudge of their recorded flatlined 2% bike mode share by conducting his own count (along with some help from yours truly and other volunteers) showing a much higher number during peak hours.

According to the EA, however, the bike mode share didn't matter since they were directed to create a pedestrian priority zone (which also happened to include motor vehicles, large and small). As a palliative, Vaughan had pointed out that Peter would become the alternative route, though we've yet to see much movement among staff or councillor to create that solution. Thus I'll hazard to say that the entire process was configured so that bike lanes would be excluded and never come to a vote.

Another way to stop a bike lane is to build local opposition. The current Vaughan says he supports separated bike lanes, but the older Vaughan actually blasted them as "barricaded". That doesn't sound like someone who supported separated bike lanes, but instead like someone who's trying to build local opposition to them.

Yet another way to stop a bike lane is to call for more community consultation or to make it a pilot project. Councillor Wong-Tam took these tactics with the Sherbourne protected bike lanes. The City's Cycling Unit staff went door to door along Sherbourne, consulted with businesses and residents groups, and held public consultation meetings for Sherbourne (where the majority of attendees supported the lanes). I was told by a staffperson at the time that Councillor Wong-Tam provided next to no help in making her constituents aware of the project. It all suggested an attempt at stopping the bike lanes by studying it to death.

It's easy to point out the idiocy of politicians who rip out bike lanes, but it's good to keep in mind that there are more subtle ways out there to kill a bike lane while trying to keep the "progressive" label.


And don't forget the many times where a Councillor has arbitrarily stopped, a planned, designed and ready to implement bike lane (ref. Mike Del Grande, Ana Bailao, etc...).

The best way to build and maintain bike lanes is to organize support for cycling, because the efforts to remove and block them are "organized".

It is time to recognize municipal Councillors as the "weathervanes" they are, and admit that public policy regarding cycling in Toronto remains unrealized.

We seem to have learned little from Annette St.

Annette Street is an example of a street done right. Do you mean Annette Street was done wrong?

Bike lanes appear to face two types of opposition: local and transitional. The transitional opposition to bike lanes consists of the motorists who want the greatest possible number of lanes available for cars: that motivated Parker to move for the removal of the Jarvis bike lanes. Local opposition comes primarily from businesses who worry about losing their parking and access to deliveries, as well as residents who want to keep on-street parking. Unfortunately, between these two groups, installing and keeping bike lanes will remain a struggle as long as transportation keeps its current shape.

The western end of the Annette bike lanes nearly lost out when the councilor Saundercook took the side of merchants on Annette Street concerned about parking, and tried to restrict the Annette bike lanes to sharrows between Runnymede and Jane. A concerted push (the last major act before dissolution) by the activist group World 19 led to well over a hundred letters from ward residents disavowing Mr. Saundercook's decision, and leading council to install bike lanes on Annette and Dupont from Jane to Lansdowne.

John G. Spragge
Mariner, cyclist, pilot

Annette was done right, largely due to the public support that was delivered to get a contested bike lane installed.

There were public meetings, consultations and plenty of letters and emails to the City to support putting a bike lane on Annette St.; in the end the Councillor was swayed.

It's the best example I can think of where public opinion for cycling affected positive change for cycling in Toronto; it is effective strategy, and it works pretty much every time.

Just looking at lines on a page, it would be nice if the Annette bike lanes were extended west along Baby Point over to the Kingsway. Lines on a map. Unfortunately, there are private homes in the way and the Humber River and valley in the way. As it is, the bike lanes just end at Jane Street.

My "gravy" would be to build a high-level (little or inclines) bicycle bridge over the Humber River, expropriating houses as needed. connecting Annette Street with The Kingsway.

Cnclr Minnan-Wong cited both Vaughan and Wong-Tam as councillors who said they were bike-friendly etc., but didn't actually do some things at yesterday's PWIC meeting. Both of these councillors however, have had larger and in some ways unnecessary projects foisted upon them eg. some aspects of the separated lane projects are pretty arbitrary, and so on. In the case of Harbord St. being done ahead of other needed aspects of a good core network, it's stupid to push it ahead over Bloor, say, west of Ossington.

Named names:

The Chair of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, named the names of two councillors that talk as if they were pro-bicycling and bike lanes, but actively work behind the scenes to stop new bike lanes. The two names mentioned were Adam Vaughan and Kristyn Wong-Tam.

Vaughan was still in the room as he had been participating in the discussion about an EA to put bike lanes on Bloor. It was no surprise to those of us paying attention, as Vaughan's line of questioning was trying to put the EA in a negative light.

The term "Janus-faced" comes to mind for some reason...

Do Councillors flip-flop on bike lanes? Yes, almost as often as Minan-Wong has sought to sabotage them for political gain.

All Councillors are fundamentally bound to act on what they perceive as popular opinion (demented or not), and augmented with circumstance. Public policy is a sticky business, and cycling in Toronto is a fine example of that.

Or, use them to store piles of streetcar tracks like on Queens Quay by the LCBO HQ.

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