Three streets, four legal challenges! City's outdated, cyclist unfriendly planning on John, Front and Jarvis

In an unprecedented challenge to the City, four legal challenges have been submitted to the City and the Minister of the Environment claiming there has been shoddy process on Front Street, John Street and Jarvis Street that have resulted in plans that exclude cyclists and make conditions unsafe. I haven't heard of any other North American city having so many legal challenges to its planning authority and process at once.

Cycle Toronto is challenging the decision to take out bike lanes on Jarvis Street, stating that making the street more difficult for cyclists is doing environmental damage, represented by law firm Iler Campbell (letter to city). Cycle Toronto is also challenging the EA for Front Street, stating that the remake of the connections to this major transportation hub is making conditions worse for cyclists and that the City didn't consider Metrolinx's concerns regarding cycling infrastructure, represented by Papazian, Heisey and Myer Barristers and Solicitors (CycleTO's initial submission, letter from Metrolinx to City, letter to City, response from City, Part II request to Province and response to the City). Then on John Street the bike shop Urbane Cyclist is challenging the John Street EA, arguing that the project will force cyclists from the best cycling connection in the area with no Plan B in place, represented by Ian Flett. And finally, Don Wesley, Ward 20 resident and Cycle Toronto volunteer is challenging John Street and represented by Fogler Rubinoff LLP (letter to City by CycleTO, letter to City by Wesley, Part II request to Province).

What is most galling (other than the Jarvis bike lane removal) is that what passes for a "comfortable cycling environment" is a wide curb lane with sharrows (quoting a condescending Stephen Schijns, Manager in Infrastructure Planning, in his response to Cycle Toronto). This during a time when American cities are undertaking quite progressive initiatives like the Green Lane Project which will support cities in developing dedicated, separated green bike lanes. Instead of providing world class bike lanes, cycling facilities in Toronto are way down on the list of importance. Instead of bike lanes we're given sharrows and a wide curb lane on a busy arterial road. I'm sorry but sharrows do little to encourage people to feel safe enough to take up cycling.

Front Street, according to Schijns, will include "a wide single lane in each direction marked by sharrows, and a pedestrian-oriented traffic-calmed environment which will have the effect of maintaining vehicular traffic speeds at comfortable levels. The 4.75 m wide lanes will be substantially wider than the vast majority of curb lanes on City streets and will provide a comfortable cycling environment." Schijns also wishes to inform cyclists - as if we didn't know already - that "the plan also recognizes that pedestrians and cyclists are not the only users of Front Street." And that the reason that a dedicated bicycle lane wasn't included was because of a "delicate balancing act" whereby City engineers had to figure out how best to convince the broad public that sharrows are actually "cycling infrastructure". Meanwhile the EA was approved while failing to address the concerns of Metrolinx that the cycling infrastructure was poor.

Let's hope that this wakes the City up that it can't continue to expect cyclists to just take the little scraps off the table. The Bike Plan has been dangled in front of cyclists for over a decade but we've met plenty of resistance and foot dragging from both politicians and even many Transportation Services staff. It didn't seem to matter much if there was a progressive mayor like David Miller in power or a regressive mayor like Mel Lastman or Rob Ford, there has been certain level of inaction and resistance in making the city safer for cyclists. What is needed is to make foot dragging harder to accomplish.

Comments

The Bike Union (I will not use that new gutless name) finally understands nothing's going to work in Toronto but the courts! How long did that take?

So how much are you donating to the legal bill?

I drove on Jarvis today at 8am from Bloor to Queen. I saw maybe 4-6 bikes. It's utterly wasteful to have lanes on them if no one is using them. I also cycle 1-2 days a week but I take Sherbourne and I also confirm I see maybe 12-20 cyclists on that stretch.

Dedicated lanes on Sherbourne in exchange for the removal of Jarvis lanes seems like a no brainer to me. The traffic is calmer, the lanes wider and it can go all the way down to Queen Quay. Why would you jeopardize the dedicated lanes by fighting the keep Jarvis?

When those lanes on Sherbourne reach capacity, then add bikes lanes on Jarvis Street.

I also don't understand the Bike Unions position... There was no EA completed to install the bike lanes, but you want one to remove them? Sound like you're grasping at straws here.

Rode my bike down your street today, saw nobody n the sidewalks. What a waste! There are sidewalks on the next block over, we should widen the road in front of your house so that more drivers can drive, pedestrians - including your kids - can use the sidewalk on the next street.

I was just out walking for about an hour on (some residential street) and i saw no cars driving at all (really!) -- we should really just rip out the asphalt on that street because the only people I saw were walking on the sidewalks.

Random Cyclist, your argument makes no sense. All traffic is "bursty" -- that is we get long, slow periods and we gets burst of busy times of high use. Just because they were empty when you happened to be there doesn't mean that they are not used and loved. And people both live and have destinations on Jarvis that they would like to get to by bicycle. The drivers there were annoying when I last rode there before the bike lanes went in. The lanes were (and still are) too narrow to share, but I would get honked at, repeatedly, and yelled at, for being there on a bike.

The city cannot improve the quality of our drivers, nor can the city demand specific education for drivers, However the city can create bike lanes for people who ride bikes. In fact, the only option the city has to improve the state for people who ride bikes is to make space on our streets for them, ie provide bike lanes. Bike lanes have the added benefit of attracting more people to try, and regularly use, bikes for (at least some of) their trips. We (should) all know of the many benefits that having more people riding bikes more often brings us (and if you don't then I have a list of over 27 benefits which i'd be happy to share with you!) so we WANT to promote the trips by bicycle. Since some of these bike trips will start and/or end on Jarvis it is only natural to have bike on Jarvis. We really ought to be putting in MORE bike lanes on even more of our city streets and better connect the few we already have so that more people are encouraged to go to more destinations, there fore more people making more trips by bike.

And if we should wait until the bike lanes on Sherbourne are "full" before adding more capacity Jarvis, then we will all be waiting a very, very long time -- we'll be waiting because we won't be able to ever attract enough people to ride because we'll never have enough origins nor destinations connected with bike lanes.

Read what you write before sending...

"All traffic is "bursty" -- that is we get long, slow periods and we gets burst of busy times of high use. Just because they were empty when you happened to be there doesn't mean that they are not used and loved"

This is prime commuter time. Sunny day, no rain. Lanes are not being used. Even KTW admitted as much in her "Celebrate Jarvis" town hall in May. Don't inconvenience tens of thousands for a precious few.

"And people both live and have destinations on Jarvis that they would like to get to by bicycle"

Yes I agree. Use sherbourne. It's one street over. 20 seconds away. Nice wide lanes, slower traffic - with barriers soon!

"And if we should wait until the bike lanes on Sherbourne are "full" before adding more capacity Jarvis, then we will all be waiting a very, very long time -- we'll be waiting because we won't be able to ever attract enough people to ride because we'll never have enough origins nor destinations connected with bike lanes"

Jarvis and Sherboune are parallel. Whatever Jarvis is connected to so is Sherbourne.

Look Anthony, I'm all for more bike lanes. But it just makes no sence on Jarvis.