No matter which way you look at it, Councillor Vaughan has never said "I unreservedly support separated bike lanes on Richmond and Adelaide". Instead he has caveats and reservations. Vaughan is willing to sacrifice protected bike lanes, and the safety of cyclists, on Richmond and Adelaide if he doesn't get his beautification list. On their own, in and of themselves, protected bike lanes have little value to Vaughan. This much I have parsed from his words. (Photo: Dunsmuir bike lane. Credit: Paul Krueger.)
Councillor Vaughan told me he supports bike lanes. In an email, he replied "Separated bike lanes, integrated with a stronger pedestrian realm is a must." He was visiting Vancouver at the time, exclaiming "great bike lanes here!" But here's his qualifier: "If all we build is a bike lane then all we will have accomplished is building a by-pass." An "isolated gesture". Just "bicycle highways". So is that a maybe? Why is a well-informed politician, who has a strong opinion on almost every area of city building, caging his words on separated bike lanes?
By the way, Councillor McConnell didn't put any restrictions on her support for protected bike lanes on the portions of Richmond and Adelaide that run through her ward. She supports them. Period.
Vaughan celebrates Vancouver bike lanes, but does he know that the outstanding protected bike lanes on Dunsmuir and Hornby streets were done as "isolated gestures"? Mayor Gregor Robertson of Vancouver took leadership in pushing for them even against some local opposition. The primary focus was bike lanes. Sure they put in planters but they weren't deal breakers. For free, Vancouver got even further separation of car traffic from traffic on the foot highway (like in the photo above).
The protected bike lanes, in fact, would be an isolated but major gesture for a ward where little has been done to install and advance protected cycling infrastructure. Politicians and traffic planners alike have mostly ignored cycling safety for so long that in order to get anything built, bike lanes are, by nature, "isolated". It seems as if bike lanes in downtown are constantly being pushed off the table, whether it be Yorkville, in front of Union Station, John Street and now the Annex. In each case the politicians and traffic planners have figured that people on bikes will just have to fight it out with cars.
Vaughan had a perfect opportunity to get protected bike lanes in Ward 20 when he was a close ally of former Mayor David Miller. During this administration's 6 years not one protected bike lane was built. The closest we came was a failed vote on a protected bike lane for University. People tend to focus on Councillor Paula Fletcher's mistaken vote, but the Mayor wasn't even present for the vote. It wasn't important enough for the mayor.
What does he want
Vaughan has described protected bike lanes at various times as "bicycle highways", "single use and isolated gestures", "barricaded", "by-passes". So why is he holding up progress on bicycle infrastructure? What are these other things he wants? From his comments I've gathered these requirements: "Stronger pedestrian realm" aka fancier "foot highways." Planters. Bike parking. "Connectivity". Two-way streets. "Complete streets"
Foot highways? Last I looked there were foot highways on both sides of the street. And they're bidirectional!
Planters? Well here you go:
But is he going to try to block the bike lanes if he can't get planters?
Bike Parking? Nope. Is he seriously considering this a requirement for his support?
Connectivity? Done. It already connects with Beverley bike lanes and Sherbourne! And can be extended to Eastern bike lanes and to the Railpath. (Richmond and Adelaide are certainly more connected than Vaughan's preference for Wellington).
Two-way streets? Come on, you can do better. New York is full of one-way vibrant streets as "destinations".
Complete streets Sorry, Vaughan's definition sucks: "accommodate choice in as safe and as beautiful a way as possible". So far as I can tell, no jurisdiction that has a complete streets policy has put "beauty" on par with safety. No one's going to say they hate beauty but who would sacrifice safety for it? (Other than an artist). Instead, Toronto's City Planning says complete streets is the "safe and adequate accommodation, in all phases of project planning and development, of all users of the transportation system." Let's use their definition.
Fast forward to now
We have a plan to build awesome, connected protected bike lanes across downtown. There are zero alternatives. So far, Councillor Vaughan is unwilling to lend his support. Is he just trying to squeeze some concessions, or his he willing to let the plan die if he doesn't get his way?
We'll see. This bike lanes will represent, I think, a turning point. Either we'll begin down the bicycle highway towards emulating cities like Chicago, Vancouver and New York, or we'll hit a deep pothole and stall safe cycling in this city.
Footnotes: quoting Vaughan on bike lanes
For those interested in the history of Vaughan's quotes on bicycle highways, read on.
Last year (2012) at a joint ward meeting that I attended with Cycle Toronto's representing wards 19, 20, 27, and 28 Councillor Vaughan had suggested that he was against "bicycle highways":
"...to create a bike highway through the downtown is as serious a piece of bad planning as a car highway."
He had also said at that meeting that "creating a single use capacity will not solve the problem".
Also last year (2012) at a meeting organized by the Harbord Village Residents Association on bike lanes for Harbord Vaughan had said:
When we build bike lanes they must be separated. Painted lanes are good but aren't safe enough. My son, who bikes, needs the separation to be safe.
People in this neighbourhood cycle but they don't do it safely. We don't accept it for drivers, nor for pedestrians, but we accept lack of safety for cyclists. We need to change that.
And in January of this year (2013) Councillor Vaughan had said to the Toronto Star that he remained undecided regarding bike lanes on Richmond and Adelaide.
It’s crucial that any bike lanes on Richmond and Adelaide be considered in the larger context of pedestrian traffic, cars and transit, said Councillor Adam Vaughan (Trinity-Spadina). Although he’s willing to consider bike lanes, he hasn’t made up his mind. The entertainment district needs to be considered as a destination, not just a series of thoroughfares, he said.
In 2011 in a letter to his residents Vaughan had called them "barricaded bike lanes".
From Vaughan's response from last week:
We have set aside funding for streetscape improvements. Bike lanes, bike parking, plantings and connectivity are all important components of a good plan.
I support exploring these issues specifically, and separated bike lanes generally. They are a critical component of the future for the street. But they must form part of a comprehensive re-thinking of the streets and not just a single use and isolated gesture.
If all we build is a bike lane then all we will have accomplished is building a by-pass. This is not good planning nor will it serve riders well. It should never be about getting from a to b. It should be about building complete streets that accommodate choice in as safe and as beautiful a way as possible. ...