Protected bike lanes: flowers in the manure

In politics there is usually compromise and negotiation. Politics is messy. In particular, the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee meeting last month was messy. Cyclists were demoralized by some bad decisions to remove bike lanes on Jarvis, Pharmacy and Birchmount that were unsupported by any evidence that they created traffic congestion. Traffic engineers be damned. Even while right wingers tried to create a justification for urban highways on residential streets like Jarvis, they recognized that Rob Ford's bikes-in-the-park "bike plan" wasn't going to fly and that there needed to be something for urban cyclists, and the one thing they were willing to allow were improvements on other bike lanes with protection and buffers from car traffic.

Campaign begins to save Jarvis

Photos of Critical Mass, June 2011 by Tino Reis.

Reaching across the divide.

Support from many.

Jarvis is turning out to be a hot topic encouraging hundreds of cyclists to show up for Critical Mass this evening.

Some advocacy is coalescing. The Bike Union has started a campaign to save the Jarvis bike lanes, calling cyclists to contact their local councillors, call Rob Ford, sign their petition, and show up on July 12/13 (we won't know the exact time) to show councillors that taking out the bike lanes is not all that popular (facebook event). Another petition has also been posted (maybe they can present the results together)

Dave Meslin was one of the strongest believers in giving Ford and company a chance. The vote against Jarvis, Pharmacy and Birchmount broke that belief as well as his belief that the Mayor is actually willing to listen to constituents. It doesn't mean that Meslin has given up, in fact, Meslin believes that Jarvis can be saved; that cyclists can organize and that enough councillors will listen to defeat it.

Why John Street is important for a complete protected bike lane network downtown

On John Street looking north towards Queen Street

This is the third of three posts about John Street and its place in the protected bike lane proposal by Councillor Minnan-Wong and the Bike Union (see first and second post). In the protected bike lane proposal John Street is the chosen connection between Beverley Street, which ends at Queen Street West, and Richmond Street, which will hopefully get protected bike lanes. Councillor Vaughan prefers Soho to Peter Street instead as part of his much smaller proposal so that John Street can be re-configured as a "cultural corridor", which has come to mean that there can be no accommodation of cyclists. John Street would be rebuilt to improve the pedestrian realm - a noble plan - and still allow bikes and cars.

I'd like to explain why John Street is a better street (and you don't need to just take my word for it, the Bike Union also explains why).

If councillors are supporting the separated bike lanes proposal, what next?

It's taken a bit of community pressure from the Bike Union, business and residents associations as well as pressure from above with Chair of Public Works and Infrastructure (PWIC), Councillor Minnan-Wong as a born-again cyclist. Things are looking up for the separated bike lanes aka cycle tracks when they go to PWIC in June. The proposal has support from the left as well as the right. Even though PWIC is packed with some suburban councillors, I'm guessing they are unlikely to try to oppose the Chair's pet project. PWIC member and environmentalist Councillor Perks has mostly sided with Vaughan and opposed this particular plan. PWIC member Councillor Layton has made some noises of supporting it in some form.

In City Council as a whole, more councillors are lining up to support the separated bike lanes. Some are more reticent than others in going against the strong-willed Adam Vaughan, in whose ward some of the proposed bike lanes will be placed. Councillors on the left and middle, McConnell, Mihevc, Lee and deBaeremaker are now supportive of the proposal. Councillors Wong-Tam supports it in principle. Even right-leaning Palacio supports the proposal. It looks more likely that it will pass the Public Works committee and hopefully City Council.

New Bike Union membership card provides discounts at Toronto businesses

I got the new Bike Union membership card in the mail. Membership now provides discounts at various Toronto businesses: Curbside Cycle, Cycle Solutions, Hoopdriver Bicycles, Urbane Cyclist, Autoshare, Spokes and Sports, Sweet Pete's, Mod Robes, Bikes on Wheels, Mari Cla Ro, and more coming.

Charlie's Bike Shop: new bike shop run by youth

Tino captured the opening celebration of Charlie's Bike Shop (as part of the organization Charlie's Freewheels, which opened recently just a few doors east of Sherbourne on Queen. Charlie's works with youth from Regent Park to provide training in bicycle mechanics and now running a business.

Charlie's Freewheels was named in honour of Charlie Prinsep, a Torontonian who was hit and killed by a car on the Trans-Canada near Brooks, Alberta while on a cross-country bike tour. Charlie loved everything about cycling: riding, fixing, going on long tours. (The site is not far from my parents home. I visited the site in 2007 where Charlie was hit; the wide, flat, straight, isolated Trans-Canada has plenty of room to avoid hitting anyone, but the driver was most likely falling asleep at the wheel.)

Click on the photo to see Tino's whole gallery.

Some of the organizers help launch the shop, including Emma McIlveen Brown, Derek Chadbourne, Joshua Farr, unknown and Aaron Marques.

See also the first award ceremony at Critical Mass;

Bike lane network is just a right-wing conspiracy? Strange times

Councillors Adam Vaughan and Gord Perks are both downtown progressive politicians who are interested in livable communities and pedestrian-friendly streets. Both are white men still in their prime, who, I believe, are occasional cyclists. Like many in this category they feel that they know enough about cycling on Toronto streets, and they are just cocksure enough, that they feel that they can make judgements on the needs of the diversity of regular cyclists, without needing to consult them. There are still a number of people in power who can't see beyond their own cycling experiences to consider what it might mean to cycle in this city if you're not quite as able, young (or too young), white, and masculine.

Turns out even progressive councillors like Adam Vaughan and Gord Perks give little thought to how they would improve cycling in Toronto's core. Perks has shown his support for Vaughan's wish to turn Richmond Street from one-way to two-way traffic. In a letter I've obtained from Councillor Perks to a constituent, Perks says:

[the bike union's] endorsement of this project concerns me. The project has its origins in the previous term when it was used as an excuse by some traditionally anti-bike lane Councillors to oppose the separated lane proposed for University Avenue. Instead of supporting a proposal which would have been in place last summer they argued for looking at other routes in the future. The proposal creates some specific problems for local plans in the area such as making Richmond St. into a two-way more pedestrian friendly street.

Additionally it is part of the ongoing effort supported by the mayor to push cyclists off the main streets in the City and onto side streets.

We haven't heard a peep from either of Perks or Vaughan if they have any plans to follow through with the official Bike Plan, which calls for bike lanes on Richmond and/or Adelaide. It's not only from Ford Nation that we have to worry about killing the Bike Plan, it seems like these two are helping it along by quietly ignoring it. If Vaughan and Perks don't want to provide for safer bike traffic on Richmond, just where would they like to put them all? Where will the cyclists get their long-promised safe bike routes? There is no other politically feasible route in the downtown, which is clearly shown in the work that the transportation planners did for the Bike Plan.

Annex residents support separated bike lanes

Via BlogTO (which got it from the Annex Gleaner), I found out that the Annex Residents Association has published their Cycling Policy, calling for improved cycling infrastructure in their neighbourhood - bike lanes on Bloor from Avenue to Bathurst, separation of bike lanes from car traffic, contra-flow bike lanes on one-way streets, bike boxes, 30km/h zones, "Idaho rolling stops", and and so on (adopting many things from the Ward 20 bike advocacy report).

Albert Koehl, lawyer and Bells on Bloor founder, says:

“One of the big complaints that people have is that cyclists don’t obey the rules of the road. Our view in the policy is that if cyclists feel that they are being accepted and valued in their community, than they will start to feel a part of the community and obey its rules,”

The ARA policy complements the proposal by Minnan-Wong and the bike union for separated bike lanes, though along Bloor or Harbord it isn't without political opposition:

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