I'd be hard-pressed to put a good spin on this, though mayoral candidate Smitherman is certainly trying his best. Smitherman is jumping on the rhetoric bandwagon and is calling for a 'moratorium' on bike lanes in Toronto. In the meanwhile the 2011 money for bike lanes will go to repaving the bike lanes that are deteriorating such as Sherbourne.
Smitherman is reading the polls and figures that it's better to appease the loud car-centrists who are getting a lot of play in the media, rather than accommodate the needs of 8-years and 80-years old folks on bikes.
One the one hand, Smitherman certainly understand the importance of bike lanes on arterials and isn't promising to remove them, but on the other hand, it becomes increasingly hard to maintain the already very slow progress on bike lanes and infrastructure when a moratorium is put in place. And it certainly begs the question: if this is mainly a communication problem, why not just communicate better (or work better at winning the rhetoric war in the media) while improving the cycling infrastructure?
Someone needs to call Smitherman on this bullshit approach. Mothers, children, elders and all, are you willing to get in the face of Smitherman and Rocco to let them know you exist and want to feel safe cycling on the roads?
I usually prefer to maintain some degree of decorum on this blog, but this pisses me off to no end. So I'll float this slogan as a rallying cry:
Say no to the moratorium on safety!
Toronto needs a "time out" from the creation of new bike lanes - and mayoralty candidate George Smitherman said that if elected, he'll pause the city's Bike Plan to give the city a chance to come up with a more comprehensive transportation strategy.
"What's necessary is for everyone to take a time out here," said Smitherman in an exclusive interview with Toronto Community News. "Obviously we have a lot of people on tenterhooks around these issues overall. It's appropriate to have a mature conversation about it."
Smitherman, widely considered a front-runner in the 2010 mayor's race, maintained that he is supportive of continuing to create bike lanes on city roads - and unlike candidate Rocco Rossi, he's fine with putting bike lanes on major arterial roads.
"In terms of suggesting bicycles should be relegated to crescents and cul-de-sacs, this is akin to saying you're not in favour of the City of Toronto being a modern city," said Smitherman. "I don't think it's leadership to take the language of the war on the car and flip it on its head and say, 'the war on the car has had its go at city hall, I'm going to advance the war on the bike.'"
Smitherman maintained that Toronto's Bike Plan, which was first approved by Toronto Council, has not been adequately communicated to Toronto residents - and it might be better applied in the context of a broader transportation plan.
He offered no timetable for how long it would take to devise such a plan.
"I'm not sure what the appropriate length of time is," he said. "But we have a good skill set among the people who are able to help do this stuff. This is a moratorium, but it's not a moratorium as a strategy for death - it's to stop, have an appropriate conversation and make sure the plans are integrated. When you surprise people the first instinct of a surprised community is to dig its heels in."
Smitherman said he'd put what money there was for the creation of bike lanes in 2011 into road repairs along existing bike lanes - particularly Sherbourne, which he called "practically a corduroy road."
Smitherman has earlier in the campaign questioned other bike lane projects, notably the controversial plan to put bike lanes on a reconstructed Jarvis Street.
The current Bike Plan aims to build 500 kilometres of on-road bike lanes across the city. Cycling advocates have been pushing hard to have the creation of new bike lanes accelerated.
This year, the city will paint bike lanes on Jarvis Street as it's being reconstructed, and there are plans in the works to put bike lanes on University Avenue.
Yvonne Banbrick of the Toronto Cyclist's Union said there's no reason to slow down the plan now.
"I think (a time out) would be a huge mistake - we have waited too long," said Banbrick.
"The bike plan was approved by city council in 2001 and we have had snails-pace progress on implementation. The idea of waiting some more is irresponsible on the part of any government. That's no way to accommodate massive growth in commuter cycling in our city."
Banbrick said she understood that the argument about the "war on cars" has created tensions.
"The rhetoric around the war on cars is a waste of everybody's energy and it's causing unnecessary friction," she said. "There's never been a war. We're talking about how we move people in our city, and more and more taxpaying Torontonians are choosing cycling as their main mode of transportation."