Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam sent a February 7 letter (pdf) to Transportation Services cycling manager Dan Egan requesting that the Sherbourne separated bike lane be made into a "pilot" saying there needed to be further "consultation". Surprisingly she sent this letter during the consultation period which ended February 17 and she didn't copy Councillor Pam McConnell whose ward shares Sherbourne.
During the consultation period staff consulted with residents and businesses along Sherbourne, working to address their concerns into the plan. They addressed issues of TTC Bus service, Wheel-Trans pick-up/drop-off, Fire and emergency access, Curb-side waste collection and Snow removal and street cleaning. The presented the results in the panels at the January Open House. The majority of people attending the Open House appeared to be supportive of the separated bike lanes. It's not clear what further consultation needed to be done.
By calling for a pilot Councillor Wong-Tam would preclude any coordination of the repaving with the bike lane plan and possibly forcing staff away from their current plan of a raised cycle track with a rolled curb.
Councillor Pam McConnell, whose Ward 28 covers the east half of Sherbourne and all of Sherbourne south of Queen, likely wasn't aware of this letter even though her Ward covers half of Sherbourne. The letter wasn't copied to Councillor Pam McConnell, nor was her CA, Tom Davidson, aware of the letter. It is strange then that Councillor Wong-Tam is calling for all of Sherbourne to be a pilot, even the sections that are clearly in Councillor McConnell's ward. [Update: Councillor Wong-Tam informed me that she and McConnell actually discussed the issue four times, though she didn't say that McConnell agreed with making it a pilot, or even that McConnell was told about the memo before it came out.]
It's not clear if she consulted with residents associations or the Ward 27 ward advocacy group. She hasn't responded to the emails of at least three Ward 27 residents who requested more information from her on the matter. I received email copies from these residents who stated they have not received responses.
The ward group for Ward 27 was not informed by the Councillor either that she intended to push to make Sherbourne into a pilot. On February 13th there was a joint meeting with Wards 19, 20, 27 and 28. At the meeting, which I attended, there was no sense that the Councillor wasn't on side with the Sherbourne separated bike lanes.
Councillor Wong-Tam has a representative of her office at the Upper Jarvis Neighbourhood Association, which has an eastern boundary on Sherbourne Street. They had a meeting on February 1st, but according to a UJNA member there was no mention of the request for a trial in the UJNA minutes for that meeting. [Update: Councillor Wong-Tam tweeted that the president of UJNA approached her with concerns of parking: "Prez from UJNA expressed concern about more cars circling historic streets when 159 spots removed. I said that staff will respond." Though it still isn't apparent if the UJNA took a position on the matter, or requested that the project be made into a trial.]
Councillor Wong-Tam, to her credit, is aware of the issues affecting cyclists, that "Toronto is a city that is sadly lacking in infrastructure for cyclists and other alternatives to personal motorized vehicles." She hasn't been clear, however, just where there can be a separated bike lane corridor from the lake up to Bloor if not on Sherbourne.
Instead her letter lists items she feels weren't addressed completely in the consultation:
These items include residential accessibility, potential restrictions to long-term economic revitalization, replacement of street parking, and the non-inclusion of a streetscaping strategy that would contribute to the immediate community's lived experience.
The councillor felt that "access to businesses and residential buildings for residents of the Sherbourne community with physical disabilities" wasn't addressed even though the staff showed how they addressed them at the Open House.
She is concerned about car parking since "parking along this route could be part of a longer-term revitalization strategy for this road." This despite that staff had noted that over 400 surplus parking spots in the immediate area. It seems that it's more about on-street parking for her. Since Transportation staff had chosen this particular separated bike lane design for safety reasons it has meant that Sherbourne's parking would have to be removed. So if Councillor Wong-Tam wishes to keep on-street parking for "revitalization" (as if bike lanes inhibit revitalization?) then there can be no separated bike lane.
...it seems like a lost opportunity to conduct a repaving and segregated lane project while ignoring the serious streetscaping needs of Sherbourne.
Is she implying that the bike budget should now be used to pay for trees, lighting and so on? That seems a bit irregular, especially considering that these don't need to be done at the same time as the road. There's no way a bike lane is stopping better lighting and trees.
Councillor Wong-Tam is a real estate agent and business owner, according to Wikipedia. Is it possible that she is thinking of this issue through the lens of a real estate agent, and not primarily as addressing the concerns of current residents or cyclists?
I support Councillor Wong-Tam's stance on Jarvis to keep the bike lanes (though she's been lukewarm on the bike lanes preferring more the prior EA plan of just widened sidewalks). I appreciate that she's willing to push for better urban planning. But this is Sherbourne and she doesn't seem to have consulted with local groups before her request to likely undo the improvements for cyclists.