Toronto just ordered a thousand new bikes, then nixed plans to install bike lanes on one of the City’s most central thoroughfares. And it was all a terrible mistake.
The thousand new bikes are courtesy of Bixi, which passed Council on Tuesday night, meaning the public bike-share system is set to arrive in Toronto next May. But earlier tonight, in a late session, with just twenty-eight councillors in their seats, a proposal to add bike lanes to University Avenue died a pretty unceremonious death.
The University Avenue bike lane pilot project, which we wrote about when it first came up for consideration last month, would have resulted in the temporary installation of median bike lanes along University Avenue and part of Queen’s Park Crescent, starting in July and ending in September. After the trial period, the City would have considered installing the lanes permanently. Adding them would have necessitated eliminating a car lane in each direction on the busy arterial, bringing it down to a total of six car lanes, from eight.
All other bike lane expansions under consideration by Council (including new “bike boxes” on College and Harbord streets) were approved. The University Avenue lanes were singled out for removal as a result of a motion by Councillor Suzan Hall (Ward 1, Etobicoke North). The final vote against the lanes was 15-13. The City Clerk’s blog, as always, has the complete breakdown.
Cyclists can at least console themselves with Bixi, which passed 33-8, thanks in part to a vigorous defense of the program’s financials and logistics in Council Chambers Tuesday by Daniel Egan, manager of cycling and infrastructure programs for the City, and Gary Welsh, general manager of transportation services.
At issue was the 4.8 million dollar loan the Public Bike System Company (the company that will operate Bixi Toronto) will be taking out in advance of Bixi Toronto’s launch. The City is getting Bixi at no cost, but is required to act as guarantor for the loan, meaning taxpayers will be on the hook if the PBSC defaults. City staff said, during the debate, that Toronto currently has eight to ten such loan guarantees outstanding, and that none of them have ever defaulted. The PBSC is considered a worthy credit risk because they’re owned by the City of Montreal’s private parking authority.
Bixi needs to line up three years’ worth of sponsorships and 1,000 membership pledges before the loan money starts to flow, but assuming the PBSC and the City can do that, the program will launch with eighty stations, a year from now. City staff say prices will be similar to those in Montreal, where Bixi costs $78 a year, and day passes are $5.
: Former Torontoist contributor Jonathan Goldsbie, who was watching online while the University Bike lane vote was coming down, adds this interesting tidbit: Councillor Paula Fletcher (Ward 30, Toronto-Danforth), whose tie-breaking vote led to the nixing of the lanes, may have voted in error, due to what she insisted, at the time, was a computer glitch. Jonathan writes: “It’s possible, but I’m inclined to think it’s more likely that she just pressed the wrong button.” The Globe agrees. Fletcher apparently attempted to have her vote reversed, but was rebuffed.
This article originally mistakenly said that Bixi, in Montreal, cost $78 a month; rather, it’s $78 a year.
This article also originally mistakenly said that the Public Bike System Company was owned by the City of Montreal. In fact, PBSC is a subsidiary of Stationnement de Montreal, Montreal’s parking authority, which is in turn a subsidiary of Montreal’s privately owned Board of Trade.