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Public Works Committee Moves to Eliminate Jarvis Bike Lanes

Photo by Michael Chrisman/Torontoist.

Surprising his colleagues, assembled cycling activists, and Torontonians at large, Councillor John Parker (Ward 26, Don Valley West) moved a motion late this afternoon at the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee calling for the removal of the Jarvis Street bike lanes. Installed less than a year ago after much controversy and heated debate, the Jarvis lanes have served as something of a symbol for mounting tensions between cyclists and those who would prefer to keep roadways primarily, if not exclusively, the domain of cars. The majority of Parker’s colleagues agreed that the lane is problematic, and the committee has just voted 4-2 to proceed with the removal. Voting in favour: John Parker, Mark Grimes (Ward 6, Etobicoke Lakeshore); David Shiner (Ward 24, Willowdale); and committee chair Denzil Minnan-Wong (Ward 34, Don Valley East). Voting against: Gord Perks (Ward 14, Parkdale-High Park) and Mike Layton (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina).
In a report released earlier this month, City examined the impact the installation of the bike lanes had had on traffic of all type on Jarvis [PDF]. From that report:

  • Prior to the installation of bicycle lanes on Jarvis Street, the volume of cyclists in both directions averaged approximately 290 in total during the peak eight hours on a weekday.
  • Following the installation of the bicycle lanes, the eight hour volume of cyclists increased to approximately 890 on average, an increase in volume of over three times.
  • Vehicle traffic counts on Jarvis Street prior to the installation of bike lanes in both directions averaged approximately 13,000 vehicles in total during the same eight hour period.
  • Following the installation of bike lanes, the vehicle volumes remained approximately the same, averaging over 13,000 vehicles in both directions during this eight hour period.

Condemnation from the cycling community is coming in fierce and fast. Dave Meslin, founder of the Toronto Cyclists Union and founding publisher of cycling magazine dandyhorse tweeted: “I’ve been involved with bike activism for 14 yrs. Without doubt, this has been the worst day I’ve ever seen… TO’s cyclists just got run over by amalgamation. Suburban councillors have declared a War on the Bike.”
The bike lane runs through Ward 27, represented by Kristyn Wong-Tam. She too was both surprised and aghast at this move: “As the local councillor I wasn’t asked, nor was my community consulted… My community deserves to have a say.”
Today’s decision by the Public Works Committee is not final: it will need to be approved by the full city council at its next meeting, which will be held July 12–13.


  • pickle_juice_drinker

    John Parker represents Don Valley West.

    He probably drives down Jarvis every day.

    Vested interest for the win!

  • Simon Vehicle!

    I guess I'll just take that whole lane then.  Don't like bike lanes?  Fine, I'll use the car lanes.  ALL OF IT.

    /hurr durr, I'll get runover!  Ohnoes!

  • rmcw

    If there is anything the Fort York bridge and the removal of the Dupont/Lansdowne mural has taught me, it's that community consultation is apparently optional.

  • Mark Jull

    So is that it? Or does this need to be approved by council?

  • Jeremy Woodcock

    It needs to be approved by council, in about three weeks.

  • James Lippens

    read the article. it says it needs to be approved by council.

  • rich1299

    Hopefully city council shows some backbone and votes to keep the Jarvis St bike lanes considering how little impact they've had on car traffic and how much impact they've had in increasing the number of cyclists. Without the bike lanes on Jarvis some people may very well choose to drive instead increasing congestion on the roads, we need a comprehensive network of bike lanes throughout the city and on major roads, encouraging people to ride their bikes not only helps reduce congestion but helps the environment and people's health which also helps reduce our health care costs.

    I'm not much of bike rider myself but it just makes sense to provide as many transportation options as possible in this city, especially ones which take up so little space and are so good for the environment and people's health as biking is. Besides which how much will it cost to remove them?  I thought we were supposed to be making spending cuts because the city is in a hole, why waste money removing perfectly good bike lanes?

    Then again why waste money on a subway where an LRT line would more than provide enough coverage? and why waste money burying the Eglinton LRT when outside the city centre Eglinton is plenty wide enough to accomadate an above ground LRT? Oh yeah Ford is supposed to be saving our city from financial disaster, right? So far all I've seen from Ford is wasteful spending, first cutting the vehicle registration tax, then insisting on burying transit and building subways where there's no forseeable need for subways or burying transit. Now they want to spend even more money removing bike lanes. When exactly is Ford going to get around to getting the city's spending under control? So far all he's done is spend spend spend on his ideological pet causes instead of doing anything positive for the city.

  • Marc Lostracco

    Dumbasses. I used to live along that stretch of Jarvis, which was like having a freeway cutting through the neighbourhood. I drove on it then, and I drove on it now, and I see virtually zero difference in the time it takes, OTHER THAN the left-turning cars at Gerrard, which is still a major bottleneck that should have been eliminated. The area north of Gerrard, which is where most of the middle lane used to be, is no more congested than it used to be.

    Though I drive on Jarvis all the time, I have also been a cyclist on Jarvis for years. The difference now is that I don't feel like I'm on an Autobahn where I'm going to die a horrible, unexpected death every time I take that route.

    But yeah…I'm extremely familiar with Jarvis, having first lived along it in 1992, and I feel that there is absolutely no question that it's in better shape now.

    I drive every day and get very frustrated with traffic like everyone else, but I still think Jarvis bike lane opponents are sounding like bratty crybabies with an unattractive sense of entitlement.

  • Ian Trider

    I've e-mailed my councillor to let him know how I feel about this; I suggest you do too.

  • Cameron Reid


    So, if this goes through, we end up paying to install the lanes and then remove them a year later?How does that square with the massive budget crunch we're facing?

  • simonyyz

    “I’ve never supported the bike lanes on Jarvis. Eventually would I like to see them go, absolutely, but is it a priority now? I haven’t got any documentation or anything like that so no, it’s not something that’s going to happen immediately,” Mr. Ford told reporters on Thursday. “Whoever started this rumour, it’s just a rumour for now.”

    Rob Ford, May 20, 2011

  • gr8to

    You don't make decisions based on sunk costs.  And the cost will be tiny compared to the shortfall.

  • John Semley

    more like Public Jerks Committee, amirite?

  • Matt Patterson

    If Mayor Ford and his gang are so insistent on keeping cars and bikes on separate roads, then I have a compromise.  The cars can have Denzil Minnan-Wong's little square of separate lanes, and cyclists will take the rest of the downtown street grid.

  • Richard Murray

    Fair enough, not making decisions based on spent money… but spending even a small amount of money on removing them is inexcusable with Rob Ford's decree to reduce spending. Saving $20K on a councillor's office expenses is VITAL to making ends meet, but spending money to remove the bike lanes, change signage, etc, is okay?

  • Paul Kishimoto

    You're absolutely right. The sunk costs of the Fort York bridge shouldn't affect our decision, and are tiny compared to the budget shortfall, which is why the Committee is entirely consistent in—what? They did? Oh.

  • Paul Kishimoto

    I hope people are beginning to learn that there is more to good government than having a list of things you want to do and then just working your way through that list while ignoring everything else.

  • Len Senater

    “The majority of Parker's colleagues agreed that the lane is problematic”

    What exactly is the problem? Why is it not mentioned? Clearly it is not traffic volume. What then? 

    If something was negatively affecting 13,000 people but benefiting only 890, I might try and sympathize with the decision even if I happen to be one of the minority (FWIW, I am an avid urban cyclist living downtown – I didn't even get a driver's license until I turned 40). Personally, I think it's a terrible idea for a number of reasons, but I'd at least like to know on what grounds they are proposing it…

  • Yvette Rath

    Figures…take out all that is good :-(
    I don't live anywhere near this, so I shouldn't really have an opinion, but I know how unsafe I feel if I have to ride my bike in a city without bike lanes and I know what it's like to be a pedestrian  almost run down by cyclist.
    City/town councils really need a wake up call…
    Put this to a vote by the public, then make decisions based on that.
    We are to people who give them their jobs…argh!!

  • Toronto_Dave

    Yes, exactly. Drives down Jarvis every day but doesn't give a crap about anyone who actually lives around there.

  • isyouhappy

    Time to write to our councillors. Today.

  • John Duncan

    Posted this comment on Spacing, but I'll chime in here as well. I'm not a lawyer, but I am very curious about the grounds for appeal regarding Council removing bike lanes.

    Section 24 of the Planning Act requires that all Public Works undertaken by a municipality conform with their Official Plan:
    24. (1) Despite any other general or special Act, where an official plan is in effect, no public work shall be undertaken and, except as provided in subsections (2) and (4), no by-law shall be passed for any purpose that does not conform therewith. R.S.O. 1990, c. P.13, s. 24 (1); 1999, c. 12, Sched. M, s. 24.

    Toronto's Official Plan has policies regarding transportation.
    Some excerpts from the Policies in Section 2.4:
    1. Travel demand management (TDM) measures will be introduced to reduce car dependency and rush-hour congestion by:
    a) increasing the proportion of trips made by transit, walking and cycling;
    7. Policies, programs and infrastructure will be introduced to create a safe, comfortable and bicycle friendly environment that encourages people of all ages to cycle for everyday transportation and enjoyment including:
    a) an expanded bikeway network; and
    d) measures to improve the safety of cyclists through the design and operation of streets and through education and promotion programs.

    The Province is also pretty clear about encouraging modal shift away from private automobiles in the Places to Grow Growth Plan. From Section 3.2.3:
    3. Municipalities will ensure that pedestrian and bicycle networks are integrated into transportation planning to –
    a) provide safe, comfortable travel for pedestrians and bicyclists within existing communities and new development
    b) provide linkages between intensification areas, adjacent neighbourhoods, and transit stations, including dedicated lane space for bicyclists on the major street network where feasible.

    Removing the Jarvis bike lanes, which have documented evidence of increasing the proportion of trips made by cycling in the area, is a public work, and does not appear to be in conformity with the goals and policies of Toronto's Official Plan. Thus, to do so would require an Official Plan amendment. Said amendment would not be in conformity with Provincial Policy in the form of the Growth Plan and thus would be appealable to the OMB.

    What am I missing?

  • Paul Kishimoto

    I don't know if the OMB is the best venue in which to challenge this…they seem to be capricious. A better way would be to raise the issue with Glen Murray, the local MPP; as a cabinet minister perhaps he could bring some pressure to bear on the city. Bob Rae is also worth a try, although he may be busy elsewhere.

  • ObsessiveCompulsiveDaniela

    I emailed Rob Ford to voice my support in keeping the bike lanes. Here's his response:

    Thank you for your email regarding the bike lanes on Jarvis Street. I appreciate hearing from you. Toronto's economy loses billions of dollars every year from gridlock and traffic congestion. We need to make the situation better – not worse. The Jarvis Street bike lanes experiment has been a failure. Ninety-four percent of commuters now face longer commutes on Jarvis Street. Over 15,000 commuters each day are suffering from longer travel times, for the sake of 600 additional cyclists.The City should remove the bike lanes as soon as possible and improve travel times for thousands of daily commuters. City staff have been directed to develop a low-cost plan to do so. Bike lanes were never intended to be installed on Jarvis Street. The original Environmental Assessment recommended against installing bike lanes – but City Council amended the report to approve bike lanes anyway.As promised during the mayoral election, I am dedicated to delivering customer service excellence, creating a transparent and accountable government, reducing the size and cost of government and building a transportation city.Thank you again for taking the time to share your thoughts. Please feel free to contact my office again at any time.

    Yours truly,
    Mayor Rob Ford 
    City of Toronto

  • Paul Kishimoto

    “Canada's economy loses billions of dollars every year from disease caused by second hand smoke. We are determined to eliminate this passive smoking problem by giving cigarettes to everybody.”