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How to Save the Jarvis Bike Lanes

After a contentious and hyperbolic battle leading to their installation in 2010, the Jarvis Street bike lanes are back in the news. Following a surprise motion moved by Councillor John Parker (Ward 26, Don Valley West) at last week’s meeting of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, city council will once again discuss the future of Jarvis Street at its next meeting, on July 12 and 13.
The Toronto Cyclists Union has already launched a Save Jarvis campaign, and local cycling activists are working to mobilize the community and build support for maintaining the lanes, which are used by more than 900 cyclists every day. But, given the fiercely-divided nature of city council and the effectiveness with which Mayor Ford and his allies have built support for their pet issues, the question has to be asked: is there enough opposition on council to have a hope of saving the bike lanes?

Looking at the results from the original vote that approved the bike lanes in 2009 (by a margin of 28-16), as well as voting trends in this term of council, the answer is maybe. But it’s not going to be easy.
Let’s look at the data.
First, a quick disclaimer—this is all somewhat speculative. Councillors tend not to reveal their voting intentions publicly, so in some cases this amounts to little more than a best guess.
Based on the available voting records, public statements on the issue, and the results of related council votes, it so far looks like 17 councillors will vote in favour of keeping of the bike lanes, 18 will vote against, and 10 are undecided or uncommitted. To maintain the status quo, six of those 10 will need to vote against the motion to remove the lanes.
Surprisingly, seven councillors who are currently strongly aligned with Ford voted in favour of the bike lanes back in 2009. (The “‘Ford Nation’ Percentage” column on the right indicates to what degree a councillor has supported the mayor on major items. A 100 per cent score means the councillor has supported Ford on every significant vote.)
Of those who originally voted in favour of the bike lanes, Giorgio Mammoliti (Ward 7, York West), Mark Grimes (Ward 6, Etobicoke-Lakeshore) and Speaker Frances Nunziata (Ward 11, York South-Weston) are virtual locks to support the mayor, while others are more difficult to predict. Given the controversial nature of the lanes, and the long-simmering car-versus-bikes war that so captivates this city, it seems likely that some will have a very hard time making up their minds.
Contact information for all councillors is available on the City’s website. They’ll want to hear from you on this issue.
Matt Elliott writes Ford For Toronto, a blog that follows city politics in Toronto. A version of this chart first appeared there.


  • Nick

    If the City is not planning on putting back the centre lane to increase space for cars, then it will have been a collasal waste of taxpayers dollars ($160,000 to install them last year and remove them this year). This is not Respect for Taxpayers. And given that travel times have not been significantly altered (and most delays due to a left turn issue not yet resolved) one has to ask: WTF?!? This amount of money could fund my research program for 3 years – it's not insignificant.

  • perspecticus

    When you contact the Mayor and your Councillor, be sure to include all bike lanes that are on the chopping block: Jarvis, Birchmount & Pharmacy.

    Let's not compromise cyclist safety, smart spending & local economic benefits for ideology!

  • JohnfromTO

    It cost about $60,000 to paint bike lanes on Jarvis, but it cost much more than that to take down all the signalling infrastructure for the reversible middle lane. And I would guess it will cost far more to purchase and reinstall this infrastructure. Restoring the middle lane could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Of course, we don`t know for sure, and so-called fiscal conservative John Parker doesn't seem to care that we don't know.

    Not only have so-called conservatives lost all fiscal discipline, they are joined by flip-flopping councillors like Mark Gimes, who just voted to reinstall costly infrastructure that he voted to remove only two years ago. Will Councillors Di Giorgio, Kelly, Mammoliti, Milczyn, Moeser, Nunziata and Palacio join Grimes in this flip-flopping wastefulness?

    Matt Elliott today has a video of Councillor Mammoliti arguing strongly in favor of removing the reversible middle lane. Less than a year later, he was demanding that the lane be restored, and no one called him out on his hypocritical flip-flopping.

    And there's one last flip-flopper: Mayor Rob Ford. During the election campaign, candidate Ford said:

    Q: Would you remove the [Jarvis] lanes if you are elected?

    Ford: No. It would be a waste of money to remove it if it's already there; that is, unless there was a huge public outcry in the area.

    Of course, whether there is or is not a public outcry in the Jarvis area will remain unknown, because the Public Works committee voted to oppose community consultations to discuss this issue.

    In a time of austerity, why would anyone choose to divert hundreds of thousands of dollars from other priorities to reinstall the middle Jarvis lane, when the City’s own data show that its removal has not significantly affected traffic?

  • simonyyz

    I just wanted to thank Matt Elliot for doing this good research and to say that I've made use of it by writing all the Councillors (+ my own) identified as potential 'swing votes'. This is great, thanks.