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Jarvis Bike Lanes Saved for One Year, Birchmount and Pharmacy Bike Lanes to be Removed

“If you take the bike lanes off Jarvis, you’re not taking the bicycles off Jarvis,” Councillor Pam McConnell (Ward 28, Toronto Centre-Rosedale)
“If we build another highway through Jarvis, we’ll disconnect these neighbourhoods once again. I’m trying to bring prosperity back to the downtown east side. ” Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam (Ward 27, Toronto Centre-Rosedale)

An emotional, often heated, and very symbolic debate has come to a close at City Hall. Council debated the future of three bike lanes—on Jarvis, Birchmount, and Pharmacy—yesterday evening and this morning. The upshot:

  • Jarvis bike lanes will remain for approximately one year, until separated bike lanes are installed on Sherbourne; at that point they will be removed.
  • Birchmount and Pharmacy bike lanes will be removed this year.

The debate was notable for the starkness of the language employed, with several councillors explicitly framing the disagreement over cycling infrastructure as a downtown vs. suburbs issue, and others as a Miller vs. Ford issue. Some charged that Ford’s allies were proceeding without any policy justification, simply motivated by the desire to undo that which Miller had done. Others said that downtown councillors were trying to impose a particular ideology on a city that had rejected it in the last election. (These divides have informed previous debates, but usually there’s at least more lip service paid to the idea that we might actually all be in this together.)

Strikingly absent: any real discussion of the original plan for Jarvis Street, which called for removing the centre/fifth lane of traffic, widening the curb lanes to accommodate cyclists, and widening sidewalks to create a pedestrian boulevard that was conducive to revitalizing the neighbourhood’s street life. Nobody proposed that today: though many charged that the bike lanes were a last-minute revision to the staff’s original proposal, and therefore ought to be undone, nobody seriously suggested that the recommendations in that original staff report be implemented. The well-being of the actual neighbourhoods around Jarvis were largely lost in the shuffle, with the debate focused on transportation issues almost exclusively.
From that report:

This solution offers the most potential to improve the pedestrian realm while offering the opportunity to implement urban design elements and street art to establish Jarvis Street as a cultural corridor with an emphasis on its heritage and historical significance. In terms of transportation impacts, the removal of the centre reversible lane will result in additional delay for vehicular traffic using Jarvis Street. However, the traffic analysis conducted indicates that with minor redistribution of traffic to other major north-south roads, overall the network in the study area will still operate at an acceptable level of service.

The decision taken today will lead to the restoration of the fifth traffic lane on Jarvis, and a rejection of both the original staff recommendations (for a wider pedestrian realm) and the amended version that ultimately passed—the one that created the bike lanes we have today.
As per the language in today’s city council agenda, this decision does not follow any recommendation or guidance provided by staff or outside planning consultants. It is the result of implementing the mayor’s preferred approach to cycling infrastructure—”a 100 km network of off-street bike trails and completion of critical on-street bike lane connections where the community supports them and where they do not impede traffic flow”—itself not a policy that resulted from any environmental assessments, traffic studies, or advice from urban planning experts (at least not any on public record).
Yesterday, we asked Denzil Minnan-Wong (Ward 34, Don Valley East), chair of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, whether he rejected the findings of numerous studies that have shown that increasing road capacity does not, in fact, reduce traffic gridlock. His reply? “I think that if you have more roads you will have traffic run better.”
And so, based on those thoughts, we are building our new Toronto.


  • yaz

    This is so incredibly depressing. Train meet wreck.

  • Anonymous416

    Sorry, everyone who lives, shops, goes to school, or works on Jarvis.  You get faster car traffic right up to the sidewalks.  You live on a highway again, enjoy the 1940s.  If the Russians launch a nuclear attack you will be able to evacuate up Mt. Pleasant a little faster though.

  • rajio

    Barefoot with your feet up? Really?

  • LadyFin

    I'm not sure “building” is what I would call it.

  • Pierre M Hamilton

    7-13. Never Forget.

  • Corbin Smith

    The hell? I still dont get the point of this? Isn't it going to take a lot of gravy to undo what is already done?

  • John Duncan

    Any copies of the actual motion as passed?
    And any chances of a further traffic count next year, since they'll be around for that long, at least?

  • The Real Johnson

    He's clearly not listening to any sort of thoughtful or researched rebuttals. Maybe it's time to just go back to fat jokes. There much more satisfying.

  • drybrain

    Mammoliti and the Fords are weirdly immune to reason or fact-based arguing, BUT, swapping the Jarvis lanes for seperated Sherbourne lanes is actually a good deal.

  • rmcw

    So, we can't have the bike lanes because they supposedly weren't part of the original plan for Jarvis… so we voted to remove the bike lanes, reinstall the fifth lane, and forget about the pedestrians?

    I understand that the majority won, but at least say what you actually mean when you decide to rip out infrastructure and waste money while doing it.

  • Marc Lostracco

    Attention Toronto cyclists: nobody likes a jerk cyclist—however, now that the bike lanes are being removed, be aware that a bicycle is classified as a slow-moving vehicle and you are legally allowed use of the entire right lane, and it's up to you if you choose to let cars pass you in it. Just sayin'…

  • Marc Lostracco

    Or, you know, have both. A few (literally) added minutes to one's Rosedale-Downtown automobile commute isn't an excruciating hardship for anyone other than selfish, entitled douchebags.

  • Nick

    Any idea if they will still adjust the left turn signals on Jarvis prior to
    adding back the fifth lane, to add to John Duncan's point above? Toronto
    Transportation Services claimed that this was in fact the main reason for the
    delays experienced by car drivers, not the installation of the bike lanes per se. It would seem to make more sense to adjust the left turn signals for a few bucks before spending $200k to remove the bike lanes. But what do I know about Respect for Taxpayers? And I agree with Hamutal's point about the original Jarvis plan being completely ignored. It's so weird that councillors from the burbs can decide for those who live near Jarvis that their road should be turned back into an expressway. Jane Jacobs would not be impressed.

  • Simon Vehicle!

    This is actually the safe thing to do.  Personally, if it's 6 or half a dozen I'd rather get hit straight from behind than turned into pulled-pork by a screaming BMW SUV driver.

  • Matt Lee

    Curious: Anybody know where's the staff report about its recommendations in response to what's was debated?

  • z00m3r

    Mayor Ford ate it… along with my bike.

    photo by z00m3r:

  • JohnfromTO

    Councillors Di Giorgio, Grimes, Kelly, Mammoliti, Milczyn, Moeser, Nunziata and Palacio all just voted to spend over $200,000 to reinstall the reversible Jarvis lane they voted to remove two years ago.

    This isn't austerity. This isn't conservatism. This is pure destruction and waste. Our tax dollars are being used to tear efficient infrastructure down, because some politicians have a “gut feeling” that entitles them to ignore the data, staff advice, the local councillor, and the expressed will of the Jarvis community, cyclists and the taxpayers who must pay for this destruction.

    Remember the names of the councillors who went along with this insanity. When people finally wise up and Ford turns toxic, these cowards must come down too.

    Thompson, Minnan-Wong, Stintz: forget about your mayoral ambitions. Toronto will not get fooled again.

  • Sol Chrom

    I'm not sure “thoughts” are what I would call them.

  • Andrew Smith

    bike lanes are good for cars too ya know, they make it easier to safely pass a cyclist. 

    I have heard many times that the reason why motorists dislike cyclists is because they are scared to hit them, bike lanes solve this. This is also why I personally dislike cyclists while wearing my motorist hat as opposed to by cyclist hat.

  • istoronto

    Our 41st Mayor, Sam Mcbride 1928 -29, had an interest approach to dealing with disagreeable councillors. Nathan Phillips recalled that as an alderman, McBride had a terrible temper. He once got into a fist fight with a fellow alderman and once threw a can of beans at alderman Joe Beamish, missing Beamish, but leaving a dent in the panelling of the council chamber. 

    If 26 councillors and the mayor are going to behave as if it is the 1930's and not the 21st century, then lets bring back some of the spirit of the 30's. I'd loved to see someone throw a tub of low fat, soy yogurt at Minnan-Wong or take a punch at Mammoliti.

  • Mark Jull

    Here's the motions and votes:

    If I'm reading it correctly, #11 says to revert Jarvis “asap” and Sherbourne will be done in a year. I don't see how people are interpreting this as 'Jarvis lanes will remain for one year':
     “City Council rescind its decision related to the bicycle lanes on Jarvis Street, and co-ordinate implementation of the proposed separation of bike lanes on Sherbourne Street from Bloor Street to Lake Shore Boulevard as an alternative, and staff be directed to take all steps required to revert Jarvis Street to its pre-existing operation such that implementation can be achieved as soon as possible, with all work to be completed on Sherbourne Street and Jarvis Street in 2012.”

  • HotDang

    The original motion by Wong-Tam was to remove Jarvis when Sherbourne was done. Minan-Wong amended it to say coordinate, which everyone complained didn't mean the same thing, but he insisted that it did, and that the sequential change was the spirit of his motion. He also instructed staff to interpret it that way.

    Opposing councillors suggested that they just get written orders, so it probably won't go down that way. We'll see I suppose.

  • Anonymous416

    Not to mention that Birchmount and Pharmacy lanes were removed because the local councilor said that her constituents wanted them gone, and since local communities should have control over their streets…

    Yet the Jarvis lanes were removed by steamrolling the objections of the local councilor and without consulting her constituents, because local communities have no business controlling how many cars can drive through them.

  • Tony Lau

    Yes, cyclists have the right to take the lane if it's not safe for car to share or overtake you on the same lane. BUT fellow cyclists, please don't do it because you are angry with the removal of bike lane, or doing it as a “payback” to the woman who drives a SUV. We don't need another excuse for the city and drivers to hate us.

    When we get hit by cars, we always lose.

  • gr8to

    Thank goodness you're here.  how would we possibly know what Toronto wants without you?

  • Joseph Cormier

    Toronto keeps voting for incompetent councillors and mayors, so we get what we vote for. The cycling lanes have been a poorly thought out process from the beginning and they please no one. Separate bike lanes are long over due but we should not reduce every other major thoroughfare to accommodate cyclists such as Jarvis and then one major road over on Sherbourne.

     I am all for greening along Jarvis and expanding the sidewalks and making Jarvis much more pedestrian friendly. Adding a bike lane or replacing the 5th lane for cars once again is not what we should be doing. Widen the sidewalks on Jarvis, put in a median along the centre lane with a walkway and add trees, benches, etc. 

     Are there studies that look at the long term impact of reducing lanes for vehicles to allow for bike lanes in a climate like ours?  In our climate what is the month to month usage for the lanes we are creating?  All I see are old studies or ones that are  very biased from either groups. A long term independent study needs to be done but in the meantime add some separate bike lanes, look at making more of our roads one way and then take into consideration pedestrian safety. Why do we insist in a city our size having all these two way streets when we could have more one way streets, separate bike lanes and in all probability increase the flow of traffic and make cycling much safer.

    Just a thought, I am not taking either side as I think both sides are willing to lie, stretch numbers, manipulate findings and take neither sides concerns into consideration. Have more one way roads and that leaves more room to add more separated bike lanes and from cities I have lived in with one way streets it seems to have more efficient traffic flow, hearsay and antidotal evidence is all I have but seems like a plan I have yet to hear anyone suggest or explore.

  • EtobicokeDad

    Okay, even I think removing the bike lanes on Jarvis is a stupid idea.  My opinion is based on:
    a) it will cost $200,000 to remove them (which makes no sense in a tight budget), and;
    b) that switching middle lane was frickin' dangerous/uncomfortable for motorists anyway

  • EtobicokeDad

    what the f' is antidoal evidence?  Is that evidence that cures you?  Maybe neutralizes cobra venom?

  • Kivi Shapiro

    Bikes *are* vehicles.  And year-round ones at that.

  • Spire Skyscraper

    So glad I moved to cheerful, enlightened, transit-, cyclist- and pedestrian-friendly New York a decade ago. 

    You people are screwed – and the worst part is, you actually voted for the buffoon!

  • qviri

    Oh sure. I'll just roll over and take the ravine where I will be giving no one an excuse to hate me. It will be all love and ribs (no gravy) in the ravines. Not.

  • Antinephalist

    Most of the people who use the bike lanes did not, because we all knew he was going to pull this sort of crap.

  • Antinephalist

    The MTO recommends that cyclists ride a metre away from the right-hand curb, or more if safety demands it. I plan on doing exactly that everywhere – in fact, I did that on my ride to work today, and I noticed less drivers aggressively passing me too closely, since they had to change lanes to pass.

    Most people crowd the curb, riding perhaps half a metre away. Take the metre – it's safer for you and cars have to go around properly or wait.

  • Rnadom

    Just Imagine if Ford wrote the HTA, he wouldn’t have a clue (Would probably ignore consultants, do it fast because he can’t wait that long, ban cyclists, motorcycles, slow moving vehicles, trucks to 100 km of off-street trails THAT HAVE NO SNOW PLOWS IN THE WINTER). He only talks about riding bikes as a toddler. He wouldn’t know anything about REAL cycling.