2012 Villain: Bike Lane Fiascos
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2012 Villain: Bike Lane Fiascos

Nominated for: making Toronto more angry, more congested, and less safe.

Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains: the very best and very worst people, places, things, and ideas that have had an influence on the city over the past 12 months. From December 10 to 19, we’ll unveil the nominees, grouped by category. Vote for your favourites from each batch, every single day! On December 19 and 20 the winners from each category go head-to-head in the final round of voting, and on December 21, we will reveal your choices for Toronto’s Superhero and Supervillain of the year.

Bike lanes. Oh, did you just flinch when we said that? Did your eyebrows arch up? Did your hands grip your steering wheel a bit harder, or did you stealthily put a finger on your bell, ready to ring it at any time?

Ah, bike lanes in Toronto. Every year it becomes a more politicized and fraught issue than the last. In 2012 we saw the death of five cyclists, the loss of the Jarvis lane, the creation of a vexed Sherbourne lane, and an ever-growing divide between cycling downtown and everywhere else.

Toronto has more than one million adult cyclists. We need the cycling infrastructure to support those people—to make sure the regular riders can travel safely, to make the occasional riders comfortable cycling more often, and to keep all other road users accident-free as well. Our discourse should be about cycling education and how to share roads effectively, not about who deserves the roads more or how we should trade infrastructure in one place for another. (It’s okay to lose Jarvis, cyclists, because you’re getting Sherbourne. Right?)

This year, city council spent $300,000 to remove a successful bike lane, deviated from the 10-year-old plan to expand the city’s cycling network, and undermined our reputation as a bike-friendly city. Installing and maintaining bike lanes is an issue of public safety, as this map unfortunately illustrates, and it is also a cost-effective way to reduce wear and tear on the streets. The implementation of the Jarvis bike lane, for example, greatly reduced collisions in its first year and only cost $59,000.

Citizens shouldn’t have to risk—and in some cases lose—their lives in order to shine a light on the chronic and now worsening problem on our roads. We know that things can be better: Ontario’s coroner found that 100 per cent of cyclist deaths between 2006 and 2010 were preventable, and that better infrastructure would have played a major role in preventing them.

One step back, two steps forward. The province just released a draft cycling strategy that aims to improve cycling infrastructure, public education, and safety. The public can submit comments through January 29, 2013.

See the other nominees in the Cityscape category:

The Gardiner Expressway

An eyesore that’s creating an increasingly dangerous commute.
  Breaking Condo Glass

Causing injury, closing streets, and sparking lawsuits.
  Donald Trump

Lending his name to an ugly, failing project.

Extreme NIMBYism

Taking the fear of change to irrational heights.
  Casino Pressure

Making it hard to make a good decision.
  The Impossible Rental Market

Vacancy rates that make renting hopeless.

Cast Your Ballot