The Jarvis bike lane brouhaha was such fractious fun last summer that city hall is bringing it back

The Jarvis bike lane brouhaha was such fractious fun last summer that city hall is bringing it back

The Jarvis Street bike lanes' days may be numbered (Image: Bitpicture)

Last year’s mayoral election was chock full of wacky issues—the 48-hour scandal over whether Rob Ford likes immigrants or not; the obsession with the poll that didn’t exist; anything Sarah Thomson said about subways—but the wackiest of the bunch had to be the nasty, protracted fight over the Jarvis bike lane. Well, it looks like the bitter battle is coming back again this summer. Although Ford’s new cycling plan is focused more on creating curb-separated bike lanes in the downtown core and less on trashing the paint-on-asphalt lines on Jarvis Street, critics are still worried that the painted lanes are destined for the chopping block.

Both Ford and Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, who heads Toronto’s Cycling Committee, admitted to the Toronto Star yesterday that they’d eventually like to see the Jarvis lanes go. While they don’t have imminent plans to get rid of them, it still sounds like the lanes’ days are numbered:

“Eventually, would I like to see them go? Absolutely. But is it a priority right now? I haven’t got any documentation or anything like that. So, no, it’s not something that’s going to happen immediately. It might happen, but whoever started this rumour, it’s just a rumour for now,” Rob Ford said.

Minnan-Wong said the Jarvis lanes have always been controversial. “I’ve spoken to a lot of councillors that aren’t happy with it,” he said, adding “there is no organized effort” to eliminate them.

It’s tempting to look at this like a trade: in exchange for giving up Jarvis, cyclists get a curb-separated lane one block over on Sherbourne. A win-win? Not really. When Minnan-Wong proposed his separated bike lane back in January, we were cautiously optimistic, but still a little nervous about Jarvis. Now it looks like we were right, even though the reality is that removing the Jarvis bike lane will: a) cost taxpayers money; b) do almost nothing to improve traffic flow; and c) still be a net loss for bike-friendly space in Toronto.

If the bike lane was actually crippling traffic, that would be one thing, but the numbers from city staff don’t support that at all; quite the contrary, in fact. If Ford and co. think this as a trade, it’s a lousy one for cyclists—and it’s not much better for the rest of the city, either.

Mayor’s bike plan to feature physically separated lanes [Toronto Star]
Cycling advocates fighting to keep lanes on Jarvis St. [Toronto Sun]
Ford’s hands off Jarvis Street bike lanes – for now [Globe and Mail]