Bike lane controversy continues to simmer

What is the one thing Toronto Cyclists Union executive director Yvonne Bambrick and mayoral candidate Rocco Rossi have in common?

Both want to encourage Torontonians to cycle, but disagree whether dedicated bike lanes should be built along heavily travelled arterial roads or along secondary streets. Central to the discussion is the fate of new bike lanes along Jarvis Street, a plan recently backed by city council.

The addition of bicycle lanes was a provision made to the Jarvis Street Streetscape Improvement Environmental Assessment, a study to improve the public realm of the Jarvis area. Although the decision to develop bike lanes on Jarvis Street, a north-south arterial road, has been finalized, Rossi believes building them on secondary streets will benefit everyone.

Meanwhile, life-long cyclist Bambrick, sees it differently: “If you think about providing Torontonians with real options and alternatives to taking a car, using the subway or walking, then creating a safe place for cyclists to ride on the road is really the way to encourage new people to cycle.” Bambrick said.

Despite Rossi’s objection towards developing bike lanes on arterial roads, Bambrick says cyclists will rightfully continue to use them and deems their safety a priority.

“Whether Rocco Rossi likes it or not, bikes will be on arterial roads and they are going to be in harm’s way. If we continue to shuttle bikes through tight, unsafe curb lanes and heavy traffic it just won’t work,” Bambrick said.

“Bikes are present and we have to accommodate safe passage for the citizens in our city that want to make that choice.”

Building a better transit system is one of the key components in Rossi’s mayoral campaign. He believes until the TTC sees improvements, using a car as a means of transportation won’t be an option for citizens, it will be a necessity. For Rossi, accommodations for cyclists should only be put into action when cycling becomes the main option.

“Down the road if we discovered that the majority of Torontonians went to work on their bicycles, then you’d have to start building different networks.” Rossi said.

But according to Bambrick, there is no more room in the city for cars and expanding the transit system is too time consuming. She feels the cheapest, fastest and most efficient way to increase capacity on the road ways is to build bike infrastructure. Bambrick argues that cyclists are left out and have to fight against the other forms of transportation.

“If you think about the way our streets are built, there is designated space for transit, pedestrians, cars and trucks but where are bikes?” questions Bambrick.

“Cyclists are left to fend for themselves between moving and stationary vehicles.”

The solution? Utilizing the bicycle lanes on Sherbourne Street, said Rossi. “Quite frankly, there are already bike lanes on Sherbourne Street right next to Jarvis [Street] that doesn’t have a huge amount of traffic.” he said.

“To take out another lane of traffic on a road that moves almost 30,000 cars everyday just doesn’t add up.”

However, Bambrick insists relegating bicycles to just side streets is unrealistic: “There is no convenient or straight-forward way to move from one part of the city to another only on side streets,” she said.

“The bottom line is people take arterial roads because it’s usually the most direct route to get somewhere.”

A cyclist himself, Rossi said he’s not opposed to bike lanes but simply wants an extended network; Bambrick doesn’t buy it.

“You can’t say you support bike lanes but not in the places they are most needed.” she said.

Rossi on the other hand, frequently questions where exactly they are needed.

“Show me the volume in numbers on Sherbourne; that it’s bursting at the seams and needs another route right beside it. Show me how these numbers relate to the number of cars, people and trucks that we are trying to move at the same time,” Rossi said.

“I want a fact-based discussion that I am happy to discuss at any time on the merits of the arguments and not simply ideology.”

When all is said and done, Bambrick insists a war between the two isn’t brewing. For her, the main objective is to find a better solution to accommodate cyclists throughout the city.

“There is no war here. It’s really just about rethinking how we move people through our city and trying to accommodate them,” Bambrick said.

“We need to give more options to people who wish to take active transportation instead of passive and public transportation.”

About this article

By: Alicia Baird
Posted: Mar 22 2010 8:12 am
Filed under: News

7 Comments on "Bike lane controversy continues to simmer"

  1. Transity, the bike demand on Jarvis is low for many reasons, lack of destinations, lack of safety, proximity to Sherbourne, and oh yeah, it’s connected to a freeway in the north and a major expressway interchange in the south.

    Let’s get to the streets with high bike demand first, like Bloor. We’re wasting too much time and energy with Jarvis which few cyclists will ever use.

  2. I’d like to clarify a point above that is misleading.

    This line – ‘But according to Bambrick,… expanding the transit system is too time consuming.’- does not accurately reflect the point I was trying to make.

    I completely support major public transit expansion, but given how long these things take, and the extraordinary costs associated, I was simply trying to contextualize how much more quickly and inexpensively meaningful cycling infrastructure can be implemented as we wait for transit expansions to be funded and completed.

  3. Joey Cycles | March 23, 2010 at 10:41 am |

    Sherbourne is a pretty decent route. If you are coming across the danforth from the east it is perfect for getting to Wellsley, Dundas, Queen and Queens Quay. It needs repaving is al it needs.

    Noone has ever really said why Jarvis needs bikelanes and I have not read about residents demanding them. Not even in the originalplan to help that area become less like a freeway.

    It is a shame the bike loby decided that this is their lightning rod because anyone can see they are not needed on Jarvis especially when the original streetscap plan would have made Jarvis much safer than it is now for cyclists and much better for residents.

    Maybe on Bloor, but not Jarvis at least not yet. it will be a parking lane bordered by fast moving traffic and we all knwo it but the bike lobby dug a hole. Rossi is filling it.

  4. Cyclists have nothing to do with removing the 5th lane on Jarvis. Absolutely nothing.

    Jarvis was always going to be narrowed to four lanes. If you’re upset the 5th lane wasn’t allocated to sidewalks at an extra cost of $1 million, then… vote for Rossi???

  5. Transity Cyclist | March 22, 2010 at 11:14 pm |

    Imagine telling a cyclist who lives on Jarvis, “Sorry, but we don’t think that you should have the right to cycle safely on your own street. After all, car commuters convenience is top priority!”.

  6. I wish the Jarvis nonsense would just die already. It’s not the centre of the universe, and it’s fate is largely inconsequential to cyclists.

    But when Rossi makes absurd statements like “never on arterials”, he is either being dishonest, or has never tried to bike in Toronto.

    Safe, segregated bike lanes through busy streets can be built in Montreal, Vancouver, New York, Ottawa… why not in Toronto? Not every busy street, just the ones with high cyclist demand like Bloor.

  7. Given that traffic congestion plagues our city streets, the appropriate response should be the one which helps to offset congestion most.

    Let’s be realistic. If we cut the bandwidth of Jarvis down by an entire lane are we going to see the same throughput on the bike lanes to make up for it? I’m guessing no.

    The fact is that bike lanes on arterial roads will not address the broader congestion concerns affecting ALL commuters.

    Rocco Rossi has pointed out time and again that there is already an existing bike infrastructure in Toronto. Sherbourne has bike lanes. Are they at such a capacity that we need to offload bike traffic onto Jarvis?

    Probably not.

    I believe we need to focus on an extended bike network which makes it safer for cyclists to get around BUT NEVER at the expensive of further crippling our arterial roads.

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