By Ryan McGreal
Published May 28, 2010
After persistent hounding by your humble editor, Councillor Tom Jackson has responded with a thoughtful, detailed statement on his opposition to the planned bike lanes on Queensdale Ave, which Councillor Jackson moved to oppose after a public meeting to discuss the plan.
I may not agree with Councillor Jackson's reasoning, but I appreciate his willingness to explain his beliefs and provide opportunities for further discussion.
I asked Jackson if he believes that it's a Councillor's duty to interced with Council approved City-wide plans affecting their own ward - in this case, the Queensdale bike lane plan included in the council-approved Shifting Gears Cycling Master Plan.
He responded, "The answer for me is yes," noting, "the Council approved plans were 'subject to Ward Councillor's and Community and neighbourhood imput'."
At the public meeting held at Highview School near Queensdale, Jackson took a "straw vote" from the 40-odd people who attended - "including some cycling advocates from other parts of our City". He found that 17 were opposed to moving ahead on the bike lane and 12 were in favour.
Jackson believes the majority of his constituents "want the 'hard' infrastructure upgraded and modernized" and has concentrated his efforts on getting approval for the road reconstruction. The work will proceed this summer - excluding bike lanes.
Jackson noted that he does "not detect a clamouring from the broader community for 'commuter-type' bike lanes in our City." However, he does claim to support recreational bike lanes:
I have been a very strong supporter and advocate for expanding our "recreational" trail systems across our entire Community, including Ward 6 and pushing strongly for the construction of the "pedestrian/cycling bridge" over the "Linc" this summer, that hopefully will be completed by the Fall of this year.
Speaking more generally about increasing cycling across the city, Jackson expressed skepticism that a city-wide network of bike lanes would increase utility cycling.
Given our City's geography, from Flamborough to Stoney Creek and given our inclement weather, especially during winter times, I just do not see the number of "commuter" cylcists increasing with additional lanes being designed.
This argument, repeated often by opponents of a bike network, is simply not supported by the evidence. Cities with comparable geography and weather experience significant increases in cycling rates - with all the environmental, public health and economic benefits this entails - through building bike lane networks.
In fact, every city that sets out to build a network of bike lanes faces the same opposition - that bike lanes might work somewhere else but not here.
It's frankly discouraging to hear a city councillor with so many years of experience in office expressing empirically-discredited assumptions about an important transportation infrastructure project that staff and council have already approved.
Jackson also suggested that installing the bike lanes would require moving the fire hydrants across the street.
in order to install bike lanes (or markings) as they were referred to by staff, there would be a loss of some parking along the north side of Queensdale AND there would be extra costs to relocating fire hydrants from one side of Queensdale to the other side to accommodate the bike markings.
Last month I contacted Daryl Bender, the city's manager for alternative transportation, to ask about this issue. He responded:
The hydrants would not have to be relocated to accommodate the planned Queensdale cycling facility.
Bender added that moving the hydrants across the street would add about three or four more parking spots, but that a city-conducted parking study found there were more than enough spots to accommodate peak parking demand without the need to move the hydrants.