I attended the Toronto City Council debate on the Jarvis Street bike plan proposal this morning (unfortunatly I had to leave early and miss the vote). By all accounts the vote is expected to be close. Now why would this be?
The cyclists' cause was not helped by the city's local newspaper's oppostion to the plan, published - conveviently - today:
Jarvis St. is a major north-south thoroughfare, with five lanes accommodating an estimated 28,000 cars daily. The route is made especially efficient by a reversible centre lane that changes to accommodate morning and evening rush hours.
This would no longer be the case under an ill-thought-out $6 million "streetscape improvement" plan to be considered by Toronto City Council as it meets today and tomorrow.
There is a very real risk that these largely cosmetic changes would add to gridlock in the downtown core.
This editorial, published to coincide with City Council's vote on the Jarvis Street bike lane proposal, made me drop my morning toast. Is this the Star I'm reading...?
The editorial cartoon - a highway sign with five lanes for bikes and one for cars - didn't improve my appetite either. What city am I living in? I wondered.
I recently moved to Toronto from Hamilton - a town, as we know, which has a virtual hard-on for the car. I thought Toronto was supposed to be different. I thought Toronto was a town committed to improving accessibility and transit options for all its residents.
Why would the local newspaper get so upset about the loss of a single lane on a five lane street? Could it have something to do with the sensitivities of their car and homebuilder advertisers?
And why do we have a downtown freeway anyway? I thought our passion for downtown racetracks died with the cancelling of the Spadina Expressway?
Jarvis is a neighbourhood street, with three schools and numerous dwellings. The fact that it is no longer the grand boulevard it used to be is no reason to let it languish. Can we not reclaim what we once had?
The Jarvis Street redesign is a litmus test for Toronto. It asks us to consider, and answer, the question: What kind of city do we want?
You cannot make significant improvements to pedestrian and cycling accessibility without a reduction is car lanes. I have a knot in my stomach, a feeling that I am spiralling back into the regressive city building universe I recently left behind.
I want Toronto to show Hamilton, and other cities, the way. I'll be holding my breath for the vote.
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