Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Challenge to Councillors to Get on a Bike

This is a comment that I wrote in response to Councillor Parker's memo: "Why I voted to kill Jarvis bike lanes: Parker" that was posted on Cycling Hub, but for whatever reason it wouldn't post. So here it is:

If you want a truly useable network of bike routes you can't take them away from Jarvis, Pharmacy and Birchmount.

Bike lanes are needed on just about all major roadways. If you are in a car it's no big deal to go an extra block or two to drive along a faster road but if you are under your own power, it is not going to happen just like somebody wouldn't walk over to Sherbourne to go along that street if there were no sidewalks on Jarvis. If this city is serious about getting people out of their cars to make getting around easier for everyone then you city councilors have to get serious about providing a lot more bike lanes on major routes.

Taking bike lanes off Jarvis is a step backwards. There are ways to make the traffic move more quickly without sacrificing the bike lanes (hint: one recommendation is in the staff report, Bikeway Network - 2011 Update, p.17). If you really thought cars were so important and wanted to add more room for car traffic you could take out the sidewalks and then you could add two extra car lanes! But people would think that's crazy. If we provide the bike lanes now and build a great network, more people will ride and will look back to this idea of taking out the bike lanes on Jarvis as just as crazy an idea.

Nobody really liked that center lane anyway. And even if it gives those cars back a few minutes extra in their commute that is going to disappear in no time as the number of cars on the roads increase. Also, I find particularly unconvincing Councilor Minan-Wong's argument that we now have a "congestion problem" on Jarvis. The staff report doesn't indicate anything of the sort. It says cars have been slowed down a little. Cars on residential streets drive even more slowly, it doesn't mean there are "congestion problems" on our side streets.

To quote @BikingToronto: "It's movement of PEOPLE that creates economic activity, NOT the movement of cars. :)" Then there is a link to the article, Across Europe, Irking Drivers Is Urban Policy.

Once most people get onto a bike even people who never thought they could ride in downtown, they love it. I know most of those councilors who voted against the bike lanes just can't see the use of them outside certain parts of the core and that is really unfortunate since the old cities of Etobicoke, Scarborough, etc all have wider streets than downtown and could be really fantastic neighbourhoods for riding in. I know, in the late 1990's I lived by The Queensway & Royal York and rode my bike down to my job at an architecture office at Queen & Sherbourne, sometimes along the lake, sometimes along Queen St. I was never happier or in better shape.

I challenge all City of Toronto Councillors, but especially Councillors John Parker, Denzil Minan-Wong, Mark Grimes and David Shiner of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee to buy/rent some suitable townie for men, get yourselves some nice panniers if you need to (Curbside Cycles has some really stylish ones or if you want to go high-end you can check out Laywine's in Yorkville) and ride those bikes every day, rain or shine to and from City Hall from now until July 12/13 when you have to make a decision in City Council:

Are you going to diddle around making a few ok bike routes that are useful for the people right along them and forget the rest of the City? Or are you going to push Toronto forward to be the great liveable city it could be and bring all the surrounding old cities into the plan?

You cannot know the potential or the challenges until you try being a bicycle commuter.

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