I stand firmly in favour of the need to expand our cycling network and I strongly believe that, as the City of Toronto, we also have an obligation to provide safe infrastructure; infrastructure which minimizes the risk to our residents as much as possible.
I strongly believe we can and must do more for Toronto cyclists and, by accelerating the Toronto Bike plan that Council approved in 2010, we can place Toronto among the top cycling cities in Canada for curb-separated bike lanes by 2015. To join the other great cycling cities of Amsterdam, San Francisco, Portland and Montreal, we must be progressive and forward thinking in how we plan our cities – making plans not for today but for tomorrow.
With cycling, progressive policy is in separated bike lanes for busy streets. No other system offers greater safety to on-road cyclists than a curb-separated lane. This new stage of City policy begins with the curb-separated bike lanes on Sherbourne Street, which will be the start of many new cycling routes that put cyclists’ safety first in a way never seen before in our city.
Since taking office in 2010, Jarvis Street has remained a lightning rod of division among Councillors. The Jarvis bike lanes were never part of the Toronto bike plan, were implemented without consultation, and were installed outside the recommendations of the Environmental Assessment undertaken to improve the public realm on Jarvis.
It has been over a year that the issue of the Jarvis Street bike lane has been continually revisited and spending Council days disagreeing does nothing to forward our goal of better cycling infrastructure for the people of Toronto. This is not progress. Instead, I propose the need to move forward, to move quickly and continue with the implementation of the Toronto Bike Plan so that we may provide the safest and most accessible Toronto cycling experience possible. This is how we will catch up to other great cycling cities.
Originally, money from the Cycling budget – money specifically earmarked for the expansion of cycling infrastructure in our city – was to be used to remove the Jarvis bike lane. I found this to be absolutely unacceptable. For this reason, I insisted on the inclusion of a motion that ensures this decision will not use Cycling & Infrastructure money and, therefore, no reduction to the amount of new lanes that will be built in our city.
I am completely committed to a network of bike lanes across our city, a network that connects all areas of Toronto together. This is where we need to go as a city, not on stand-alone routes that connect only A to B. The Sherbourne Street bike lane, which extends from Front Street to North of the Danforth, will include 7 connections to other paths, each a gateway to other parts of the City. Sherbourne is a step towards a larger cycling plan for the City by connecting into other routes and allowing cyclists a longer, safer journey than was ever previously available.
It is never a comfortable position to take out infrastructure, and it is not a decision I make lightly. Residents can always count on my careful consideration of the issues and my commitment to fight the battles that move us forward, and to save time and resources for the many projects needed to grow our City. Nor is this a decision I would make without such a strong alternative. Sherbourne Street is nearly twice as long, and – because it is part of the Toronto Cycling Plan – has more than twice the cycling connections of Jarvis. Most importantly, it is significantly safer with lower traffic volume and a curb completely separating cyclists from other vehicles. The Bike Plan is a plan that puts cycling safety first, and I will continue to advocate for the construction of new, safe and appropriate cycling infrastructure throughout Toronto.
As with all matters of safety, this is an issue that people feel a strong personal connection to. I appreciate your passionate response and will continue to advocate for improved cycling infrastructure and decisions that promote safety and accessibility. Thank you again for contacting my office and please do not hesitate to do so again.
Toronto City Councillor
Ward 18, Davenport