Story and photos by Robert Zaichkowski - Crossposted from Two Wheeled Politics
A year and a half after the Bloor bike lane pilot project was debated at the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, the committee endured a six-hour session to determine whether to make those bike lanes permanent or not. Almost 60 people registered to speak on this item – leading to deputation times to be cut from five minutes down to three – while hundreds more gave written submissions and over 6,600 supporters signed Cycle Toronto’s Bloor Loves Bikes pledge.
For the morning session, the committee debated utility cuts, speed limits on Bayview Avenue, electric vehicles, goods movement, and so called “green streets” guidelines. For Bayview Avenue, the committee approved increasing the speed limit on the Pottery Road South to River Street section to 60 km/h due to excessive speeding. Representatives from Walk Toronto and Cycle Toronto were opposed given that speed kills and there are no protective barriers south of Rosedale Valley Road. (Councillor Stephen Holyday amended the original motion to not include the Pottery Road North to South section.) Darnel Harris brought up his work on rapid transit greenways in regard to both the green streets guidelines and goods movement items, and to call out the committee for the lack of focus on cyclists. That deputation prompted Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti to make the ridiculous comment about moving mattresses and fridges by bicycle, along with some other rude and nonsensical comments.
Who is Giorgio Mammoliti? He is the biggest enemy of cyclists on Toronto’s city council. During the meeting, he constantly used tired, old "war on the car" rhetoric, cited fake news such as polls stating the majority don’t want bike lanes (something Angus Reid and Campaign Research refuted), demanded bicycle licensing, and questioned staff on their well-documented evaluation methods. He even demanded that City staff release videos of the counts, which would violate privacy rules. Earlier this week, he used a disgusting cartoon of Mayor John Tory calling for the removal of the Bloor bike lanes.
Unfortunately for Mammoliti, none of the speakers presented called for the outright removal of the bike lanes and most of them did an excellent job refuting his outlandish claims. The speakers covered the entire spectrum with two children (Melaina and Talia) and one University of Toronto student (Kevin) kicking things off. They cited safety as a primary reason for using sidewalks – which is legal until the age of 14 in Toronto – before the Bloor bike lanes were installed, as well as a recent press conference which saw representatives from nine schools support the bike lanes.
In addition to children and students, the committee heard from doctors, business owners, road violence survivors, environmentalists, residents’ associations, seniors, cultural institutions, parking enforcement officer Kyle Ashley, and veteran advocates like Albert Koehl and Wayne Scott. An unexpected show of support came from Kristine Hubbard of Beck Taxi, who credited bike lanes for providing predictability for all road users. This marked a big shift from being a subject to a cyclist boycott two years ago.
Here are a few notable deputations from the meeting, with more quotes available from Jun N's post.
- Kasia Briegmann-Samson of FFSS – “Keep your condolences and build safe streets!”
- Parking Enforcement Officer Kyle Ashley – “Toronto has a public health emergency. The time for political politeness has passed.”
- Gerry Brown of Ward 30 Bikes – Countered a Mammolit remark with “how many use outdoor pools in the winter?”
- John Leeson – Used his deputation to hold a minute of silence for the Parkdale cyclist who was killed.
- Margaret Harvey – She discussed her serious cycling injury in November 2012 and credited Kyle Ashley for getting her confidence back. Reminded the committee “no matter what you think about bikes, it’s cars that make traffic”.
- Bob Shenton – Mentioned 43% of Ontario’s budget gets spent on health care and called for the building of cycling infrastructure to save money.
- Former councillor Ila Bossons – “Anyone who commutes along Bloor is an utter fool!”
While Barry Alper of Fresh Restaurants (and the Annex Business Bike Alliance) claimed he supported keeping the Bloor bike lanes, he expressed concerns with the current format and suggested unrealistic changes including the following:
- Rush hour HOV lanes (which Jared Kolb dismissed as sharrows on Spadina Avenue and not substitutes for protected bike lanes)
- Curbside access during off-peak hours (which is a non-starter because cyclists would be placed in door zones)
- Removal of bike lanes during the winter months; something Montréal (one of the few cities which did winter bike lane closures) will stop this coming winter
After the deputations concluded, Jacquelyn Hayward Gulati in transportation services mentioned the Bloor bike lanes were the most studied transportation project in North America. Councillor Joe Cressy – a key Bloor bike lane supporter and one of the councillor's who has the bike lane in his ward – stated 21st century cities don’t tear out bike lanes, while Councillor Janet Davis expressed disappointment with the lack of consideration for Danforth Avenue, which she says she has received a lot of pressure (or support, depending on how you look at it) to extend the bike lanes there. Motions from Councillors Holyday and Mammoliti calling for the removal of the Bloor bike lanes, consultation with Alper’s ABBA group, and getting access to video counts all failed, while Robinson’s motion calling for additional loading zones, support for businesses, permanent data collection (including winter), and improved pedestrian and cyclist safety measures ahead of the 2019 capital works projects passed. The final amended motion to keep the Bloor bike lanes passed 4-2.
With the Bloor bike lanes through PWIC, a final City Council vote will happen at the November 7 meeting.
While a PWIC endorsement boosts the chances of this motion passing council, let’s hold of on popping the champagne corks until the council vote is official and start preparing for next October's election.
Contact your councillor to support keeping the Bloor bike lanes; especially if they reside outside of downtown Toronto.
Related on dandyhorsemagazine.com
Bike lane inventory 2016-2017 - as of September 2017