On @meslin, the Jarvis bike lanes, and finding common ground with Team Ford | #TOpoli

Hundreds of cyclists, concerned about their personal safety, have been  e-mailing their Councillors and the Mayor about the looming removal of bike lanes on Jarvis Street.  The Mayor’s office is responding to each message, with a form letter explaining his position. While the Mayor deserves credit for being responsive, most of the information in the letter is questionable and perhaps misleading. Let’s take a look:

Thank you for your email regarding the bike lanes on Jarvis Street. I appreciate hearing from you. Toronto’s economy loses billions of dollars every year from gridlock and traffic congestion. We need to make the situation better – not worse.

Yes, that is true.  But traffic engineers have known for decades that the ONLY way to reduce congestion is to provide alternatives such as cycling and public transit.  Widening streets, or adding car lanes, serves to INCREASE congestion in the long run by bringing more cars into the downtown area.  The goal is “modal shift”, and that’s exactly what the Jarvis lanes were designed to do.  By making the street safer, bicycle usage went up 300%.  Meanwhile, car usage remained the same.  Mission accomplished.

The Jarvis Street bike lanes experiment has been a failure. Ninety-four percent of commuters now face longer commutes on Jarvis Street. Over 15,000 commuters each day are suffering from longer travel times, for the sake of 600 additional cyclists.

First of all, the Jarvis lanes were not an experiment.  They were approved by City Council, and are part of our City’s bike network – a network that thousands of cyclists depend on.  Second, the lanes have not been a failure.  City staff consider them to be a success. Fact: The “longer commute” is negligible, and city staff already have a plan to reduce the wait time by adding an advance green during rush hour.

So Mez has just blogged about the Ford Administration and the Jarvis bike lanes.

I’ve never had anything but admiration for Dave’s commitment to collaboration and engagement, especially with people he might not agree with. He’s taken a fair bit of heat for it, but he’s stuck with it when it would be easy to throw up his hands and walk away. When I grow up, I only hope I can be half as principled as he is.

That said, it’s hard to see the point of trying to find common ground with people who act like this …

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