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Environment, Toronto Politics

Riding to ‘Save Jarvis’

Bike Union reps rallying the crowd at Allen Gardens

At last count before the event started, the RSVP on Facebook claimed that about 900+ people would be attending the ride to ‘Save Jarvis.’ But like anyone who has thrown a party and relied on Facebook to count the attendees, I figured that number would drop by at least a third as things came up or people balked at the thought of slow-biking uphill in 35 degree heat that felt like 42 degrees.

Turns out the number jumped by about a third. The media that turned out for the event (CBC, CP24, CTV, Toronto Star, among others) were amazed that the final tally, according to estimates from Toronto Police, was roughly 1,500 people. 1,500 cyclists, commuters, advocates, well-wishers, onlookers, citizens, taxpayers – all who braved the heat to prove that while only 900 may use the Jarvis bike lane on any given day, that cycling infrastructure is not an issue strictly for cyclists. It goes well beyond the importance of providing safe infrastructure and speaks to the idea of Toronto that many people, cyclists or not, share in common.

With our police escort, the 1,5000 strong crowd wound our way north along Jarvis, east on Wellesley, north on Church, west on Bloor, and south on Jarvis all the way to Queen Street East. We took a left and rode along Queen past Bay St to end at Toronto City Hall, where we hoped to be met by Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam who has been tirelessly advocating for the rights of cyclists and retaining the Jarvis bike lane. Sadly, she was in a committee meeting, likely fighting to keep other important services from getting the axe.

Crowd riding north on Church Street

In the end, there is no conclusion to rallies and rides such as the ‘Save Jarvis’ ride last night. Mayor Ford did not lumber out of his office to address the crowd and admit he was wrong; no one chained themselves to a bike post in protest; no Councillors saw the error of their ways and repented. First and foremost it was a fun way to ride around Toronto with a police escort blocking traffic for you, and I enjoyed seeing so many dedicated people emerge to voice their anger over a common threat to all of our idea’s of what Toronto can and should be. A Toronto that embraces the idea, according to Dave Meslin, founder of the Toronto Bike Union, that cyclists simply want respect, and a recognition of our right to share a common road way with cars.

And perhaps that is the most tangible outcome of an event like the ‘Save Jarvis’ ride – when you feel time and again the frustration of fighting a City Hall that has repeatedly shown itself to be close-minded and irrational; when you see important aspects of your city be taken away; when you hear that after bike lanes, Libraries, waste diversion, Zoo’s, and farms are next on the chopping block, and you begin to wonder what will be left of your city to love – you show up with 1,499 of your fellow citizens, your fellow cyclists, and your fellow taxpayers (because cyclists pay taxes too, we just get less to show for them), and you show City Hall what dedicated individuals can do.

Riding to ‘Save Jarvis’ makes us all feel a lot better, like we can fight City Hall, as they say. And if that is true, the real work is yet to come.

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At City Hall:

About awreeves

Editor-in-chief at Alternatives Journal. Author of 'Overrun: Dispatches from the Asian carp Crisis'.


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