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Toronto Politics

Rob Ford’s ‘Gravy Lane’

Cyclists on the Jarvis St bike lane

Back in July of 2011, the Toronto Cyclists Union led the attack against the vote in City Council to remove the bike lanes on Jarvis St. that had been installed only 12 months previously under Mayor David Miller. The Bike Union was ultimately hoping that their allies on Council could convince swing Councillors that an 8 to 10 minute delay in traffic on Jarvis St. was worth the addition of the bike lanes.

Apparently, it wasn’t. Council voted to remove the bike lanes. Yet in a moment of good faith, Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong verbally conceded that removing the bike lanes immediately would not happen until an alternative bike lane was placed on Sherbourne St, one block east. But when pressed to make his verbal promise to Council binding through a motion, Minnan-Wong refused.

The final, non-committal wording of the decision reads as follows: that the city will “revert Jarvis Street to its pre-existing operation such that implementation can be achieved as soon as possible, with all work to be completed on Sherbourne Street and Jarvis Street in 2012.”

Over 1,500 Torontonians arrived at Allen Gardens in late July 2011 for the R, a critical mass on a massive scale that attempted to show City Council what they already knew from a Transportation Services report: that cyclist use of the lane went up by 30% on Jarvis once the lanes were introduced.

What confused many was how Mayor Ford could justify spending taxpayer dollars to remove a bike lane installed only the previous year – also at taxpayer expense. And while it is common knowledge that the lanes cost $86,000 to install, Ford was keeping mum about how much it would cost to remove them.

Until now. Information obtained by the Toronto Bike Union has found the cost of removing the Jarvis bike lanes and reconfiguring the street will cost over three times what it cost to install them, coming in at $272,000 of Toronto taxpayer dollars if the project stays on budget!

And when Dave Meslin, founder of the Bike Union tweeted the details yesterday, Mark Towhey, Director of Policy & Strategic Planning in the Mayor’s office, tweeted back that his information was “false” when it is based on a City of Toronto Transportation Services report!

When the details are laid out by the City in black and white and the Mayor and his staff either don’t know about it, or are refuting its accuracy, something is terribly wrong. So are Ford and Towhey merely ignorant, or are they insinuating that the report from the Transportation Services Division is telling lies?

“Although city staff have released data showing that Jarvis Street works well for all road users, Mayor Ford and his administration are prepared to throw away over a quarter million dollars of taxpayers’ money,” said Andrea Garcia, Director of Advocacy for the Bike Union. “This unnecessary cost reveals this project as a Gravy Lane.”

So much for respecting taxpayers.

– – –

This is the extended version of this piece – a shorter version appeared in the Toronto Standard.

About awreeves

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


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