Cyclists Protest Removal Of Bike Lanes In Toronto With Mass Ride

Chuckman's Toronto Collection Volume 5/CC BY 3.0

Toronto's Jarvis Street used to be rather lovely, a true complete street with trees and a green boulevard separating sidewalks from the road. Then it got widened and widened until it was five lanes, with the middle lane an odd reversible lane that switched from southbound to northbound at the afternoon rush hour, confusing a lot of people. A few years back the City ripped out the ugly wires and lights that indicated direction in that reversible lane, removed the lane and installed bike lanes.

Last July 13, when Mayor Rob Ford still had people listening to him on council, they voted to paint out the bike lanes and put the reversible lane back. No matter that the accident rate had dropped because the confusion was gone, or that bike usage tripled. No matter that a man elected because of his "respect for taxpayers" was going to spend a quarter of a million dollars to do it. As Richard Florida tweeted at the time, "How did it come to this?"

Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

It's not even much of a bike lane, it's narrow and beside four lanes of traffic that goes very fast, just a strip of paint on the road. Yet it is something, a bit of separation and protection, and last night about 350 people showed up on the anniversary of the decision to remove it, to try and get City Council to change their minds.

Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

People of all ages, on all kinds of bikes soon were riding up Jarvis with police escort.

Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

The police stopped traffic at every intersection so that the cyclists could get through, it was very well organized. Many drivers honked their support. (Not a few have said that they prefer the bike lanes on Jarvis, it is easier for them as well, not having to share the lane)

Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

Drivers at one of Toronto's busiest intersections were less amused as the cyclists stopped traffic going north from the financial district while they rolled into the square at City Hall.

© Martin Reis

Who knows if this will have any effect, or if the lanes will be saved. But it is a good object lesson for cities across North America about what happens when the "war on the car" right wing politicians get elected. It could happen in New York after Bloomberg; it can happen anywhere.

Tags: Bike-Friendly World | Bikes | Biking | Toronto