Jarvis bike lanes to be removed

Councillors at Toronto City Hall have voted to remove some downtown bicycle lanes, including a much-debated bike lane on Jarvis Street.

Toronto city council voted on Wednesday to remove some downtown bicycle lanes.

They passed a motion to remove bike lanes on Jarvis Street and install a separated bike lane on the adjacent Sherbourne Street.

They also voted to scrub two bike lanes in the city's east end, on Birchmount Road and Pharmacy Avenue, while adding a bike lane to Dawes Road.

In place of the Jarvis Street bike lanes, the city will move on a plan to create a network of downtown bike lanes physically separated from vehicle traffic on streets that currently have only painted lanes.

Removing the Jarvis bike lanes and returning to a reversible fifth lane for vehicle traffic will cost about $200,000. The Jarvis Street bike lane, installed last year, cost about $59,000.

During two days of heated debate, some councillors argued the bike lanes were needed for cyclists' safety while others said their constituents and motorists never wanted them.

The vote to scrap the lanes passed 28 to 9.

'The cars are going to move faster'

Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong, who chairs the public works committee that recommended scrapping the Jarvis Street bike lanes, said the move will mean safer streets for cyclists and drivers alike.

"Jarvis was a bad decision, it shouldn't have been made in the first place," he told CBC News. "We're addressing traffic and gridlock. The cars are going to move faster and I think that's a proper investment."

However, Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam said removing the bike lanes is a step back and throws into disarray a plan to beautify Jarvis Street. 

"What we've seen today is a reversal of city building and a reversal of good government," she said. "We now know that Jarvis as a street has been violated. We've gone back to 1950s-style urban planning."

Although opposed to the removing bike lanes on Jarvis, Andrea Garcia of the Toronto Cyclists Union said Wednesday's debate was a victory because the Jarvis lanes won't be removed until new separated bike lanes are added on Sherbourne Street.

That work is expected to be complete in December 2012. 

"We had a big win today," Garcia told CBC News. "Hundreds of cyclists came out to city hall and councillors heard the cyclists and they decided to delay removal until next year and that's a big win for us.

"This isn't over," she added.