Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam defends the Jarvis bike lanes at council on Tuesday.
The Jarvis bike lanes will be gone by the end of the year.
Council rejected a last-ditch attempt to save the controversial bikeways Tuesday, voting 24-19 against a motion from Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam that would have kept the street in its current configuration.
Instead, the city will now proceed with council's original direction, made last July, to remove the bikeways and reinstall a reversible fifth car lane on Jarvis. The work will begin after the completion sometime next month of the separated bike lane on nearby Sherbourne.
Going into Tuesday's meeting, the vote on Jarvis was expected to be close. But despite a flurry of lobbying on the council floor, left wing councillors couldn't convince enough of their colleagues to come onside.
In the end council members like Josh Colle, Ana Bailao, and Michelle Berardinetti, whose votes some thought could be swayed, sided with Mayor Rob Ford, who led the push to take out the lanes last summer.
After the vote Tuesday, Wong-Tam warned that council's decision would put riders at risk.
"You're not going to remove cyclists by removing bicycle lanes," Wong-Tam told reporters. "They're still going to be there, they're just going to be riding very unsafely."
As local councillor for the ward that includes the Jarvis lanes, Wong-Tam has relentlessly advocated for their preservation for the past 15 months. But on Tuesday she finally conceded defeat.
"I will stand by the decision of council, even if I don't like it," she said.
Jared Kolb of Cycle Toronto admitted that after more than a year of concerted activism against the lanes' removal, his group is out of options.
"We've got to re-evaluate," he said, adding that he was "gravely disappointed" with the defeat.
"Cyclist safety on this street is going to plummet. That's a big concern for our organization," he said.
The Jarvis lanes were not on council's agenda Tuesday, but Wong-Tam reopened the issue by attaching her motion to a technical item related to the Sherbourne project.
Supporters of the Jarvis lanes argue that they're a model of how drivers and riders can safely coexist. City data indicate bike ridership on the street has tripled since the bikeways were installed in September 2010, and rates of accidents involving cars, pedestrians, and cyclists have all declined. Meanwhile, car travel times have only increased by two minutes.
They also argue that, at an estimated $280,000, reinstalling the fifth car lane is a waste of money.
Public works chair Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong maintained Tuesday that eliminating the bike lanes will help reduce traffic jams.
"Many people use that road to get in and out, in the a.m. and p.m. rush hours," he said, and removing the lanes will help "address some of the issues of grid lock and congestion."
Minnan-Wong hopes Tuesday's vote means the city can now focus on completing the Sherbourne St. bikeway, which he says is a safer alternative to Jarvis. The Sherbourne lane is part of a separated bike network Minnan-Wong has championed, and he admitted Tuesday that removing the Jarvis lanes was, in part, an offering to the mayor intended to make the rest of the bike plan go down easier.
"At the beginning of this term, when I first introduced [the separated bike network] to the mayor, that there was a lot of, shall we put it, convincing to do. And there was some level of compromise involved," he said. "Jarvis did come up in the discussion."
Ford reiterated his support for scrapping the Jarvis lanes Tuesday, telling reporters before the vote that he had received "hundreds" of complaints about them from drivers.
"We're doing what the taxpayers want us to do for the Jarvis lanes," Ford said. "This is the direction we're going. I'm listening to the taxpayers, I'm watching the money."
Minnan-Wong did make one concession to bike advocates Tuesday, by moving a motion directing that the removal of the lanes be funded by the city's transportation budget, not the cycling budget as originally intended. Critics had complained that the cycling fund is for building, not demolishing, bike infrastructure.