Google Street View
Cycle Toronto set off alarm bells in the biking community Tuesday when it issued a press release claiming Rob Ford's office had asked city staff to look into removing bike lanes on Dupont.
The organization, formerly known as the Toronto Cyclists Union, is currently fighting a sustained campaign against the Ford administration over the impending removal of the Jarvis bike lanes, and the release seemed to suggest that a second front was about to be opened up in the mayor's so-called "war on the bike."
"Cycle Toronto learned yesterday that the Mayor's Office has directed City staff to create an Options Report for Dupont Street that includes the possible removal of the bike lane facilities," the release read. "Cycle Toronto strongly disagrees with the [suggestion that the bike lanes be removed] and demands that the safety of cyclists be considered equal to motorized vehicles when reassessing Dupont."
The press release identified Councillor Cesar Palacio, whose ward borders but does not include Dupont, as the driving force behind the push to remove the lanes.
But according to Dan Egan, the city manager responsible for cycling infrastructure, his department has received no such directive from the mayor's office. Palacio's assistant, Mike Makgrigiorgos, was also confused by Cycle Toronto's allegations, and said the councillor has never taken official steps to get rid of the lanes.
"Are you telling me he's out there physically with a can of paint removing the bike lanes?" an exasperated Makrigiorgos asked.
But as it turns out, there is some truth to Cycle Toronto's statement (which has since been retracted). Egan says his staff is in fact undertaking a review of the Dupont lanes, but it was ordered by the public works committee last June, and did not come directly from Ford. Transportation services notified Cycle Toronto of the review earlier this week so that the group could participate, but there was a miscommunication about how it came about.
"The mayor's office has not asked us to remove the bike lane," says Egan. "We'll go through the process to look at everything and consult with everybody and we'll bring back an options report in the fall."
Staff plans to study the functionality of the lanes over the summer and then hold a public consultation in September. The report will also review the possibility of installing bike lanes on Lansdowne from Bloor to Dupont, a project that was approved by the previous term of council but has since been put on hold.
A final report incorporating community feedback will be tabled in October, and at this early stage, Egan does not anticipate recommending the Dupont lanes' removal.
He does however concede that while the bikeways are well used by cyclists, eliminating a car lane in both directions to accommodate them has contributed to pre-existing traffic problems stemming from the complicated crossroads at Dupont, Dundas, and Annette.
"We know there's a lot of extra traffic congestion since the bike lanes went in," he says. "That's the thing we're wrestling with. We're not advocating taking them out, we're just looking at all the options for improving conditions along there."
Egan says options staff could bring forward in the fall include extending the bike lanes to connect to other elements of the bikeway network, or relocating them to a nearby street.
The Dupont lanes were installed in 2008 following the death of Gaelen Kuellmer, a biker who was hit and killed by a vehicle beneath the Dundas-Dupont underpass in 2004. The 900-m bikeways originally stretched from the underpass to 30 m east of Lansdowne, but in July 2011 council voted to shorten them by 100 m.