It was evident from the mayor's impromptu photo op atop the art bike the other day that he hasn't been on a two-wheeler for a while.
But hey - don't need to know how to ride a bike to come up with a bike plan, right?
Not so fast.
The mayor's bike plan, the one with separated lanes his chair of Public Works, Denzil Minnan-Wong, has been talking up for weeks, just got a huge flat. Kaboom.
The whole crashing mess is laid out in a 40-page preliminary report tabled by city Transportation staff last week and set for discussion at today's meeting (Thursday, June 23) of the Works Committee. The promised 14 kilometres of separated bike lanes crisscrossing the core have been reduced to a short stretch on Bloor.
The bad news in a nutshell: staff is recommending no more cash for the Bloor Bikeway EA; no more separated bike lanes on Adelaide or Richmond - only a promise of further study; rescinding approvals on bike lanes not yet implemented on Bloor West between Mill Road and Beamish; and the removal (yes, you read that right) of bike lanes on Pharmacy and Birchmount. In other words, a huge step backwards for bike riders.
The upside (if you want to call it that): bike lanes on Dawes between Danforth Avenue and Vic Park, a separated bike lane on the Bloor Viaduct from Sherbourne to Broadview, and (maybe) separated bike lanes on Wellesley and Sherbourne in 2012.
The Bloor bit is not completely bad news on the face of it until you read between the lines of the bureaucratese.
The separated lane proposed for Bloor will be "utilizing the existing designated bike lane alignment." Which means that those imagining stylish bollards and a few trees in giant pots to take in while riding should start thinking grey concrete barriers.
The separated lanes contemplated on Wellesley and Sherbourne are not a given either, but "subject to additional assessment and consultation" - namely, the number of parking spots that would have to be sacrificed to make room for them.
Separated bike lanes on both Sherbourne and Wellesley are a complicated proposition, a fact that would be obvious to anyone who'd ridden the bike lanes on the streets now.
Both avenues are far too narrow to accommodate separated bike lanes with anything approaching meaningful design without removing parking spaces completely or pissing off businesses with loading needs.
It gets worse - and more complicated at the same time. The report recommends that separated bike lanes previously talked about on north-south routes between Simcoe and Peter be put on hold for further study - or, as in the case of a separated bike lane contemplated for St. George, be scrapped.
The door prize for cyclists is that the Jarvis bike lanes, which the mayor played political football with during the election by promising to remove them, may indeed be next on the chopping block. Staff's report talks about "an update on [their] operation and impacts."
Removing the Jarvis lanes may be a tougher sell for Ford & Co. now that the number using the lanes has almost tripled from 290 cyclists during peak hours to more than 890. The recently established Bixi bike-sharing program is bumping the numbers even more.
But logic isn't an operating principle when it comes to the policy on pedal-pushing rolling out of the mayor's office.
Who was the helmet head who came up with the needless plan for a separated bike path on St. George, a street that's 9.5 metres wide, far too narrow to accommodate the 3 metres needed for separated lanes? St. George works fine, and is, in fact, one of the most bike- and pedestrian-friendly streets in the city.
Practically every street proposed for separated bike lanes under the Ford plan was a non-starter. Was that intentional, or just a reflection of how out-of-touch the suburban-minded administration at City Hall is when it comes to the core? We may be witnessing a little punch-back from staff.
But is it conceivable that the penny-pinchers running the show at City Hall were unaware that building separated lanes would create additional winter maintenance costs - for which there's no money in the 2011 budget - somewhere on the order of $20,000 per kilometre? Was any thought given to the impact of separated lanes on curbside garbage collection? Or to the fact that physical barriers for bikes require more space?
It's likely they understood at least some of these ramifications - but maybe not. Staff's report says in the section on the possible impacts of separated lanes that "there appears to be a perception that converting existing bicycle lanes to separated bicycle lanes will have no impact on traffic or parking." Duh.
Indeed. Building separated bike lanes is a complicated business. The movement of TTC vehicles has to be accounted for as well as emergency vehicles. The removal of turn lanes for vehicles has to be considered, as well as access to residences and businesses.
It's smelling more like the Ford bike plan was nothing but an elaborate scheme to poke a finger in Councillor Adam Vaughan's eye, or at least to create a convenient wedge issue.
The mayor's bike plan as originally envisioned certainly messed with Vaughan's idea of turning John into a pedestrian zone. It also effectively shelved his bike plan for the downtown core, approved by the previous council.
The Toronto Cyclists Union, for one, has been very vocal in its support of the mayor's plan. Not any more, though.
The TCU now colours itself "disappointed" with the very different direction the Ford bike scheme seems to be taking.
Bike advocates can maybe be forgiven for being a little naive about the mayor's real intentions when it comes to cycling. In the current cut, cut, cut political climate, community groups are taking what they can get.
But the mayor has been pretty clear about where he sits in the so-called "war on the car." He supports bike lanes only where they're supported by the community and where they don't impede traffic, which means virtually nowhere.
Signs are, we're in for a longer and more dangerous ride where cycling is concerned under the current administration.
Why, there was Dave Meslin, the guy singing the mayor's praises on bikes post-election, out with his counter the other day agitating for bike lanes on the aforementioned John Street. Muy curiosio.
What cyclists were promised in the mayor's bike plan
A 14-kilometre network of separated bike lanes on major east-west and north-south routes in the downtown core, including Sherbourne, Wellesley, Adelaide and Richmond.
Separated bike lanes on Sherbourne and Wellesley until 2012; bikes lanes approved but not yet implemented on Bloor West between Mill Road and Beamish; Bloor Bikeway EA.
What we're getting now
Separated bike lanes on the Bloor Viaduct between Sherbourne and Broadview, bike lanes on Dawes, modifications to a stretch at Dupont and Ossington, and the removal of existing bike lanes on Pharmacy and Birchmount.