Cycling advocates hoping to save the Jarvis St. bike lanes got some ammunition for their cause on Thursday, when the Toronto Cyclists Union released a city report that found the road is safer since the lanes were installed in 2010.
At the request of local councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, the transportation department compared collision data from before and after the lanes were put in, and determined that not only are rates of motor vehicle-cyclist crashes down on Jarvis, but so are rates of car-on-car and car-on-pedestrian accidents.
"It really just proves what we've been saying all along, which is that Jarvis works for all road users," says TCU's director of advocacy Andrea Garcia. "It's another piece of information in a mounting pile of reasons why the bike lanes shouldn't be removed."
Staff examined data from three years leading up to September 2010, when Jarvis's reversible middle car lane and curbside parking spaces were removed to make room for the bikeways. In the year following the change, collisions of all types were down 23 per cent from an average of 159 to 122 per year, and accidents between cars and pedestrians were down 89 per cent, from an average of nine to one per year.
The average annual rate of cyclist-motor vehicle crashes had actually more than doubled, from seven to 15, but because cycling on Jarvis has increased three-fold, staff counted it as a reduction in the rate.
None of the accidents during the four-year period were fatal.
Transportation staff noted that the review was limited by the availability of only one year of data for the street's new configuration. They normally use a minimum of three years worth of statistics because accident rates can vary greatly from year to year. But limited data notwithstanding, the report, signed by manager of cycling infrastructure Dan Egan, found "there appear to be positibve changes in the collision pattern following the changes introduced on Jarvis."
While cycling advocates will likely applaud the review, proponents of removing the lanes could also see the absolute increase in cyclist accidents as vindication of their position. Public works chair Denzil Minnan-Wong and others have argued that there is not enough space on the busy road for both bikers and drivers and that nearby Sherbourne Ave. is a quieter and more suitable bike route. Minnan-Wong did not immediately return a request for comment.
The TCU has waged a campaign to rescue the Jarvis bike lanes since council voted last summer to remove them in conjunction with the conversion of painted lanes on Sherbourne into Toronto's first separated bikeways. Mayor Rob Ford had campaigned on taking out the lanes, claiming they cause congestion.
The bike union (whose members earlier this week voted to change its name to Cycle Toronto) presented a legal opinion to the city challenging their removal last month, but the transportation department rejected it.
The cycling group has since promised to take the legal opinion to the province.
Crews are slated to start removing the Jarvis lanes before the end of the year.