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Ringing bells and playing music, hundreds of cyclists saddled up and took to the streets Wednesday evening in the latest attempt to stop the removal of the Jarvis bike lanes.
Roughly 200 riders gathered at Allen Gardens in the early evening and then took over traffic, riding north on Bloor and then south to City Hall. The event was a repeat of the 2011 Ride for Jarvis, which took place last July after the public works committee made the decision to take out the well used lanes with little notice or public consultation, based on the rationale that the bike lanes have significantly impeded car traffic.
Staff reports however indicate that travel times for motor vehicles have only slightly increased, and that the number of cyclists using Jarvis have tripled from 300 to 900 a day. Collisions involving cars, bikes, and pedestrians have also all decreased.
Since last year, cycling advocates have been fighting an increasingly dire campaign to stop the city from taking out the bikeways and restoring Jarvis to its pre-2010 configuration of five car lanes.
"A year's passed...And what have we learned?" Cycle Toronto's Jared Kolb asked the crowd at Allen Gardens before the ride began. "We've learned that collision rates across the board have gone down since the Jarvis bike lanes were installed. We've learned that the cost to rip them out and replace that fifth reversible turning lane is over a quarter of a million dollars. We've learned that this street is working for everyone."
Local resident June Macdonald also addressed the crowd, and told them how much easier the Jarvis lanes have made her daily chores.
"I've lived at the corner of Jarvis and Carlton for 25 years, and until the bike lanes went in last year, I wasn't able to [ride on the street]," she said. "Now I use them practically every day to go shopping, to go to appointments, or whatever. It really, really makes a difference."
At the end of the ride, cyclists were met in Nathan Phillips Square by Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam. As the councillor representing the ward that includes disputed stretch of Jarvis, she has been working to turn the street into a "cultural corridor" that would be pedestrian- and bike-friendly.
Wong-Tam said that results of a public consultation she held in April overwhelmingly rejected returning the street to its five-lane set up.
"I'm ready, and I think you are, to have an open, clear honest discussion about the future of Jarvis St.," she told the cyclists, speaking through a megaphone. "One that incorporates the concept of complete streets, heritage, a greening strategy, and keeping out the reversible fifth lane, and keeping the bike lanes."
Both Wong-Tam and Cycle Toronto are asking the province to step in and undertake an environmental assessment of Jarvis before any work is undertaken to change it. The councillor said she has no immediate plans to try to reopen the issue at council, which would require the consent of two-thirds of her colleagues.
@NOWTorontoNews | @BenSpurr