Toronto Council votes. The score: one for the environment, zero for curmudgeons

Post by Eric Mang in ,

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jarvis-street
Toronto's Jarvis Street

On Monday, in a 28-16 vote, Toronto City Council approved the redesign of Jarvis Street, which will see the end of a reversible centre lane (a lane that allowed for a third lane of traffic south in morning rush hour traffic and a third lane north for the afternoon rush) and the addition of bike lanes.

If New York City has the political will to redesign boroughs like Manhattan to be more bike and pedestrian friendly, so should Toronto. We are a big town and downtown core traffic is a colossal mess.

But you cannot improve traffic flow by adding more lanes or more streets or more highways. Instead, you encourage more car-use. Rather, we need to look at ways to reduce the reliance on the automobile and move people around the city efficiently and quickly using public transit and safer modes of active transport (i.e. by foot and by bike).

Making Jarvis more bike-friendly is a good first step (or good first pedal).

I enjoy getting around on my bike and quite often I take my 2-year-old daughter with me. I am cautious, I respect the rules of the road, but if you whip open your car door into my path (known as the “door prize”) I will unleash a stream of fury and invective at you like you’ve never before witnessed. Although I’m not a proponent of physical violence, if you were, through carelessness and absent-mindedness, to harm my baby, I would make like the Governor General and eat your heart raw.

Most motorists (and I am one) are careful. But every year, some idiot riding around in four thousand pounds of steel and glass cuts me off or brushes my arm with a side mirror.

This is why we need to look to the 21st century and plan on how we make Toronto a safer city for cyclists and pedestrians and stop sulking about in the mid-twentieth when car was king.

In a dissenting vote, perennially grumpy and old-school Councillor Doug Holyday said that he uses bike lanes in Etobicoke (a municipality he was mayor of pre-amalgamation) and he asserts that he sees no one on the bike paths. Councillor Holyday needs to think about evidence and not anecdotes and experience (besides, what does the absence of cyclists in his little patch of turf say about: a) policies he did or didn’t enact when he was mayor of Etobicoke; b) how he is unable to view Toronto as a whole, beyond the limits of his ward). If we’re going to play the Holyday game of “the truth is as I see it”, then my patch of the Danforth supports more bike paths and better cyclist safety because everyone and their daughter is on a bike.

It seems that bike commuters constitute a fairly small 2% of the commuting population (so if Holyday were only talking about the bike-to-work crowd, he may be on to something). But that’s only people getting to work (many of us would like to see that number grow). Bike safety and lanes are for everyone who bikes, many of whom are recreational peddlers or cyclists running errands on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

The second historic vote, winning 36-2, is for mandatory green roofs on new builds. We reported on this at the beginning of May and, starting January 2010 for new residential buildings and January 2011 for industrial buildings, green roofs will be a part of Toronto’s cityscape.

Although the new green roof rules are being characterized as comprehensive, Toronto will still lag behind its sister city, Chicago, with respect to green roof square footage. But it’s a start.

The aforementioned Councillor Holyday was one of the two dissenting votes. Drawing inspiration from the dark ages and preferring to utter statements soaked in cynicism, when told that Toronto could become a leader in enacting tougher environmental regulations, Holyday asked why we have to be first?

Okay Councillor Holyday, you don’t want to be first when it comes to environmental initiatives and you don’t think bike lanes are worthwhile because people in Toronto don’t actually use their bikes. What do you want for this city? What do you stand for? How will your ossified ways of thinking prepare us for today and tomorrow?

While you ponder those questions, I will celebrate these two victories.

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