Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Oddball fifth lane of Jarvis St. to be ancient Canadian history

Jarvis St. in Toronto is unique in that it supports five lanes of traffic with a centre lane that is for southbound traffic in the morning and northbound traffic in the evening. The direction of flow for the curious centre lane is controlled by lights above the lane. For drivers, this is less confusing than it sounds. I think it is the only street with this feature in Toronto.

Toronto council passes plan to narrow Jarvis in favour of bike lanes

This plan has been all over the news. Cyclists are cheering a step which they see will provide safety for cyclists on a major thoroughfare. Critics of Mayor Miller are calling it another step in what they see as his war against the car.

I confess I rarely drive Jarvis St., especially around rush hour, so I can't speak to traffic issues there with any authority. I've seen reduction of automobile lanes in favour of bike lanes work on smaller arteries in the city. An example is Rogers Rd, which got bike lanes back when I was living in that area. The difference of course is that Rogers is not a road that carries commuters into the downtown core the way Jarvis is.

Critics have framed the issue by comparing numbers like 27,000 cars vs 50 bicycles. Miller has countered by saying that transportation is about moving people, not about moving cars. Clearly, there will not be 27,000 more cyclists after the change has been made. It is less clear what will happen to traffic patterns as people who continue to drive into the core look for other alternatives. What is the public transit option for these commuters?

In the past, I've argued that it is worthwhile to preserve some of our character neighbourhoods and some of the historical backbone of the city. Some may apply that arguement to the unique centre lane of Jarvis. While I'm not convinced that the change just approved by Council is the way to go, in this case, I wouldn't apply either a historical or neighbourhood arguement.

It should be noted that the change will cost $6 million and none of that is accounted for in the current budget.

“Frankly I am amazed that anyone, looking at Toronto ... can possibly say that taking one lane of traffic to create two lanes of safe cycling for cyclists, on a street that intersects with three east-west bike paths, could possibly be the wrong thing to do,” Mr. Miller said, pointing to similar moves in New York and other cities..

A traffic study suggests that the change would add two minutes to the commute for the drivers that use the route. I imagine it is immpossible to predict if the change will actually discourage anyone from driving. Why not model the change? Instead of pushing it through and hoping everything will work out alright, let's try it for six months, study what happens, then hold a meaningful debate in Council.


Candy Minx said...

Hee hee I love seeing cars sweat...

Yippee for bike lanes!

sp said...

People don't like change and when it comes to change that affects their driving or being able to drive their cars wherever they want, they really hate it.
We really need to make room for bikes in our cities so more people will feel safer getting on their bikes.