Showing posts with label rob ford. Show all posts
Showing posts with label rob ford. Show all posts

26 November 2012

Beyond Rob Ford - More Hurdles for Toronto

It's difficult to ignore the massive, dark shadow cast by Mayor Rob Ford in Toronto and his continuous anti-bicycle movement. You get the feteling that if you manage to peer beyond his mammoth prescence, you'll see the frustrated urban Torontonians, at the mercy of the surburban vote, fighting (in vain) for a more bicycle-friendly future for the city. You sense - and hope - they are looking towards the Toronto of the future - a combination of the musical montage in the middle of Monkey Warfare and the bicycle culture/traffic in so many other cities.

They're there and they are envisioning a sensible modern future. However, it seems that there are other dark shadows to be dealt with in the city. The focus on bicycles as transport is not the same as in cities around the world. There is a strange and rather misplaced focus on pedestrianism that is further stunting the growth of bicycles as transport.

An ongoing discussion with a friend of mine led to this blogpost. Here are some indications that Toronto's push for a more liveable city is demonstratively ignoring the bicycle. Don't underestimate the fact that this is a serious problem for the city and for the growth of cycling.

From what I understand it's a bit tricky to pinpoint the big picture, largely because so many of the decisions are made behind closed doors. The rhetoric is generally positive - increasing pedestrian facilities is regarded as the key to creating a more liveable city.

Nevertheless, bicycles appear to be a point of irritation and cars are, by and large, still sacred in the city.

If we go back to 2007, we can see how this movement is defined. This City of Toronto document (pdf) may be one of the first example where this issue is stated in black and white.

Item 2(f)
Narrow roadways and widen sidewalks at all feasible locations. Not a bad policy, of course. The car, however, is still king and the space for this policy is inevitably taken from bicycles.

This mantra has been cited over and over, not least at the The International Walk21 Conference: Putting Pedestrians First, which was hosted by Toronto in October 2007.

Several newspaper articles like this one in The Star rave about the Bloor Street revitalisation project.

The article fails to note that Bloor is one of the busier cycling routes in Toronto. It's of particular importance for bicycle users crossing the Don Valley, because the viaduct bridge is further east on this street. In addition, there is a subway running beneath Bloor. Bicycles were excluded from the revitalisation plans - only some lame, token sharrows in one section after much battling from the community. Even Bixi stations were not allowed to be installed in this area because the BIA didn't want bicycles cluttering the street. The BIA actually wrote letter to the ward's councillor, opposing Bixi stations around here.

Here's more chatter about how wonderful pedestrian spaces on the streets are in this Star article. Again, bicycles are left out in the cold, despite the fact that Yonge is hardly a safe bicycle street, despite the fact that there are so many important destinations for city dwellers. There are many bicycles in the area - but inadequate parking facilities for them.

A Canadian magazine called Spacing is also contributing to the shadow. This article about "humanizing" traffic counts doesn't even mention bicycles. Amusingly, they have "Understanding the Urban Landscape" as their tagline on their website.

Spacing goes on (and on) about how wide sidewalks are the best (and only?) way to go.

It appears that the City is even manipulating traffic counts in order to sell the case for pedestrianism - and fibbing about bicycle numbers in the process.

Here are some blog posts from the Mez Dispenser blog on the subject. They took matters into their own hands:
- Simplified Fabrication
- Tally-ho - Exposing the City’s Mindless Math
- Proving our point…..again. (John St volunteer traffic count #2.)

The City of Toronto responded with this pdf.

In the John St Environmental Assessment report - in Section 1 (page 20) , it states the objective of the study but it doesn't mention cycling. Despite the fact that this is an important corridor that brings bicycle users south from the U of Toronto (Beverley St. bike lane), down to Front Street.

In this document about Front Street at Union Station, pedestrianizing the space for this project was translated into "prioritizing pedestrians", but maintaining car traffic and only providing those goofy, token sharrows for bicycles.

In the final report - in section 1.2 on page 3 - it states clearly the pedestrian priority for the project (pdf)

The development of Union Station as a pedestrian facility is broadly set out in policy directions outlined in the City of Toronto’s Official Plan and Toronto Pedestrian Charter. Specifically, the policy directions note that:
- Union Station will be refurbished and its passenger handling capacity expanded;
- A program of street improvements will be developed to enhance the pedestrian environment with measures undertaken to make it safer to walk and cycle in the downtown area; and, 

- An urban environment and infrastructure will be created that encourages and supports walking throughout the City through policies and practices that ensure safe, direct, comfortable, attractive and convenient pedestrian connections.

More generally, the Official Plan takes a comprehensive approach that links land use and transportation planning policies to create an effective strategy for accommodating the City’s future trip growth in a way that reduces auto‐dependency. This approach has been increasingly reflected in the City’s guidelines, programs and practices that promote walking as a mode that
encourages both health and transportation benefits.

And so on. And so on. Imagine that... failing to identify bicycles as part of the solution for the area around a train station

Toronto's "uniqueness" over the past few years due to its Mayor is well-defined and well-documented. The current political leadership is a running joke.

It is important to highlight that the City's singular focus on pedestrian traffic is also unique. I can't think of another city similar to Toronto in size that completely and utterly ignores the potential of bicycle traffic. For improving public health, for reducing congestion, for.... christ... do I even have to write this? And it is not just the Mayor, but also city hall, journalists and random hipster/urbanist magazines.

Pedestrians are always - or should be - at the top of the traffic hierarchy. Duh. But it's astounding that the anti-cycling sentiment in such a large city in the western world here in 2012 runs so deep.

This is not a good kind of "unique". I fear that even if Toronto discards its Mayor, the battle to modernise itself is light years behind that of other, more visionary cities.

05 July 2011

Vox Populi in Toronto

A propos our recent post about Toronto mayor Rob Ford's wish to remove the Jarvis Street bike lane, the Toronto Cyclists Union has just produced this video asking the users of the street their opinion about the subject.

I especially like the drivers' opinions on the subject. Also because they are the future, potential users of the bike lane.

Thanks to Kevin for the link.

28 June 2011

Mayor Ford and Jarvis Street, Toronto

One of our readers, Kevin, sent us this email exchange between him and the mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford. We've blogged about Rob Ford a few times before. It is regarding the Mayor's decision/proposal to remove the bicycle lanes on Jarvis Street.

06/25/11 07:56
Please do not remove the Jarvis bicyle lanes.

1,000 cyclists on Jarvis Street depend on those lanes for safety. There is
simply no justification for removing these lanes. The street is working fine for

The biggest concern against the Jarvis Street bike lane prior to implementation
was significant delays in travel times for motor vehicles. A staff report
released in April shows that these delays have not materialized. Updated traffic
counts (see page 17) from the City of Toronto showed that following the
installation of bike lanes on Jarvis Street, motor vehicle volumes remained the
same while cycling volumes tripled. It makes no sense to remove a bike lane from
a street that works for all road users. This is wasteful spending at City Hall.
In fact, Mayor Ford, you were asked during the 2010 election if he would remove
the Jarvis bike lanes if elected. Your answer was no because it would be a
waste of money. You were absolutely correct then.

As a business owner living and working in the city of Toronto, I drive (yes
drive) Jarvis regularly. The addition of bike lanes has not impacted traffic
flow in my experience. I believe it has actually made driving on Jarvis more
pleasant! Motorist behaviour has become more civilized on this route.

I also believe that the constituants that live and work on Jarvis are finding it
a more pleasant environment as well. At the very least they should have been
consulted before Mr. Parker and your committee made this move. Surely that
would have shown respect for taxpayers.

From: Mayor Ford
To: Kevin
Sent: Tue, June 28, 2011 9:57:43 AM

Thank you for your email regarding the bike lanes on Jarvis Street. I appreciate hearing from you.

Toronto's economy loses billions of dollars every year from gridlock and traffic congestion. We need to make the situation better - not worse. The Jarvis Street bike lanes experiment has been a failure. Ninety-four percent of commuters now face longer commutes on Jarvis Street. Over 15,000 commuters each day are suffering from longer travel times, for the sake of 600 additional cyclists.

The City should remove the bike lanes as soon as possible and improve travel times for thousands of daily commuters. City staff have been directed to develop a low-cost plan to do so. Bike lanes were never intended to be installed on Jarvis Street. The original Environmental Assessment recommended against installing bike lanes - but City Council amended the report to approve bike lanes anyway.

As promised during the mayoral election, I am dedicated to delivering customer service excellence, creating a transparent and accountable government, reducing the size and cost of government and building a transportation city.

Thank you again for taking the time to share your thoughts. Please feel free to contact my office again at any time.

Yours truly,

Mayor Rob Ford
City of Toronto

to Mayor Ford
date 28 June 2011 17:37

Mr. Mayor

Simply put you are dead wrong.

Toronto does indeed have a gridlock problem, sir, but it is not caused by bicycle lanes. It is caused by an ever-growing number of automobiles on the road and aggressive, antisocial driver behaviour. Auto-centric development and an addiction to the personal automobile is the failure here Mr. Ford......not the Jarvis bicycle lanes.

Please don't insult my intelligence by going on about how how 15,000 commuters are suffering because of the bicycle lanes. I have driven it in an automobile Mr. Ford, any length in commuting time is insignificant. I don't consider a couple of extra minutes of commute time as suffering. I will also point out to you, sir, that Mount Pleasant is gridlocked all the way down from Eglinton...none of Mount Pleasant has bicycle lanes to blame the gridlock on.

Mr. Ford, it is not the 1960's any more. You will never reduce gridlock in Toronto until you reduce the number of automobiles. No matter how many bike lanes you rip out or how many roads you think you can build.

Thank you for mentioning in your email that you are dedicated to creating a transparent and accountable government. In light of that statement would you please explain to me why you are going to great lengths to fight the audit of you campaign expenses. I believe you yourself said "let them audit, I have nothing to hide".


26 October 2010

Toronto's Rob Ford Hates Bicycles

Meet Toronto's new Mayor.

We blogged this back in August, writing:

"Um. Yeah. Okay... there are quite of few things that I could write. I think I'll just let Councillor Rob Ford from Etobicoke North in Toronto (Slogan: Working for the People) do it all on his own.

The man is, apparently, running for Mayor. Dark days for the development of Toronto as a more livable city - using the bicycle as a tool to that end - if the likes of this chap get into power.

Talk about ignoring the bull.

Thanks to Kevin for the link."

Dismal. But read this blog post from Curbside Cycles in Toronto. Hope ahead?

Is is time to listen to The Smiths?

A push and a rush and the land that
we stand on is ours
It has been before
So it shall be again