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Toronto's Jarvis bike lanes to be removed by end of year

A cyclist rides in the bike lanes on Jarvis Street in Toronto.

Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

Toronto's Jarvis Street bike lanes will be ripped out as planned after a last-ditch attempt to save the controversial cycling route failed at city council Tuesday.

Council voted 19-24 against a motion that would have spared the lanes.

"What this administration has shown us is that they don't really care about cycling infrastructure," said Kristyn Wong-Tam, the councillor whose ward includes Jarvis Street. She moved the motion to save the lanes.

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"You're not going to remove cyclists by removing bicycle lanes. They are still going to be there. They're just going to be riding very unsafely."

The vote was a win for Mayor Rob Ford and his public works chairman, Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, who has been championing a network of bike lanes physically separated from vehicle traffic.

The Jarvis Lanes will not be removed until a separated cycle track is completed on Sherbourne Street, a major arterial road parallel to Jarvis.

"I'm doing exactly what the taxpayers want me to do," Mr. Ford told radio station AM640 Tuesday evening, just before the vote.

"On Sherbourne, on the other side, we're flipping it over so if people want to ride their bike on a street, we're having a separated bike lane. So it's a win-win for everyone, the motorists and the cyclists."

The Jarvis Street bike lanes became a hot issue during the 2010 election in part because their installation led to the removal of a reversible fifth lane for cars on a key north-south route into downtown.

City staff said Tuesday that the lane reduction added just two minutes to commutes on Jarvis, but Mr. Minnan-Wong argued that resurrecting the fifth lane would ease traffic bottlenecks at rush hour.

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"To ease that congestion and to allow the free flow of traffic and to try and address some of the issues of gridlock and congestion, I think adding another lane is going to help with that," he said.

Ms. Wong-Tam and Councillor Mike Layton, another advocate for keeping the lanes, said the council would be to blame if cyclists are injured on Jarvis Street after the lanes are removed.

"Who else's fault will it be?" Mr. Layton asked.

Returning the road to its old configuration is expected to cost between $280,000 and $300,000. Installing the lanes cost $86,000.

The money was slated to come out of the cycling budget, but Mr. Minnan-Wong successfully moved a motion Tuesday that means the cash will come from the transportation budget instead.

The Jarvis bike lanes are expected to be removed by the end of this year.

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