jarvis street

People are saying it's finally time to get rid of the confusing 5th lane on Jarvis Street

Driving in a large metropolis like Toronto is never exactly fun or easy, between never-ending construction, constant traffic, wayward pedestrians, speedy cyclists, inclement weather and other stressors, but there's one street in particular that has been uniquely confusing for years.

Jarvis Street, for those who haven't driven it, has a special feature that makes navigating it more difficult than most other streets — a fifth lane that runs down the middle and alternates directions, as indicated by a light overhead.

The reversible lane has often been considered a problem, and was eventually nixed in favour of bike lanes on either side in 2010.

But, the cyclist paths were removed and the lane returned again in fall 2012 — a council decision, and something Rob Ford supported — and the peculiar additional lane has continued to cause problems and prove to be unsafe.

Data collected by the now-defunct Grid showed that total collisions on the thoroughfare went down when the lane was removed and bike corridors installed, and rose again after it was returned to its original state.

Yet another major accident on the road last month revived calls to remove the lane, which is, by all accounts, puzzling.

"Jarvis is not a safe street and won't be until City Council gets rid of that confusing 5th lane," Ward 13-Toronto Centre City Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam wrote on Twitter in the wake of the latest Jarvis incident, in which a car flipped in a multi-vehicle crash and injuries were reported.

Wong-Tam also pointed out that City Council has denied motions to have the "weird" lane removed and bike lanes reinstalled on more than one occassion over the years, a change that she has long advocated for and tried to bring up to council numerous times, only to be rejected.

Toronto Deputy Mayor and Ward 16-Don Valley East Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong actually at one point celebrated "killing" the idea of the Jarvis bike lanes on Twitter in 2019, Wong-Tam's office reminded blogTO.

Residents did not respond well to the post, with replies such as "Congrats! You're an asshole" and "This is not something to be proud of" abounding.

"Why is this a point of pride? That direction-changing lane on Jarvis is a headache, and the space is better suited to allow residents to safely ride into and out of the core," one user aptly wrote.

Despite being consistently blocked by Mayor John Tory and Minnan-Wong, Wong-Tam has vowed to "continue to push for street improvements on Jarvis and other streets to support our much need vision zero goals," her office says.

Lead photo by

Katrin Shumakov

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