midtown toronto bike lanes

The Toronto pro-car lobby is desperately trying to remove new bike lanes

A community group is fighting hard to have some recently installed bike lanes removed from Yonge Street in Toronto's midtown area, and they have a whole range of arguments that pro-cycling critics claim are easily refuted or long-debunked.

Michele Gilfoil of the organization BeRationalTO has created a change.org petition addressed to Mayor Tory, seeking signatures to support the removal of the new bike lanes serving Yonge Street.

It was created over a year ago in response to the city's ActiveTO Midtown Complete Street Pilot, but the tone of urgency seems to grow with every update.

In the petition's most recent update — which attempts to drum up support in advance of a city Infrastructure & Environment Committee meeting to determine the lanes' future — the group claims that the tracks are "grossly underutilized" in a statement peppered with some clearly biased representations of cycling infrastructure.

"This problematic installation does 'not keep Toronto moving' that Mayor Tory proclaims is one his missions," states the petition, adding that "Fire & EMS services won't have a fighting chance to save lives and property."

Organizers argue that "delays to emergency vehicles and increased time through the corridor has increased dramatically" on account of the new bike lanes, a statement refuted by Robin Richardson, one of the lead organizers with Yonge4All, another community organization with even stronger local support.

"Their baseless claim that EMS and fire dept. response times have gone up has been debunked repeatedly," argues Richardson.

"The chiefs of both services deputed at IEC last year to state that response times have not increased since the bike lanes and cafes went in, and in fact, this area has the fastest emergency response times in the whole city," she adds.

Richardson tells blogTO that "the latest set of data from the transportation department shows that this continues to be true."

The concerned citizens at BeRationalTO furthers their claims by mentioning "28 developments with 10,000 proposed new residences slated to break ground over the next few years," and fears that "construction vehicles will be everywhere."

The petition warns that "Yonge Street will come to a halt," though fails to back up these claims with supporting data.

The major street certainly isn't coming to a halt for cyclists or subway users, though BeRationalTO makes specific mention of "congestion, dangerous turning radii and blind access to the neighbourhood" in what can only be a problem for motorists rather than the city at large.

Personal injury lawyer and cycling advocate David Shellnutt says that this all feels too familiar to petitions started over the summer seeking to keep High Park car-friendly, telling blogTO that these movements are "based on our worst individual impulses."

He asserts that this petition comes down to "personal inconvenience or axes to grind over the collective good and safety of us all. Nothing more."

Shellnutt agrees with Richardson that "we know from EMS services that their response time isn't impacted by bike lanes presently on Yonge," and says that "using baseless claims of affecting EMS services is irresponsible at best."

After stating that the lanes go "virtually unused three seasons a year" (the oldest stance in the anti-bike propaganda handbook,) the group tries to suggest that the lanes should instead be moved to Avenue Road, which is as wide as five lanes and features much steeper grades in this neck of the woods.

Richardson suggests that bike lanes on Avenue Road "would be terrific" in addition to what already exists along Yonge, but argues that "the complete street on Yonge is important, because people use those lanes to access the shops, services, schools, restaurants."

She points out that "there are almost no businesses on Avenue between Lawrence and Davenport," and that the anti-cycling crowd "always seem to think that people cycle only for recreation, totally ignoring families like mine who do almost all of our transportation by bike."

In its defence, BeRationalTO claims that "we love CAFETO on Yonge, and we like cycling networks," and that the combined efforts of the city in midtown pose the risk of being "lethal on a main street with less than 20-metre right-of-way."

Almost 4,000 people have signed the petition, which has a stated goal of hitting 5,000 signatures.

But that's a goal that Robin Richardson and Yonge4All have already attained, rounding up over 5,200 signatures in their petition to make the pilot a permanent fixture, with 70 per cent of that group living within 5 kilometres of the pilot area.

This includes support from several community and residents groups, including the Rosedale-Moore Park Association, the Brentwood Towers Tenants' Association, Quantum Owners and Residents' Association, Deer Park Residents' Group, the Republic Residents' Association, ABC Residents' Association, and Lytton Park Residents' Association.

Lead photo by

A Great Capture

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