The Toronto Star’s Catherine Porter went on an apparently quite scary bike ride with Chair of Public Works Denzil Minnan-Wong the other day. While riding — and falling, then falling again — the councillor talked about his plan for installing protected bike lanes on Richmond, Sherbourne, St. George/Beverley, Simcoe and Wellesley/Harbord:
“I see it as a pragmatic solution,” said Minnan-Wong, the public works chair, who will introduce his plan to the committee later this month. From there, it will go in July to council, where he figures he has the votes.
“The mayor has three principles when it comes to bike lanes: safety, community support and where they make sense. This downtown network, where we don’t have parks and ravines, meets those criteria,” he said.
Denzil Minnan-Wong is following the political track that Rob Ford, as mayor, really should be on as well. Now that he and council’s right-wing are in power, he’s throwing his support behind an initiative that even his most steadfast detractors will find appealing. Whereas Ford continues to stand up in council and rant about the socialists, Minnan-Wong would seem to be, at the very least, attempting to heal some of the divisiveness that badly marked the last election.
How genuine Minnan-Wong is with his overtures toward the cycling community is a matter of opinion — that he’s advocating for these lanes while not too long ago he was yelling about Jarvis gives me a ton of pause — , but politically I have to give him credit. That this kind of thing could nicely set him up for a mayoral run is, for him, a fringe benefit.
Minnan-Wong’s been careful to position his bicycle network plan as the mayor’s plan, but so far there’s been little in the way of comment from the mayor’s office on this issue. (“Not a priority,” they said, when Minnan-Wong first started floating the idea.)
I doubt very much the mayor or his loyal band of councillors would take issue with improving existing bike lanes, but I am very interested to see how council responds to the idea of a protected lane on Richmond. The removal of a lane of traffic on what some would dub a major arterial (for cars) seems contrary to the mayor’s beliefs.