City Council Scorecard: How to save the Jarvis bike lanes

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On May 25, 2009, a very different-looking Toronto City Council considered PW24.15, “Jarvis Street Streetscape Improvements – Class Environmental Assessment Study.” This item ultimately led to the installation of the controversial Jarvis Street bike lanes.

In the coming weeks, thanks to a motion by Councillor John Parker on PW5.1 “Bikeway Network – 2011 Update”, council will once again debate Jarvis Street, its role in the city, and whether it should continue to be of use to the 900+ cyclists who ride the route daily. While the exact nature of that debate is still a bit unclear — Public Works Chair Denzil Minnan-Wong would appear to favour the return of the reversible fifth lane, but the cost may be prohibitive — cycling advocates within the city have already begun a campaign to Save Jarvis Street.

But given the divisive nature of council and Mayor Rob Ford’s effectiveness when it comes to gathering support for major issues, the question has to be asked: Can the Jarvis lanes be saved? Is there any realistic hope of Rob Ford and company not getting their way?

Combining data from the 2009 vote and trends from my City Council Scorecard, an answer to that question does seem to emerge. And that answer is: maybe. But there are still a number of blanks that need to be filled in.

DISCLAIMER: This is highly speculative. For novelty purposes only.

Surprisingly, seven councillors who are currently hardline Ford supporters voted in favour of the bike plan on Jarvis Street in 2009. Joining them in support was Councillor Ron Moeser, who leans conservative but tends to vote more with his conscience than with the whip. The 2009 vote passed 28-16, with 1 absent. (I’ve included a breakdown of that vote at the bottom of this post. Just for the hell of it.)

Making a bunch of assumptions based on current voting patterns — along with some statements councillors have made since this issue resurfaced, e.g. Mary-Margaret McMahon’s comment on Twitter –, council currently breaks down with 17 in favour of keeping the Jarvis lanes, 15 opposed and 13 unknown votes. Six of the uncommitted councillors need to break for maintaining the status quo for the Jarvis lanes to win the day.

Of the unknowns, Councillors Mammoliti, Nunziata, Kelly, Palacio & Grimes are likely to flip-flop on their earlier position and support the removal of the lanes. It’s hypocritical and barely justifiable, but that won’t be enough to stop them.

Of the remaining eight, the best bets for cycling advocates are Councillors Matlow, Bailão, Colle, Moeser, Robinson and Di Giorgio. The first three will be significantly easier to convince than the last three, who might trot out the argument that, following the results of the 2010 election, Council has a democratic mandate to remove the Jarvis bike lanes.

It all adds up to a very tough-looking fight. The next council meeting is set for July 12.

If anyone has any information on voting intentions for the councillors I’ve identified as unknown — or if I’ve got a ‘likely’ vote wrong — please let me know and I’ll update the chart. I can be reached via email or on Twitter at @FordForToronto.

2009 Vote

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