During the 2009 debate over the removal of the reversible fifth lane on Jarvis Street — which, of course, led to the Jarvis Street Bike Lanes — Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti stood on the floor of City Council and gave an impassioned — if slightly confusing at times — speech supporting the narrowing of Jarvis Street. Specifically, he said that lower speeds will be good for businesses along the stretch. He praised Councillor Kyle Rae for his work bringing the project forward, and scolded councillors who were critical of the plan. “Get off your rear ends,” he told opposition councillors. “When someone goes down to party on [a narrowed and revitalized] Jarvis Street, they’re going to say what a wonderful street Jarvis is.”
He calls for the end of the oft-fiery debate between “the rights of drivers and cyclists,” telling council that “he doesn’t like that argument because I think everybody has the right to use the road.”
YouTube user HOOFandCYCLE was kind enough to post video of Mammoliti’s remarks. I’ve also transcribed the speech below. Any errors are my own.
Madame Speaker, I want to give some examples of what I would consider human nature, I guess. And that is… — when many of us go to restaurants we tend to look into the restaurant and tend to wonder how busy it might be and how popular it might be. And we tend to go into the restaurants — if we don’t know them quite well — that are loaded with people. The ones that seem to be busy. The ones that seem to be a little crazy.
The ones that are empty we usually say, “Well, the food might not be very good here. And I don’t think I’m going to take the chance.”
When we go to shows and concerts, we usually go to concerts that are the busiest with the most people — blah blah blah blah blah
Night clubs? Lineups out the door? Those are the ones we choose to go in because there must be something special with respect to this nightclub and the amount of people that must be going through.
(Another Councillor asks “What’s the point?”)
My point is — that I’m trying to make — is, that for some reason, the busier the street, the more popular it becomes. The slower a street, with respect with how people move through, the more popular it becomes.
In fact, I believe that if traffic is at a standstill, then businesses actually thrive on those streets. A prime example of that — you remember Yonge Street? Years ago? How congested it was? How you could not move on Yonge Street? The store owners on Yonge Street absolutely loved it. They didn’t want the traffic to go through quickly. They felt that that contributed to their success.
And around the world, that is the case. That, in fact, if you attempt to slow down traffic — in whatever manner — it becomes more popular for the pedestrian who does a lot of shopping. And it becomes a lot more popular for cyclists — yes, it does.
And why don’t we want to take a page from some of the successful cities that have learned from their experiences? That’s all that some of us are saying here. I’m saying it because I believe in that model. I think it actually does create business.
Jarvis, if you drive down, is very fast. Somebody has mentioned — I think it was Councillor McConnell who mentioned it in her speech — that traffic is actually very fast, at times, on Jarvis. And it’s time to slow it down.
So you slow it down by proposing to remove a lane, and, yes, you slow it down as well for people to pay attention to others that are using that street and sidewalks. Whether it’s pedestrians or the cyclists that now will be using Jarvis.
When we all go for our license, and the privilege of having a vehicle license — whether that’s car, or a bicycle license — one of the first things you’re taught about is cyclists. Use your rearview mirrors, watch our for cyclists, be careful. You’re at fault even if the cyclist does something wrong. You’re at fault.
And so, now the debate becomes the debate between the difference in rights between someone who is driving a vehicle and the cyclists. That’s what I’ve been hearing. And I don’t like that argument because I think everybody has the right to use the road.
And I said it it earlier when I stood that cyclists don’t have any other options. They can only use the road. They can’t use the sidewalks. So what is the debate about today — seriously? Some have pointed out that it costs money, and saying that perhaps we should be fixing other roads before this one. Is that the argument today?
Or is the argument about a fundamental logic that you don’t like cyclists on the road? Why don’t we be honest about that if it is?
Now Councillor Rae has worked this into his equation and he must be patted on the back for doing that. And it takes work to put this into any equation. To try and get lanes — cycle lanes — in your communities is a hard task. So might it be that some other councillors don’t want to work as hard, and when they find somebody doing [something] they want to hide behind policy and say, “It’s because of the policy. We shouldn’t be straying from it. How dare we do that?”
Get up off your rear ends and do the same thing.
And if it isn’t about bike lanes, do something else. Take on your own pet project. And don’t just sit at City Hall and try to change people’s minds and create scenarios in the back rooms. Spend some time in your communities and change the flavour of your communities. Councillor Rae is suggesting to change the flavour on Jarvis — and it will.
And then when everyone wants to go down to party on Jarvis, they’re going to say what a wonderful street Jarvis is. It’s so wonderful. At that point, who’s going to be around to remind everyone that perhaps it was the local councillor that changed the way things are done. Perhaps it’s someone who actually stood up and actually cared for his community and cared for the voices — yes, the voices — that I hear everyday.
So when Councillor Holyday stands up and says he’s in Etobicoke and he never sees any cyclists, well — I do. And I think most of us do who are in the West district. And I don’t know where [Holday is] coming from.
Perhaps the cyclists that aren’t there get the feeling that the politicians don’t want them there. And that’s probably why they’re not using our streets. I say something different — I say let’s make sure that we try to get them out there as well.
It’s not just about the Humber River [trail], as someone pointed out, it’s also about encouraging people to use the roads. Encouraging them and wanting them to do it, and not saying they’re excluded because [other councillors] believe some policy needs to be changed or [that] maybe we should be fixing another road somewhere in Scarborough before we do something like this.
Less than a year after making these remarks and voting to approve installation of the bike lanes, Mammoliti reversed course. As part of his abortive campaign for mayor, he told The Toronto Star’s Robyn Doolittle “When I’m the mayor of the City of Toronto, if they succeed with these bike lanes, I will take them down — and that will be the first thing that I do.”
Mammoliti, now one of the most loyal Ford supporters on Council, will undoubtedly vote to remove the Jarvis Street bike lanes when the item comes before council at next month’s meeting.
He has yet to offer a credible explanation for why he changed his mind.