In the frantic lead-up to last week’s vote on the Jarvis Street bike lanes, Councillor Josh Colle told at least two Toronto residents via email that he would not support spending money to remove the lanes. “The City of Toronto currently faces a projected deficit of over $700 million dollars and will have many tough decisions to make in the coming year,” wrote the councillor. “In light of this, I do not believe it would be an appropriate use of limited City resources to eliminate bike lanes on Jarvis Street.”
Colle later reversed from this position, voting with Public Works Chair Denzil Minnan-Wong and the right-wing of Council against an amendment moved by local Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam that would have saved the lanes. He also supported the 2011 Bike Plan as a whole, even once it was clear that his support would mean approving spending limited City resources to eliminate bike lanes on Jarvis Street.
Councillor Josh Matlow, who had previously made a commitment to saving the lanes, also voted against Wong-Tam’s motion to preserve them. He later clarified that this was a mis-vote, and his intention had been to vote “Yes” on the item. Fair enough.
Worrying that perhaps Colle too had made a mistake, I emailed the councillor for clarification. His response read, in part: “In response to resident concerns to secure a north-south passageway in the city centre, I felt that separated bike lanes on Sherbourne Street with better connectivity north of Bloor was the best alternative. I made it a priority to ensure that nothing would happen to the Jarvis Street bicycle lanes until separated bike lanes were fully installed and operational on Sherbourne.”
This is disappointing behaviour from a councillor and works only to diminish valuable and critical trust between residents and elected officials. I would cheerfully suggest to Councillor Colle that any advantage he or his family gets from being seen as a “team player” with the Ford administration could very well be erased if the electorate starts to perceive him as lax with his convictions.