Jun 11

Minnan-Wong’s work on bike lanes: pragmatic & inclusionary

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.

via Porter: City’s new bike champion is on the right path – thestar.com.

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.

Mar 11

Ford: Pretty quiet for a cycling advocate

A Smitherman Campaign Ad painting Ford as an opponent of cycling

A ‘postcard’ from the Smitherman campaign painting Ford as anti-cyclist.

Dave Meslin, in the first of what I hope will be a bunch of columns for the Toronto Star, writes about Ford’s sometimes exaggerated views on cycling:

Ford says “cyclists are putting their lives at risk every time they go on the road,” and his solution is both simple and practical: “We have to widen our sidewalks, split them basically in half, pedestrians on one side, closest to the stores, and the cyclists on the other side. It will work in this city.”

This might not be the right solution for every street, but the idea of physically separating cyclists from motor traffic, where possible, is a good one. It encourages more people to try cycling. The concept is not new, nor radical. It’s just common sense, and that’s why separated lanes are being used in cities all across the world, from Berlin to Manhattan to Montreal.

via Rob Ford: Cycling advocate? – thestar.com.

I appreciate the call for a more nuanced perspective on these kinds of things, but my short response to this piece would be simple: just because you’re not advocating AGAINST something doesn’t mean you’re an advocate FOR something.

Case in point: after Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, chair of  the Public Works & Infrastructure Committee, revealed his plan for physically separated bike lanes in the downtown core in January, the response from the Mayor’s Office was swift. This kind of thing, they said, was simply not a priority.

Some advocate.

On a related note: There’s a bizarro world fight simmering over this issue, stemming from the Toronto Cyclists Union enthusiastic support of Minnan-Wong’s plan. They’ve even asked neighbourhood groups to write letters in support of the plan. This has put them at odds with Adam Vaughan, who has written a detailed letter explaing why he’s against Minnan-Wong’s proposals. Needless to say, if you had said last year that the Cyclists Union would be allied with Denzil Minnan-Wong, de facto leader of the “War on Cars” brigade during the Jarvis debates, against lefty man-of-the-people Adam Vaughan you’d probably have been called crazy. But here we are.

I’d echo a call for a more nuanced approach to this issue. There are good reasons to be cautious when looking at Minnan-Wong’s plan, particularly as it may represent the sum total of all the on-street bike lanes this administration wishes to build. (In a 2009 interview with BlogTO, Minnan-Wong said “it’s not practical” for lots of bike lanes downtown: “Let’s determine where there might be one or two of them that they can use and let’s invest in those.”) But it would also be a shame to oppose it out-of-hand, as any new cycling infrastructure would be welcome at this point, particularly a new east-west route on Richmond Street.

Minnan-Wong’s plan could be on the agenda when the Public Works committee meets next week.

Jan 11

Oh, nevermind

Kelly Grant at the Globe disappoints us with this news. But somehow the universe feels balanced again:

Building a separated bike-lane network in downtown isn’t a priority for Mayor Rob Ford now or any time soon, according to his office.

“Right now, it’s just a proposal. It’s just being discussed,” Adrienne Batra, the mayor’s press secretary, said. “We’re trying to stay focused on the bigger-picture issue right now, and that’s the budget.”

via Ford pedalling away from downtown bike-lane network – The Globe and Mail.

P.S – It’s so unlike Denzil Minnan-Wong to do something just to get his name in the headlines.

Jan 11


Great, surprising news as reported by The Star’s Robyn Doolittle:

Ford’s team has voiced “no opposition” to a comprehensive plan put forward by the newly minted public works and infrastructure committee chair, Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, which would see an connected network of curbed cycling routes along busy roads such as Sherbourne, Wellesley and Richmond Sts.

via City to build curbs for separate bike lanes downtown – thestar.com.