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Turning Jarvis from a Street for Cars to a Street for Everyone

The City of Toronto is looking to “improve” the Jarvis Streetscape, and it’s about time.

Jarvis is one of the most unpleasant streets to be on in downtown Toronto if you’re a cyclist or pedestrian. The lanes are narrow (meaning no room for cyclists), and it’s 5 lanes wide with narrow sidewalks – meaning walking on it is not a pleasant activity. The sad fact is, Jarvis is known more for the “Hooker Harveys” at Gerrard and a quick(ish) way to get to the Gardiner Expressway.

The city says it wants to make Jarvis more people-friendly:

Around 1997, the City of Toronto embarked on an streetscape improvement feasibility study that would see Jarvis Street regain at least a modicum of its former glory—rearranging traffic flow, adding sustainable greenery, preserving historical sites, and significantly enhancing activity on the pedestrian level. Rogers Communications, which is headquartered at Jarvis and Bloor, donated a large amount of money toward the redevelopment plans, which aim to revamp the corridor north of Queen. Following exhaustive research and more than a decade later, the Jarvis Street Streetscape Improvement plan has now been formally introduced. [Torontoist]


Unfortunately, while the city has great goals, it says that it can’t do much… it can’t widen sidewalks because of utility lines and infrastructure under the road – and it doesn’t want to add bikelanes because there are no bikelanes on Jarvis in the BikePlan.

A Traffic Study Report (PDF) from 2005 for this Jarvis Improvement Project also has language that sounds like it’s recommending cyclists stay off of Jarvis and use Sherbourne instead [pages 38-39]. It does not go into the possibility that Sherbourne gets higher numbers of cyclists because it is more cyclist friendly.

If you want to ask the City for bikelanes (or anything else) on Jarvis, contact them:

Maogosha Pyjor
City of Toronto, Public Consultation Unit
Tel: 416-338-2850
Email: Jarvis@toronto.ca
Facebook Group: Jarvis Streetscape Improvement

24 Hour Comment Line: 416-397-7777
Fax: 416-392-2974
TTY: 416-397-0831
Mail: City of Toronto, Public Consultation Unit
55 John Street, 19th Floor, Toronto ON, M5V 3C6

Personally, I think the reasons the city is using to not include bikelanes on the new Jarvis are not valid:

1) The road won’t be wide enough – this is only true if “traffic capacity” is the priority. Everything I read about this makes reference to the goal of not inconveniencing drivers too much. What happened to the goal of getting people out of cars and onto bikes and transit? What happened to pursuing a “Green City”? You’ll never have a pedestrian-friendly street if you think of drivers first and everyone else second.

2) There are bikelanes on Sherbourne – this is a reason for NOT putting bikelanes on Jarvis? Since the city likes to tell cycling advocates that “every street is a cycling street”, the fact that Sherbourne has bikelanes is irrelevant. Also, saying that “bikelanes on Sherbourne make cyclists safer” (as the meeting report does) proves the point that bikelanes on Jarvis would make things safer – not only for cyclists but for pedestrians.

Torontoist has a great post about this.

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