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The Strange Tale of the Politics of Separated Bikelanes

Minnan-Wong in the Sherbourne bikelane

The National Post has an interesting article about Seinfeld-esque Bizarro World that is forming around the issue of separated bikelanes in Toronto.

Denzil Minnan-Wong, head of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, is pushing a plan of 4 streets in downtown Toronto having physically-separate bikelanes to ensure safety for cyclists (which includes novice and tourist cyclists on Bixi Toronto bikes). Minnan-Wong has not been the biggest supporter of bike infrastructure in the past, voting against Bixi Toronto (he has since come around), the University Ave. separate bikelane (he helped defeat this bikelane) and the Jarvis bikelane (he failed to defeat this one).  Needless to say, it’s weird having Minnan-Wong, a big Rob Ford ally, promoting great bike infrastructure.

 

Vaughan speaking about something at City Hall

The most vocal opponent on Council of this plan is Adam Vaughan, the most prominent anti-Ford Councillor at City Hall these days.  Most of the proposed separated bikelanes fall in his ward, and it sounds like he’s against it because Minnan-Wong is for it.  He also is very critical of the Toronto Cyclists Union for endorsing this plan – because they are trying to work with the Ford Administration in promoting bike infrastructure.

 

So… what’s going on here?  Here are some things to remember:

1) Minnan-Wong deserves credit for pursuing a forward-looking policy meant to increase safety for cyclists in downtown Toronto.  This will not only increase safety for the cyclists there are, but encourage new cyclists to hit the road too.  At the same time, Minnan-Wong is a councillor in North York (and part of Scarborough)… so pushing for bikelanes downtown is different than pushing for bikelanes in his own ward.

2) Adam Vaughan should not be criticized too harshly.  He’s doing a great job of pointing out the failings of the Ford Regime at City Hall, and if this passion prevents him from seeing the benefits of this bikelane plan, then so be it.  This is also HIS ward we’re talking about – and he has to balance the needs and wants of ALL of his constituents when doing his job.  He wasn’t elected to only represent the cyclists (or wannabe cyclists) in his ward… he represents all of the people there, even the ones who didn’t vote for him.

3) The Toronto Cyclists Union has a mandate to work with whoever is in power at City Hall to promote bike infrastructure and make the streets of Toronto friendlier for those on two wheels.  This is equally applicable with Mayor Rob Ford as it was with Mayor David Miller.

What do you think of this strange situation? Leave your thoughts below in the comments.

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