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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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City Hall wants to shut down Cycling Advisory Committee

It was rumoured to be happening, but now it’s official… the Rob Ford Regime wants to shut down the Cycling Advisory Committee .  The Cycling Committee is not the only one facing the axe… it is one of 21 committees (PDF) to be shut down… committees that are formed by experts in their chosen field to advise Council on matters, because Councillors do not have time to be experts in everything.

In case you think that this is to save money – the report states that “There are no financial implications resulting from this report. Support for advisory bodies and working committees is provided through existing resources in the City Clerk’s Office and relevant divisions.” (thanks to Ryan for pointing this out in the comments below) … so it’s NOT about saving money, it IS about preventing Torontonians from being involved.

For a Council that was supposed to be striving for accountability, transparency, and “respect for taxpayers”, it has gone out of their way over the past 4 months to close off city government from the people it’s meant to serve.

Councillor Adam Vaughan has sent out an “Action Alert” to alert people to this latest threat to democracy and let them know what they can do (this has since been picked up by the Bike Union as well):

Dear Cycling and Pedestrian advocates,

Over the years many of you have played an important role, advising City Council and City staff on advisory bodies.

Mayor Ford is moving to eliminate these groups and opportunities for resident input.

Two of the groups slated for elimination are the Toronto Pedestrian Committee and the Toronto Cycling Advisory Committee.

Sustaining and building a vibrant city is complex.  In every decision there are hundreds of needs, ideas and perspectives that need to be considered in order to get to creative, innovative, solutions that make our City great for everyone.

We need you and your neighbours at the table with us – governing the City’s many agencies, boards, committees and corporations, serving on advisory committees and bringing your voices to Standing Committees.

The latest proposal to keep people out of City Hall, by eliminating formal advisory roles for taxpayers is on the agenda for the next Executive Committee.

Please come to the meeting and share your views:

Date: Wednesday April 20, 2011
Time: starting at 9:30am
Location: Toronto City Hall, Second Floor, Committee Room 1
To make a deputation at Executive Committee, contact Frances Pritchard of the City Clerk’s office to register. She can be reached at 416-392-6627 or exc@toronto.ca.

The full report is available online here:
If you can’t make it to the meeting, you can still let the councillors on the Executive Committee know how important these advisory committees are to you.

Mayor Ford   416-397-3673  mayor_ford@toronto.ca
Councillor Holyday  416-392-4002  councillor_holyday@toronto.ca
Councillor Ainslie  416-392-4008  councillor_ainslie@toronto.ca
Councillor Berardinetti 416-392-0213  councillor_berardinetti@toronto.ca
Councillor Del Grande 416-392-1374  councillor_delgrande@toronto.ca
Councillor Kelly  416-392-4047  councillor_kelly@toronto.ca
Councillor Mammoliti  416-395-6401  councillor_mammoliti@toronto.ca
Councillor Milczyn  416-392-4040  councillor_milczyn@toronto.ca
Councillor Minnan-Wong 416-397-9256  councillor_minnan-wong@toronto.ca
Councillor Palacio  416-392-7011  councillor_palacio@toronto.ca
Councillor Robinson  416-395-6408  councillor_robinson@toronto.ca
Councillor Shiner  416-395-6413  councillor_shiner@toronto.ca
Councillor Thompson  416-397-9274  councillor_thompson@toronto.ca
Please share this information with your networks and community.

Best regards,

Adam Vaughan

 

PLEASE EMAIL your city councillor and ANY or ALL of the ones on the Executive Council listed above, and let them know that you want Torontonians to have a voice in how they city we love is run.

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