In response to a City Council resolution to remove the Jarvis Street bike lanes that were installed in July 2010, and add a fifth reversible centre lane, the Toronto Cyclists Union sought a legal opinion whether the Project would be subject to screening under the Municipal Class Environmental Assessment (MCEA). The opinion, prepared by Laura Bowman of Iler Campbell LLP, concludes that the removal of the bike lanes would trigger a minimum of a Schedule B assessment either on the basis that the Project involves the reconstruction of Jarvis Street for a different purpose, use or capacity, where the cost is less than $2.2 M (Category 20) or as a road related work, where the cost is less than $2.2 M (Category 41).
The opinion also argues that given the likely adverse environmental impacts of the Project, and the significant public interest, it should be subject to a more thorough Schedule C assessment. The opinion highlights a range of impacts of decommissioning the bike lane, including:
- Social effects, such as increasing the risk of car/bike collisions and the nuisance effects of increased car traffic;
- Reduced transportation efficiency due to increased commuting times and increased transportation costs;
- Bio-physical environmental impacts due to increased air and noise pollution; and
- Loss of cultural heritage due to a user experience that is inconsistent with the street’s history.
The Cyclists Union has requested that the City elevate the assessment of the Project to a Schedule C environmental assessment and has given the City until Friday, April 13 to respond. If they do not receive a response, they state that they will submit a request for a Part II Order under the Environmental Assessment Act to the Minister of the Environment.
By Meredith James