Police have arrested a protester blocking the removal of the Jarvis Street bike lanes late Tuesday morning according to an onlooker who saw the incident take place.
Zack Pothier was on Jarvis Street between Queen Street and Shuter around 11 a.m. when he witnessed a man being arrested after refusing to allow a city truck removing the lanes to pass.
“The police were trying to get him to move,” recalled Pothier who was in the area for about five minutes before the arrest took place. “He refused and stood his ground, and that’s when they decided to arrest him.
“First they took his bike and then they picked him off the street. He didn’t resist.”
Toronto Police Const. Tony Vella confirmed the identity of the man as Tomislav Svoboda, 45, of Toronto, charged with Mischief (interfere with property).
Pothier, who tweeted a picture of the arrest said at the time around 20 to 25 protesters were obstructing the scrubbing truck erasing the lane.
“The protesters were impeding the movement of the truck,” said Pothier, who said he opposed the removal of the bike lanes though is not a protester. “Police would ask them to move up a couple of metres every few minutes and they would comply. I’d say they’re more delaying it right now than anything else.”
The protest, which began Monday, Nov. 12 afternoon, is now in its second day.
Jarvis resident Chris Drew said he makes use of the bike lanes every day to get to work. He decided to take part in the protest Monday upon reading a tweet from the Jarvis Taskforce, a local residential group urging participation in the action.
“I’m not sure if the public knew exactly what we were doing and we didn’t have a lot of time to organize,” said Drew who was on his way to work when he heard about the action. “I didn’t even know I was going to be there to be honest.”
No matter the success of the protest, Drew said he will continue to use Jarvis, but he is worried about sharing space with drivers, describing his experience before the bike lanes as “riding on the Don Valley Parkway.”
“You could clearly see how frustrated drivers were,” said Drew. “They would come up right behind you and would almost have to come to a complete stop because they couldn’t safely pass.”
Work to remove the lanes between Bloor Street and Queen Street East and restore a reversible centre lane began Monday.
The cost of the removal, which was approved by city council in 2011, is expected to be around $300,000.
Transit and cycling advocate Cameron MacLeod expressed dismay with the Jarvis bike lane removal, but said protesting was sending the wrong message and would not lead to safer cycling.
“Lying in the street honestly just leads those who are not watching closely to conclude that ‘those crazy cyclists who always cut me off are at it again,’” wrote MacLeod in an email.
A member of the transit advocacy group CodeRedTO, Macleod worried the action could set a bad precedent for the opposition of political decisions deemed unpopular to a segment of the community.
“I just imagine residents who want subways (but not higher taxes) simply lying in the street to block LRT construction, or residents handing out plastic shopping bags on street corners,” wrote MacLeod.
But Drew said the decision to protest was the final stand against a decision widely opposed by the cycling community.
“All options were exhausted,” said Drew. “If you can’t advocate for a bike lane on Jarvis I’m not sure where you find another location, and no one’s providing a specific answer.”
- with files from David Nickle