Toronto leaders: We need more space. Please open up the streets to people

I sent this letter to Mayor of Toronto and the Councillor for the ward I live in.

Dear Mayor Tory, dear Councillor Cressy,

I was upset at reports of crowding in downtown parks over the weekend. The reports and images highlight the need for more space for people in our city. Health leaders have said that being outside, active and exercising, is important for everyone’s health – but there is no room for that in too many parts of Toronto.

On Saturday it was simply impossible for pedestrians to cross the street at Queen and Strachan while maintaining a safe distance from others. It remains impossible for many to reach the waterfront or a park while safely distancing. The sidewalks and crosswalks are too narrow.

Most people living downtown do not have the option of spending time outdoors in backyards or rooftop terraces.

If downtown Toronto is to remain a vibrant place to live, we need more public space.

We need wide-ranging action extending ActiveTO Quiet Streets program to close more streets to all but local traffic, and enforcement of those regulations.

We need connections between dense downtown neighbourhoods like Queen West, King West, Liberty Village, nearby parks like Stanley Park, Garrison Common, and yes, Trinity Bellwoods, and the lakefront parks. We need serious action to provide more space to those who need it.

At a time when most non-essential businesses are not allowed to be open and some of those allowed to open are choosing not to for safety reasons, it is unreasonable and short-sighted to provide space for cars (going where exactly?) at expense of healthy outdoors options for people.

Toronto’s recovery from this crisis will not be led by cars.

I am calling on you to implement lane closures on streets like Queen, King, and Dufferin. I am calling on you to close Strachan Avenue to through traffic, as it is simply too narrow. I am calling on you to close Bathurst Street south of the bridge, taking advantage of bridge construction which will anyway block through traffic to create an avenue for people to reach the lake. Portland Street and Dan Leckie Way could become an active transportation spine overnight.

There are many more locations that should be improved – these are merely those I’m most familiar with. It behooves us to ask of every street: is Toronto best served by reserving it for cars?

Thank you.