Posts Tagged ‘toronto’

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.

Ontario, point form

I visited southern Ontario last month, making stops in Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, and Welland. I previously lived there for ten years, but I’ve been away for a few years now. I took notes on what I missed and didn’t miss, what I found surprising or annoying.

So then, in observed order, annoyances:

  • Parkades / parking garages are a pain to drive out of. Do drivers really put up with it regularly?
  • 2 or 3 cars on nearly every Mississauga driveway
  • The Toronto practice of sending one or two full-size fire trucks to every 911 emergency call. At busy locations like Dundas Square it means huge trucks rolling up several times during a weekend, disrupting everything around them and barely fitting in the space, often to respond to someone fainting from heat. This was one thing I was very impressed with in London: they have several classes of response vehicles ranging from motorcycles (a small motorcycle or scooter being the absolute fastest way to get around inner London) to smaller cars before getting to full-size ambulances, and North-American-sized fire trucks are rarely seen.
  • Similarly, shops in downtown Toronto being resupplied from tractor-trailer articulated container trucks, usually parked more or less illegally. (Often this is a sign of a food shop or restaurant being supplied by a larger catering company.) I understand the economic idea, but it is completely unsuitable to urban scale even in Toronto.
  • Lifted pickup trucks, and pickups in the city in general. I don’t have anything against vehicles being used for a job, but an oddly high amount of pickups I saw around were pristinely clean and weren’t carrying anything in the cargo area.
  • Loud exhausts:
    • Racing motorcycles
    • Harleys
    • Pickup trucks that sound like Harleys
  • Cheques are still a thing. Come on.
  • Window screens. They make me feel like I’m in a mini-prison.
  • This is super-specific, but the previously wonderful Museum of Inuit Art in Toronto has closed.

And the nice things I wasn’t quite expecting I’d miss so such:

  • Multiculturalism on the subway, and in just about any other public space
  • Free toilets
  • Widespread water fountains
  • The St. Lawrence / Esplanade neighbourhood – probably the most European part of Toronto
  • The sun is strong. This is a bit silly, but after two years at 51-52 degrees latitude, I really noticed the sun being stronger at 43 degrees.
  • The CN Tower is still nice. This is personal since it reminds me of my time in Toronto. But still.
  • The AGO is legitimately pretty great. (Once you get over charging for admission to a museum… but not everywhere can be London.)