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Reclaiming Streets For People 14

Reclaimed street

Photo – “Reclaimed street” by James D. Schwartz / The Urban Country

Toronto’s mayor Rob Ford thinks that bicycles don’t belong on the streets. Yet he rips out bike lanes forcing cyclists to share lanes with automobiles because cyclists are apparently the cause of our traffic congestion problems.

Last week his brother, Doug Ford – a City Councillor – conceded that he’d rather pay a $5 toll than “knock off 14 cyclists” on his way to City Hall in his Lincoln Navigator SUV. Oh how flattering Doug.

This is what present-day Toronto is dealing with: narrow-minded suburban politicians who think that streets were solely built for their single-occupant motor vehicles, and anyone who rides a bicycle is asking to get killed (“at the end of the day it’s their own fault if they get killed”, opined Rob Ford in 2007).

Furthermore, playing ball hockey on streets is banned citywide. Lest we allow kids to slow down “important” motorists and give these kids anything to do besides staying indoors to watch car commercials infecting their televisions so these kids can dream about one day driving their own car.

Isn’t that what defines us North Americans after all?

Given this state of car-centrism imposed on Canada’s largest city, it was a pleasant surprise to stumble across a residential street that was reclaimed by its residents for but one day last Friday (Canada’s birthday).

Residents blocked off the street and children played amongst themselves while parents looked on. Some even setup their patio furniture on the street to enjoy the festivities and the unique experience of having their own street to themselves for just one day.

It is a beautiful sight in a city with limited space for children to play within eye sight of their parents.

Reclaimed street

Photo – “Reclaimed street” by James D. Schwartz / The Urban Country

Massey Street Toronto

Map of Massey Street in Toronto, Canada – provided by Google Maps

This particular street often has children playing on it – a rare find in Toronto. Just yesterday the neighbourhood children had to pause their game to allow me to pass through on my bicycle.

It put a smile on my face when a 9-year-old boy playfully challenged me to a game of “chicken” as I approached him, before jumping out of the way when I slowly pedaled past.

This is a great example of how all residential streets should function. Kids should be safe to play freely on residential streets anytime, and liability should be on drivers in motor vehicles to watch for playing children.

Unfortunately, decades of narrow car-centric agendas at the municipal, provincial and federal levels of government have discouraged and banned kids from playing on residential streets while ignoring the core issue: that drivers are driving excessively and unsafely in residential areas.

I hope to see more streets like Massey Street in this car-centric city, and hopefully one day we will change our laws to actually encourage kids to use their streets for games instead of treating residential streets like freeways while giving motorists impunity from any liability.

James D. Schwartz is the editor of The Urban Country. You can contact James at james.schwartz@theurbancountry.com.

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  • http://www.joyofbicyclecommuting.com Micheal Blue

    James, in your quote “knock off 14 cyclists” you forgot to mention the “not” that actually precedes your quote – that changes the tone of the quote dramatically. Still, I agree with your post. Cars are not the solution to the transportation challenges, and the municipalities that are car-centric eventually grind to a halt. My qustion is: how can Europe, especially Holland, have good public transit system, very good cycling infrastructure while Canada can’t? Canada is one of the G8 countries, yet it seems not being able to afford to have cutting-edge transportation infrastructure, while Holland can…what gives?
    BTW, I visited the residential areas on Toronto islands. Very nice. It was interesting to see the number and diversity of cargo bikes there.

  • http://www.joyofbicyclecommuting.com/ Micheal Blue

    James, in your quote “knock off 14 cyclists” you forgot to mention the “not” that actually precedes your quote – that changes the tone of the quote dramatically. Still, I agree with your post. Cars are not the solution to the transportation challenges, and the municipalities that are car-centric eventually grind to a halt. My qustion is: how can Europe, especially Holland, have good public transit system, very good cycling infrastructure while Canada can’t? Canada is one of the G8 countries, yet it seems not being able to afford to have cutting-edge transportation infrastructure, while Holland can…what gives?
    BTW, I visited the residential areas on Toronto islands. Very nice. It was interesting to see the number and diversity of cargo bikes there.

  • http://hanlonsrzr.blogspot.com Mr.S.

    Looking at that picture of Doug Ford… Just how empty do you have to be to need that much external validation?

  • http://hanlonsrzr.blogspot.com/ Mr.S.

    Looking at that picture of Doug Ford… Just how empty do you have to be to need that much external validation?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_VG5YJ7NN5GNKJB452SRNLB7E5M Richard

    greetings from the Amish settlement of Lebanon,pa. http://www.Amishstorys.com

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_VG5YJ7NN5GNKJB452SRNLB7E5M Richard

    greetings from the Amish settlement of Lebanon,pa. http://www.Amishstorys.com

  • Gclarke

    Perhaps I’m missing something but Rob Ford’s idea of wider sidewalks split with pedestrians on the building side and bikers between the pedestrians and parked cars seems to be on track. Replace the term “split sidewalk” with protected bike lane and there you go. Rob Ford is a bike advocate.

    I think his “CYCLISTS ARE A PAIN IN THE ASS…” TORONTO MAYOR ROB FORD video on YouTube appears to be taken out of context. The “cycling community” appears to get hyper over any apparent criticism. Ford didn’t say ban bikes. He’s asking where in the transportation scheme do bikes fit in. Sounds like a reasonable question.

    I did note a speaker commenting on the Jarvis bikes lanes state that at peak morning rush (7:15 – 8:15) 130 cyclists were counted, 27,000 cars, and 2 buses. It maybe cheaper to buy the cyclists bus passes each day. This is another case of “build it and they didn’t come” advocacy and why people like Rob Ford gets elected to mayor.

    • http://www.theurbancountry.com James Schwartz

      Rob Ford doesn’t have any plans to widen sidewalks and split them between cyclists and pedestrians. I would be all for this approach, but it’s simply not true.

      Whoever said that Jarvis street supports 27,000 cars, 130 cyclists and 2 buses in a 1 hour time frame was simply making up numbers. This is completely fabricated and there are very few streets that can support 27,000 cars in an hour.

      And now, some facts: Prior to the bike lanes being installed, there were 13,000 cars counted in an 8 hour window, and 290 bicycles. After the bike lanes were installed, car traffic volume remained at 13,000, but the number of bicycles increased to 890 – three times the number of cyclists – without reducing car volumes.

      • Gclarke

        It was KAREN STINTZ’s TORONTO City Councillor

        She is on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v6-Awi9zrVA

        According to Karen, there shouldn’t be a bike lane on Jarvis at all. It was never funded in the Bike Plan. She makes a very rational argument. It is the exact same one I hear in my upstate New York town all the time (although Karen seems way, way too nice and well spoken to be a New Yorker).

        • http://www.theurbancountry.com James Schwartz

          Just because Councillor Stintz said it, it doesn’t make it true. All that makes her is either a liar, or incompetent. The facts are in the document she was referring to, and there is nothing about 130 bicycles vs. 27,000 cars. She made up those numbers. Here is the report she was referring to: http://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2011/pw/bgrd/backgroundfile-38906.pdf

          In fact, there is nothing rational about what Councillor Stintz claimed in her speech. Stintz refers to the original public realm improvements that she voted against by voting to remove the Jarvis street bike lane and re-instating the 5th car lane.

          She made it very clear that getting one of her constituents home in time for dinner is more important than the safety of the 900 cyclists that use that road.

  • Gclarke

    Perhaps I’m missing something but Rob Ford’s idea of wider sidewalks split with pedestrians on the building side and bikers between the pedestrians and parked cars seems to be on track. Replace the term “split sidewalk” with protected bike lane and there you go. Rob Ford is a bike advocate.

    I think his “CYCLISTS ARE A PAIN IN THE ASS…” TORONTO MAYOR ROB FORD video on YouTube appears to be taken out of context. The “cycling community” appears to get hyper over any apparent criticism. Ford didn’t say ban bikes. He’s asking where in the transportation scheme do bikes fit in. Sounds like a reasonable question.

    I did note a speaker commenting on the Jarvis bikes lanes state that at peak morning rush (7:15 – 8:15) 130 cyclists were counted, 27,000 cars, and 2 buses. It maybe cheaper to buy the cyclists bus passes each day. This is another case of “build it and they didn’t come” advocacy and why people like Rob Ford gets elected to mayor.

  • http://www.theurbancountry.com/ James Schwartz

    Rob Ford doesn’t have any plans to widen sidewalks and split them between cyclists and pedestrians. I would be all for this approach, but it’s simply not true.

    Whoever said that Jarvis street supports 27,000 cars, 130 cyclists and 2 buses in a 1 hour time frame was simply making up numbers. This is completely fabricated and there are very few streets that can support 27,000 cars in an hour.

    And now, some facts: Prior to the bike lanes being installed, there were 13,000 cars counted in an 8 hour window, and 290 bicycles. After the bike lanes were installed, car traffic volume remained at 13,000, but the number of bicycles increased to 890 – three times the number of cyclists – without reducing car volumes.

  • Gclarke

    It was KAREN STINTZ’s TORONTO City Councillor

    She is on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v6-Awi9zrVA

    According to Karen, there shouldn’t be a bike lane on Jarvis at all. It was never funded in the Bike Plan. She makes a very rational argument. It is the exact same one I hear in my upstate New York town all the time (although Karen seems way, way too nice and well spoken to be a New Yorker).

  • http://www.theurbancountry.com/ James Schwartz

    Just because Councillor Stintz said it, it doesn’t make it true. All that makes her is either a liar, or incompetent. The facts are in the document she was referring to, and there is nothing about 130 bicycles vs. 27,000 cars. She made up those numbers. Here is the report she was referring to: http://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2011/pw/bgrd/backgroundfile-38906.pdf

    In fact, there is nothing rational about what Councillor Stintz claimed in her speech. Stintz refers to the original public realm improvements that she voted against by voting to remove the Jarvis street bike lane and re-instating the 5th car lane.

    She made it very clear that getting one of her constituents home in time for dinner is more important than the safety of the 900 cyclists that use that road.