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Kristyn Wong-Tam plans city-wide pedestrian Sundays

Posted by Chris Bateman / February 4, 2013

toronto bikesCouncillor Kristyn Wong-Tam doesn't want the legacy of Toronto's Pan Am Games, America's biggest celebration of sport and athletics, to be just bricks and mortar. The best way of fostering a healthy legacy, she says, is to organize community and activity building events that continue long after the athletes have left town. Enter the ciclovia.

A Colombian concept adopted by countries across the world, a ciclovia - literally "bike path" - is a temporary closure of regular city streets to non-motorized transportation, not just bikes, like Kensington Market's pedestrian Sundays. Winnipeg, Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton all have their own ciclovia-type events. Ottawa has been closing parts of its downtown core to cars on Sunday mornings since 1970.

Wong-Tam envisions Toronto's ciclovia to be a regular weekend event too, probably in the morning, connecting neighbourhoods through a series of clearly marked routes. The cost, she says, of running the event will likely be covered by a mix of city and corporate dollars.

"I don't think it would be too much of a challenge to bring a bicycle sponsor or an athletics sponsor on board, but I do think it would not be reasonable to have them foot the bill exclusively when the government is not participating. We need to leverage both."

The route of the public event could incorporate interested BIAs across the city, not just in the downtown core. Sunday morning is seen as the best time for a large-scale ciclovia because it is traditionally a slow period for businesses.

The plans are still some way from fruition, but councillor Wong-Tam says she's spoken with councillor Mark Grimes, the mayor's Pan Am secretariat, who she says "supports the idea in principle," as well as the city manager's office.

The final proposal, which will be created with input from 8-80 Cities, Share the Road, and other public space advocacy groups, will be presented as a fleshed-out, "turn-key package," something council can simply vote on, in the hopes of getting it passed.

"Will we just be engaged as consumers, observers, people who are sitting in the stands cheering, or will we be active participants," says the Toronto Centre rep. "If you are only interested in building new facilities - the aquatic centre, the velodrome, which are all very important facilities - you're not able to leave behind a legacy of activity participation and recreation."

"Having a ciclovia in Toronto will probably be the greatest legacy impact that the games can have."

A staff report on the feasibility of a pilot version of the event is due before the Community Development and Recreation Committee in April. Would you like to see more pedestrian events in Toronto?

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Image: "Bells on Bloor" by swampr0se/blogTO Flickr pool.



Joe / February 4, 2013 at 08:54 am
Another article detailing the pathetic unqualified nature of a typical Toronto City Councillor to run this City. So KWT wants to shut down city streets to traffic and kick in government money to do so. She has of course considered the fact that Toronto is bleeding money, has a crumbling infrastructure that needs immediate addressing and the economic impact on downtown businesses of dissuading the many, many drivers from coming to shop in these areas.

Another bridge to nowhere.

Sadly City Councillors get paid way too much when you consider who has the job and not nearly enough to attract real talent. It is like handing over on troll of a billion dollar a year company to a bunch of high school drop outs.
me / February 4, 2013 at 09:02 am
Pedestrian means NO BICYCLES! Or does she get that?
bill replying to a comment from Joe / February 4, 2013 at 09:05 am
You are not "dissuading the many, many drivers" as much as encouraging PEOPLE to come shop and frequent downtown businesses. Most of the economic impact lost would be more than recovered by the foot traffic in the area.
the lemur replying to a comment from me / February 4, 2013 at 09:10 am
It's not a pedestrian Sunday - that's the writer's comparison, and it's about closing streets to *non-motorized* traffic.
the lemur replying to a comment from Joe / February 4, 2013 at 09:11 am
Where does it say government money? Economic impact? It doesn't seem to hurt the cities that are already doing it.
the lemur replying to a comment from Joe / February 4, 2013 at 09:12 am
Colombian, not 'Columbian'.
Moyra Bligh / February 4, 2013 at 09:39 am
Pedestrian - literally means on foot.

Cyclists (even though they think they own the sidewalks) are NOT pedestrians.

the lemur replying to a comment from Moyra Bligh / February 4, 2013 at 09:54 am
The blame lies with the headline and the article, which likens ciclovia/any initiative to close streets to motorized traffic to pedestrian Sundays in Kensington, when in fact they are different.

We're familiar with the definition of 'pedestrian', or at least this cyclist who, like most, has no interest in riding on sidewalks is.
michael / February 4, 2013 at 10:01 am
Hey Joe have you ever been to The Taste of the Danforth? - Taste of Little Italy? The Fierra Festival? Salsa on St. Clair to name of few street closures that attract MILLIONS of people ?
John / February 4, 2013 at 10:09 am
This has been such a huge success/positive impact in other cities, especially Mexico City. It's time Toronto caught up with the rest of the world and encouraged these types of activities. Cycling is good for EVERYONE in the economy. This has been proven over and over.
K. C. / February 4, 2013 at 11:12 am
It's also pretty awesome for people who rely on a car because of a walking disability.
Think before you come up with crap like that.

Also, cyclist will ignore this pedestrian day anyway - as they always ignore the rules.
the lemur replying to a comment from K. C. / February 4, 2013 at 12:25 pm
People who 'rely on cars because of walking disabilities' are how small a group, again?

Again, this is not a 'pedestrian day' if it is done properly as a ciclovia/car-free day. Besides not all cyclists 'always ignore the rules'. Nice try.
McRib / February 4, 2013 at 12:43 pm
Chris on Bay St replying to a comment from the lemur / February 4, 2013 at 12:46 pm
How small a group you ask? Apparently big enough that new transit vehicles are expected to be fully accessible, not to mention the heavily-subsidized Wheel-Trans system.

You can't pick and choose when you want to treat special interest groups as *special* and when you don't. Pedestrian Days descriminate against the disabled.
K. C. replying to a comment from the lemur / February 4, 2013 at 12:47 pm
Hmm, so now we define the importance of something depending on the number of people it affects.
Well that's really interesting. In that case, please compare the number of car drivers to the number of cyclists.

Nice try.
the lemur replying to a comment from K. C. / February 4, 2013 at 12:58 pm
Why have existing pedestrian/non-motorized events (Taste of the Danforth, Fiera, Santa Claus parade, marathons, etc.) not been subject to similar criticisms on the part of the mobility-challenged then?

And these events are, and will be, primarily attended by pedestrians, outnumbering cyclists virtually all the time!
the lemur replying to a comment from Chris on Bay St / February 4, 2013 at 01:03 pm
New transit vehicles (and the TTC as a whole) are to be fully accessible because of legal requirements, not because of the overwhelming numbers of people requiring accessibility (note that this includes strollers, etc.). And also to potentially reduce the use of Wheel-Trans services.

The TTC doesn't make things accessible simply out of the goodness of its own corporate heart. Remember that they refused to provide station/stop announcements consistently until a blind guy dragged them to court.

If pedestrian days 'discriminate' against the disabled (except, presumably, the ones able to get around with the aid of a mobility device), then allowing streets to be used by fast-moving dangerous motor vehicles also discriminates against the mobility-challenged who attempt to cross them.
K. C. replying to a comment from the lemur / February 4, 2013 at 01:11 pm
There is a difference between events that occur once a year and a planned restriction on mobility every 7th day.

I'm sorry, but you can't ignore the fact that there are people who need motor transportation. You can't exclude them from city life.

What would happen, if someone suggested a cyclist free day or to lower the interval of pedestrians' signal lights? This would greatly reduce the traffic jams and accidents in Toronto.
You don't need to answer, I'm pretty sure I know...
Ford4ever / February 4, 2013 at 01:11 pm
It's not my thing, but why not give it a shot?

One question though -- would they have to shut down streetcars along the participating streets?

the lemur replying to a comment from Chris on Bay St / February 4, 2013 at 01:12 pm
We also already have streets that are pedestrianized/closed to motor vehicles, such as Gould St - are those somehow also 'discriminating' against the disabled?

Would it really be discriminatory to the disabled to have one street or a few streets closed to motor vehicles on a Sunday morning?

How is it that no one has sued the organizers of Kensington's pedestrian Sundays yet?
Antony / February 4, 2013 at 01:51 pm
What an anguished reaction to the idea of a few streets not allowing automobiles for a few hours once a week.


Nevermind that people on mobility scooters drive in the streets everyday at their own risk, or squeeze onto narrow sidewalks between sandwich boards and pedestrians.

Having a chance to take your electric wheelchair for a nice morning ride, in the summer, with wide streets and neighbors all around... sounds pretty good to me.
the lemur replying to a comment from K. C. / February 4, 2013 at 02:11 pm
And there is also a difference between an event that happens once every 7 days on the quietest, least busy day of the week, on one or at most a handful of streets, that people can still come to *by motorized transportation* (car or transit), and still be able to get around on all the other streets and roads of the city

... and pretending that this somehow oppresses the mobility-challenged in that they wouldn't be able to use motorized transportation to go ANYWHERE ELSE at all, or indeed use mobility devices, electric or otherwise, at events where motor vehicles are excluded.

No one would seriously suggest a cyclist-free day - the benefits would be questionable and marginal, the drawbacks would be obvious. Pedestrian signals, on the other hand, do get adjusted and not always to the pedestrians' benefit.
the lemur replying to a comment from Ford4ever / February 4, 2013 at 02:14 pm
They don't run the College streetcar west of Bathurst during the Italian festival, so that's one possibility ... but they could also hold the event on non-transit streets/non-arterials. Unless of course the 'I must drive everywhere, all the time, and a street is not truly accessible to me unless I can drive on it' crowd get their way.
Skye / February 4, 2013 at 02:54 pm
That loud THUD was the sound of Rob Ford fainting.
Marc / February 4, 2013 at 03:16 pm
skye, you mean the thud coming from Queen's Park and Parliament. They'll get back up soon, because they'll either find a way or excuse to stop the idea, or they'll find a way to make money out of it as they always do - never for the sake of beauty or common good/progress.
JoeTheLongFace replying to a comment from Joe / February 4, 2013 at 05:47 pm
Oh Joe,

Don't you know we lefties LOVE wasting money. Now go think on that awhile...feel the white-hot burn of rage while Toronto wastes money at every turn. YOUR money. Hee! And if we run out of money to spend, we'll just ask the 'burbs to pony up again.

God I love amalgamation! It's the gift that keeps on giving (me the giggles). :)
junctionist / February 4, 2013 at 06:07 pm
This idea is amazing. When people in the suburbs don't get these kinds of experiences, they may become resentful of downtown. It's the same with public squares and other spaces, as well as transit. I think that they'll enjoy temporarily pedestrianized streets. Getting people walking is important so that people in all neighbourhoods of Toronto can enjoy the health benefits.

On another note, I think that the term "street closure" should be avoided because it's purely car-centric. Pedestrianization sounds like you're opening up the street to people who would normally not be able to stroll on the roadway. Hence, Councillor Wong is proposing to open up streets across the city to pedestrians.
will_see / February 4, 2013 at 07:51 pm
Bicyclists have managed to take all the tranquility out of "Pedestrian Sundays" in Kensington by their car driver attitude. "I want to get to where I'm going as fast as I can, and I don't want some lowly pedestrian in my way." They'll need good enforcement if they're going to make this good event for pedestrians.
me replying to a comment from will_see / February 4, 2013 at 09:34 pm
I know!! Maybe make the streets open to cars, THAT"LL keep the bicycle weenies under control!!
Dave replying to a comment from K. C. / February 4, 2013 at 10:03 pm
Learn to read, and stop being an alarmist. It said "regular weekend event," not "weekly event." The first Sunday morning of every month during the summer would be a regular weekend event, for example. The result would be something like 12 hours of restricted motorvehicle traffic (not no motorvehicle traffic) over the course of the year.

Please, tell me more about your no bicycle day idea. It sounds like a winner. Sell me on the benefits to communities, to the health of residents, and to businesses. Dazzle us some more with your logic and insight.
will_see replying to a comment from me / February 4, 2013 at 10:35 pm
Making the "streets open to cars" won't "keep the bicyclists under control." The streets are open to cars now, and the least predictable vehicles are the bicyclists. A minority of them think that since they are not polluting, they don't have to obey laws. If we bicyclists are even going to be taken seriously, we have to show that we do follow the laws. When I'm riding my bike, cars which are faster, and more lethal, than I are what threaten.When I'm a pedestrian, bicycles which are faster, and more lethal, than I are what threaten.
me replying to a comment from will_see / February 4, 2013 at 10:39 pm
I agree with you to be honest. I was just being silly/sarcastic. Cheers!!
seanm replying to a comment from K. C. / February 4, 2013 at 11:14 pm
Great, are we so PC now that walking is offensive because not everyone can do it? Give me a break K.C., are you that thick? This proposal doesn't involve shutting down every single street in the city, automobile traffic will still be able to get around; albeit with a possible detour of some sort depending on one's route.

You make it sound as if these said people with disabilities literally can't get around without a car. How do they get to bed, drive to it from the living room? Sometimes people here astound me, and not for the right reasons.
will_see replying to a comment from me / February 4, 2013 at 11:57 pm
Yvonne / February 5, 2013 at 10:03 am
Pedestrian Sundays in Kensington Market are only comparable to Ciclovia in that the movements of motorized vehicles are restricted on the streets included in the event.

Although there are always people on bicycles who ignore them, we have signage and verbal reminders by volunteers to 'please dismount and walk your bike'. Pedestrian Sundays were created to provide a comfortable space to stroll, stop, dance, shop, watch and enjoy the streets of the market.

It should also be noted that Pedestrian Sundays make Kensington Market even more accessible, in particular when you include the 'Stop Gap' ramps that a number of local businesses have installed which allow people in wheelchairs to more easily enter these stores. Having attended and participated in the coordination of every event since we began Pedestrian Sundays in 2004, one of the things that I appreciate most about our events is the number of wheelchairs that can be seen out and about in the streets.

Aaron / February 5, 2013 at 01:28 pm
A serious gesture would be to build an integrated network of well-designed cycling infrastructure as well as permanent, seasonal and weekend pedestrian zones. Instead, the 'Toronto Compromise' will result in the usual half-baked, half-assed, semi-versions of what other cities have been doing for years.

Toronto does everything half-assed, but even then it takes years of squabbling between war on everybody else factions to reach a result that is unsatisfactory to all.
Simon Tarses replying to a comment from Joe / February 7, 2013 at 04:41 am
Joe, is there a way that you could go back in time and stay there? Also, could you take any of your fellow neocon regressives with you?
Emily / February 7, 2013 at 11:24 am
interesting that no one has mentioned getting to and from church yet... not everyone lives within walking distance from one.
the lemur replying to a comment from Emily / February 7, 2013 at 12:27 pm
You could still take transit to church - I imagine many people do - plus the pedestrian even would not necessarily affect every street with a church on it.
James / February 7, 2013 at 02:54 pm
Wong-Tam and many of the other left caucus at the city are godless communists.

The better solution is to exempt two-wheelers from the one-way street rule on non-arterial streets in the core and you will have the most epic bike network in the world.


Emily replying to a comment from the lemur / February 7, 2013 at 06:19 pm
Aren't buses motorized transportation? Just feelin' for my grandma...
the lemur replying to a comment from Emily / February 7, 2013 at 11:20 pm
They are, yes, but I don't see how closing some streets to motor vehicles would necessarily prevent your grandma from getting to church.
Aaron / February 7, 2013 at 11:53 pm
Everything reduced to left-right, war on everything. Toronto has finally become the American city it has always wanted to be.
Dweeb replying to a comment from Emily / February 8, 2013 at 12:33 am
Lefties don't go to church. They've made "God" illegal.
Waste / February 8, 2013 at 08:08 am
So sick of these lefty councillors so willing to waste our tax dollars :(
the lemur replying to a comment from Dweeb / February 8, 2013 at 08:59 am
Right or left, I prefer my politicians to be godless - accountable to voters, not some imaginary friend in the sky.
Gordon replying to a comment from the lemur / February 8, 2013 at 10:49 am
But still supportive of communities that have differen tcultures andreligions, and institutions that cater to marginalized populations especially since this relieves the state of some of that responsibility.

Just curious, what route are you imagining this playing out on?
Hi / February 8, 2013 at 11:10 am
Why doesn`t Kristyn Wong-Tam take a nice long walk...into Lake Ontario?
UpInSmoke replying to a comment from Waste / February 8, 2013 at 07:57 pm
Hee hee hee! I love it when we waste the taxpayers hard-earned dollars. Mostly because the taxes come from Etobicoke, North York and Scarborough....amalgamation is AWESOME.

Suck on it 'burbs!
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