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Kristyn Wong-Tam plans city-wide pedestrian Sundays

Councillor 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.

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