Toronto might close part of Yonge Street to cars to allow pedestrians to social distance
Maintaining a physical distance of at least six feet from everyone you pass is easier said than done while walking on one of downtown Toronto's most crowded streets, and that's precisely why some are advocating for part of Yonge Street to be closed to cars amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
City councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam is one of the people advocating for this change, and she sent a letter to Mayor John Tory urging him to consider the move in order to facilitate physical distancing and give pedestrians space to spread out.
"The intention would be for downtown Yonge Street — so from Bloor South to Queen Street [to be closed]," Wong-Tam told CBC News.
"Our sidewalks are generally very narrow, especially for the most densely populated neighborhood in the country. People are not passing each other safely because there isn't enough space for them to do so."
This is a good idea. It’s about the safety of downtown residents.Thank you @kristynwongtam for promoting. Thanks @shawnmicallef for advocating. Versions of it, possibly not the whole street, are needed on other thoroughfares in the core. https://t.co/PQzECDeWvt— Mike Jancik (@mikejancik) March 25, 2020
Wong-Tam encouraged the city's management team to make this change earlier this week, and she told The Globe and Mail she was waiting for the idea to be evaluted.
Former chief planner of Toronto Jennifer Keesmat is also on board with the idea.
30,000 people live in 0.7 sq km along Yonge Street. 5 yrs ago we identified an unsafe inefficiency: the majority move on a narrow crowded sidewalk, with most public space reserved for cars. For #PhysicalDistancing, we must close the street to cars, allowing people to walk safely. https://t.co/lnSwulGIYN— Jennifer Keesmaat (@jen_keesmaat) March 22, 2020
"30,000 people live in 0.7 sq km along Yonge Street," she tweeted earlier this week.
"5 yrs ago we identified an unsafe inefficiency: the majority move on a narrow crowded sidewalk, with most public space reserved for cars. For #PhysicalDistancing, we must close the street to cars, allowing people to walk safely."
And Gil Meslin, an urban planner in Toronto, shared the same idea online.
"Suggestion: temporarily close Yonge Street to vehicles south of Bloor," he wrote. "Provide a dense community of tens of thousands, many living in small spaces, with a central spine of public realm suitable for social distancing."
Advocates of the idea say Toronto residents living near Yonge Street need to be able to get fresh air while still maintaining distance between pedestrians, and they argue the current density simply doesn't allow for this.
6. Yet this is the sidewalk condition along much of Yonge. Good luck maintaining a six-foot distance. pic.twitter.com/fPuCtOjv3j— Gil Meslin (@g_meslin) March 20, 2020
"During this period, many people here are isolated in tall towers with hundreds of small apartments, and many of these buildings do not have direct access to the kind of outdoor space that allows one to practice social distancing," Meslin said.
According to the Globe and Mail, Vancouver is considering a similar initiative to ensure pedestrians can keep proper physical distance away from one another.
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