Advocates criticize Toronto's plan to make more space for pedestrians and parking

The City of Toronto launched a new program last week in order to address the lack of space for pedestrians to properly social distance on sidewalks, but advocates say the plan doesn't go nearly far enough. 

When Toronto Mayor John Tory first announced the launch of CurbTO on April 27, he said it would see curb lanes blocked off in places "where there is sidewalk crowding and temporary parking concerns around essential businesses," also known as "hot spots."

The program began with 10 hot spots identified as either a Curb Lane Pedestrian Zone, Temporary Parking Pick-Up Zone or both. Curb lanes around these spots were blocked off with pylons to enable pedestrians to get around lineups outside businesses, allow drivers and delivery agents to park temporarily to expedite medicine and food pickups or both. 

But critics say the program does little to actually address the issue of pedestrians lacking space to walk freely while properly physically distancing from others. 

Critics also say the program actually caters more to cars and businesses than it does to pedestrians, which is disappointingly on-brand for Toronto. 

Photos and videos of some of the hot spots have also been shared to social media in recent days, revealing that pylons on a small stretch of a curb lane do little to address congestion on the rest of the street.

Some cyclists are also unhappy with the implementation of the program as it forces them to merge with traffic when approaching a hot spot. 

City councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam and other advocates have repeatedly called on the city to close some downtown streets to cars so that pedestrians can properly spread out, and they maintain that this is the only effective way to ensure social distancing while allowing residents to go outside for fresh air and exercise. 

Still, the city plans to expand the CurbTO program. Businesses, BIAs, residents and city councillors can submit requests to have particularly busy spots considered for it, and councillor Joe Cressy submitted 13 spots for consideration just yesterday. 

But while some are willing to accept the bare minimum, others continue to demand more. 

"We need to close streets – partly or entirely – to give people more room to circulate safely, especially in large urban centres. We need to let people use parks to their full extent – enough of this 'stay on the path or be fined' nonsense," wrote Globe and Mail health columnist Andre Picard in an article earlier today

The Toronto Star even published an editorial on the matter titled Toronto needs to make space and trust residents to go for a walk last week.

Other urban centres, such as New York City, have moved to close countless major streets to make space for people. 

If the most populous city in the U.S. can do it, why can't we?

Lead photo by

Michael Thompson

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