John Lorinc examines Jan Gehl’s one stone-five birds strategy

With a winking apology to the ornithology set, the renowned Danish architect Jan Gehl last week laid out his “one stone-five birds” strategy for a brand of urban transformation that unapologetically privileges pedestrians and cyclists while methodically squeezing cars out of the downtown.

And, as the 73-year-old Gehl told a standing-room only crowd at the Design Exchange last week, the benefits of a city with vibrant public spaces accrue broadly: “We have come to realize that a lively city has a higher degree of social inclusion,” said Gehl, who has long been involved with efforts to close off many of Copenhagen’s downtown streets while dramatically increasing its network of bike lanes. “It’s important for democracy if people from different groups can meet each other in their communities rather than sitting at home and watching television.”

Inspiring sentiments, but will council and city officials hear them as the right, eyes trained on next year’s municipal election, seeks to brand Mayor David Miller as an ideologue waging a war on cars?

City planning officials did their part to bring Jehl — who has played a key role in New York City’s pedestrian and cycling strategies — to Toronto, introduce him to key players and shop him around to reporters. But the city’s media ignored his appearance — an omission that will make it easier for the mayor’s party to either duck his advice or, more likely, cherry-pick the easy bits (more on this in a moment).

In a nutshell, Gehl argues that city cores become livelier, safer, more attractive, more sustainable and healthier (the five birds) if municipal governments restrict cars in core areas (one stone) using a variety of methods, including removing lanes, widening sidewalks, and programming downtown traffic signals to impede, rather than expedite, vehicular movement.

But, Gehl added, tactics are crucial. His advice to municipal clients such as Melbourne and NYC is to move by increments, and then to closely document the impact of such changes using regularly updated “public life surveys.”

The idea, Gehl pointed out, is that city officials should have at their fingertips meticulous data showing how reductions in vehicle access are linked to increasing cycling and pedestrian activity. Among his most interesting indicators is the number of outdoor café seats. When collected at regular intervals, such information provides a bulwark against complaints from car-friendly politicians or retailers complaining about losing customers. “Having figures and facts is better than having heated discussions about pre-conceived notions that go nowhere.”

Copenhagen is a showcase for such methods, as its unique modal split clearly indicates. According to Gehl, 36% of Copenhagen residents bike to work, 33% take transit, 5% walk and 27% drive. Indeed, he said in recent years the bike culture has become so dominant that the city has been grappling with congestion on its bike lanes (solution: they were widened at the expense of vehicle lanes). The city’s current goal is that residents should be walking 20% per day more by 2015.

Gehl noted that the City of Melbourne sought out his firm’s advice in the early 1990s to combat a hole-in-the-donut problem with its own downtown. Between 1994 and 2004, Melbourne moved to increase downtown residential and student space, invested in high quality street furniture and public art, and widened sidewalks. Today, there are 40% more people in the core, and twice as many who walk. “They did everything we suggested.” Vacancies have plummeted while Melbourne now routinely scores in the top ten of global city livability rankings.
As for New York, this month’s radical change at Times Square signals what will eventually become the closure of much of Broadway, a truly historic development for public space advocates. “If you can do it there,” quipped Gehl, “you can do it anywhere.”

Even Toronto? Hmmm.

As I heard it, Gehl was telling our policy makers that while pacing matters, half measures (the Jarvis Street rework being the latest pungent example) spoil the broth.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see the City begin commissioning public life surveys without making substantive changes to downtown traffic policies.
So here are a few questions for the readers of Spacing Wire: Should Toronto close off a major downtown street, and if so, which one? And where should the city begin to experiment with genuinely segregated bike lanes (i.e., between the sidewalk and parked cars)?


  1. This sounds interesting and compelling – I wish I had been in TO to hear it. It’s interesting that in Toronto, with all the fuss about “the war on the car” vis a vis bikes, we don’t here much at all about about widening sidewalks or (horror!) outright pedestrianization. Yonge St. had a pedestrian mall in the 70s, yet no one even talks about this today. Even spliting the outside lane on Yonge between bike lane and wider sidewalk would make an incredible difference to the feel and friendliness of that street. Even Calgary (where I currently live) pedestrianized its main downtown commercial street (Stephen Ave), and turned another (7th Ave) into a transitway. Surely Toronto could outdo (or even match) the standard set by Canada’s oil capital!

  2. Car free street/area: Kensington Market. Bloor-Danforth is the easy choice for the city’s first segregated bike lanes.

  3. People have often proposed Kensington as a potential pedestrian zone. Spacing’s own Shawn Micallef wrote a passionate defense of the status quo there (in eye, I think?) a few years back, arguing if memory serves that it’s already a de facto pedestrian zone, and that the auto traffic that’s there is necessary to ensure the vitality on display.

    There are so many areas that could do with wider sidewalks: Queen east of Spadina on the south side, much of Yonge south of Bloor, all of Dundas.

    As is so often mentioned, we need a big improvement in transit reliability in the core to go along with the squeeze on the car (looking at you, TTC line management)

  4. Here is some data I would like to see. Jobs per resident per ward. Cutting from a previous post of mine here at Spacing….

    The growth in the cores population is has far outstripped the anemic job growth. Furthermore looking at wards 20,27 and 28 combined the stats show an alarming trend. Between 1989 and 2004 these wards combined had lost 26,404 employment positions (Toronto employment survey). Between 1991 and 2001 the percentage of residents in these wards whom commuted outside of the city to work increased by 14.3% (Stats Can). Seeing that they are going outside of the city, not just the core, it is safe to assume that it is by car, not public transit, bike or on foot. Also consider that these stats miss a large portion of the influx of people that moved into the core after 2001.


    This is a Utopian dream for Toronto, unless it can stop killing jobs.

  5. Yonge St. should be pedestrianized again, it was successfully done in the 70’s and doesn’t have a streetcar to interfere with the flow. The stores already have back doors to deal with shipping and there isn’t any parking to remove.
    A bike lane could be included or not, I don’t know if it would be too intrusive.

  6. Let me focus the debate even further:

    1. If Adam Vaughan can persuade the city to make Adeliade-Richmond into two-way streets, he should also push for Copenhagen style bike lanes on the same stretches, to show the rest of the city how they might work.

    2. Yonge Street from Bloor to Front should become our pedestrian mall — there’s plenty of off-street service for the retailers, easy transit access, and an extended stretch of the city’s core in desperate need of rejuvenation. Yonge Street north of Dundas has been dying for years, and Kyle Rae’s attractive overhead doodads aren’t do much to help. It’s time for Gehl’s radical medicine.

  7. The issue in Toronto is not so much expanding the pedestrian realm as it is giving pedestrians a reason to use it. It’s true that there are a few places where the ped realm is inadequate to meet the need, but we have no shortage of streets with ample sidewalks and no one walking.

    The problem is land use and economic policies that privilege uses like condo towers, which take up huge footprints and don’t really create that much pedestrian activity.

    Look at Bay Street north of Queen for a case in point — it’s lined with amazing density, and it has some of the city’s widest sidewalks, but it still feels like a wasteland. The city should look into strategies for creating a more fine-grained use mix that puts people on the street.

  8. I don’t imagine I will ever forget the affect I felt leaving Jan’s talk. After all the images of Copenhagen, Melbourne and NY, stepping onto Bay Street was quite the contrast. Bay has four lanes for cars and very narrow sidewalks – yet it seems very few cars use Bay while many people use the sidewalks (and this was at 5pm on a Wednesday). I would propose reducing Bay to 2 lanes (or none!) to give room to pedestrians and cyclists.

    Regarding the segregated bike lanes: I think Bloor Street would be a good start (maybe Danforth too, but I’m not that familiar with that area, so I’ll leave it to others to comment). I don’t think removing parking on at least one side of Bloor would be that radical: there are many municipal parking lots in the area (just look at the ‘satellite view’ on Google Maps!).

    One of my biggest annoyances cycling here is the sudden end of bike lanes (College, Harbord come to mind).

    What most impressed me with Jan’s talk was that he did not take up the shame or guilt discourse that pervades these days. I think it’s a bad idea to make this issue into car=evil, bike=good; those opposed to bike lanes did a pretty good job of making this into an ‘us vs. them’ issue with the ‘war’ metaphor. I recall Jan making a distinction between ‘extreme cyclists’ and those that just ride their bikes around. Guilting and shaming people into cycling will not be effective, just as we learned with the 90’s recycling movement: instead of making (re)cycling an ideology, I think we should follow Jan’s advice to “invite people” to (re)cycle or walk.

  9. Pedestrian only zones can be lovely, I’ve enjoyed them often when traveling overseas.

    However, I think they work best on smaller, more intimate streets, so abundant in the older cities of the world.

    That isn’t to say I oppose these here, I think Gould Street @ Ryerson U; Kensington Market, Baldwin (west of McCaul) and Cumberland next to Yorkville Park (east of the parking garage) would all work well.

    But a more important focus is simply shifting the balance to pedestrians. My preferred choice for effect and ease of implementation is Yonge Street, from the Lake to Davenport (phase 1).

    In this area, I would cut Yonge street to 1 lane each way for cars, and use 1/2 of newly freed up space for conventional bike lanes and the other half for widened sidewalks with street trees.

    This is comparatively easy to implement as:

    1) There is no impact on street parking
    2) The local community would likely be supportive.
    3) The Yonge subway is right underneath.
    4) Local retail is, with the exception of the Eaton Centre entirely local-driven, rather than destination retail which is often car-driven.
    5) Yonge is not actually a main commuting artery in downtown.


    For separated bike lanes; I would make the case for University Avenue/Queen’s Park.

    The landscaped separation would be an enhancement of the existing boulevard/median.

    There is no retail to speak of, and therefore less objection to reduced/eliminated parking.

    There is little/no residential directly on-street.

    The impact of eliminated the parking lane would only affect primary direction rush-hour traffic, as the rest of the time University is well under its rated capacity for car traffic.

    It has the added benefit of serving the University as well, and again running on top of a subway line.

    In conjunction with this, Avenue road should also be narrowed by 1 lane each way, but only conventional bike lanes put in, as the sidewalks there are desperately in need of widening.

  10. Instead of closing a major street to cars, I think it might be far more feasible to narrow it instead to one lane each way, and split the removed lanes between dedicated bike lanes and wider sidewalks. Yonge Street from the lake to Bloor would be a perfect candidate. And as every driver knows, that section is a nightmare to drive through anyway and is avoided whenever possible!

    The remarkable thing about the Queen’s Quay makeover is the near absence of a backlash among drivers. Doing a similar thing to that section of Yonge would make a lot of sense. There would still be space for cars, and the pedestrian realm could really start to flourish.

  11. Are people really finding the sidewalks downtown that cramped? The only place I see a really bottle neck is at Younge and Dundas.

  12. The sidewalks throughout the Financial District are usually cramped. So is anywhere on Queen West, Dundas in Chinatown, Most of Yonge south of Bloor, College in Little Italy most evenings, And Bloor from Christie to Yonge. These are all prime areas to expand the pedestrian and cycling realm.

    And ite not always about overcrowding — its about giving these areas room to breathe and allowing the space to be use for more than traffic. The ‘sidewalk ballet’ is an integral part of any vibrant city.

  13. I think Misha’s article about the pedestrianization of Kensington was in that book uTOpia. Maybe in eye as well. I thought it was a nicely nuanced take on what can sometimes become seen as a black & white issue. As I recall, he gave the example of how rue Prince-Arthur in Montreal has become a boring tourist zone since becoming pedestrian-only — a shadow of its former vibrant self. It would be a shame if that happened to Kensington or Yonge for that matter.

  14. I want the sidewalks to be jammed with people, they’ll be even more crowded when widened.

    As far as separated bike lanes, it doesn’t matter where the experiment is done. Just pick a route that has parking and where a bike lane is going to be put in. The lanes will have to be much wider than current ones though or no one will be able to pass slower people.
    In my opinion it’s better to just eliminate street parking, it’s a waste of public space.

  15. @Matthew Blackett–

    Sidewalks in the financial district cramped? Really? Whenever I go down there it feels lonely at street level. Step down into the PATH and it’s another story, of course.

    I do see your point about needing “room to breathe” in certain areas. There have got to be places where sidewalks could be extended into the parking lane for this–ideally places that are already crowded. Yonge would be a great candidate, starting around Ryerson / Gould Street where there is already a community of interest in enhancing the public realm. In a place like Little Italy if the BIA could be brought on side, it might be feasible. I’m not sure there’s enough foot traffic on Bloor–the spaces would feel empty.

  16. “1. If Adam Vaughan can persuade the city to make Adelaide-Richmond into two-way streets, he should also push for Copenhagen style bike lanes on the same stretches, to show the rest of the city how they might work.”

    Problem is, Richmond and Adelaide can only accommodate fully segregated bike lanes (like NYC just did on 8th and 9th ave) if you leave them one way (…like 8th and 9th).

    In fact, they are the only east-west streets downtown where we can easily implement fully protected bike lanes with a buffer zone, precisely BECAUSE they are one-way. That’s why city staff identified Richmond and Adelaide for this type of lane in the Toronto Bike Plan. Making them two-way will eliminate the opportunity. 🙁

    It’s yet another road reconstruction plan that ‘improves the public realm’, while ignoring cyclists needs (to be added to the growing list including Spadina, Bloor/Yorkville, St. Clair, Roncy, West-end Railpath, Lansdowne and the original Jarvis plan proposed by staff).

  17. Why not Queen Street? Get rid of the cars, put in some dedicated bike lanes alongside the streetcars, and widen the sidewalks. The streetcars would run a lot faster without having to deal with traffic, King could accommodate traffic across downtown for those who gripe about not being able to drive through downtown, and I won’t be cut off and run into the streetcar tracks on my road bike and go skidding through Queen and Spadina. Plus, it would link downtown to commuters coming from the west and the east. A quick hop on the bike from downtown and you’d be at the Beaches or High Park, and all without dealing with being stuck behind rollerbladers on the waterfront trail.

    For the record, I think Yonge would be a wicked idea too, I just benefit less from it personally living in the west end. But why not do both?

  18. Q: Should Toronto close off a major downtown street, and if so, which one?

    A: I’d be curious to see Harbord strengthen it’s existing bike network. Three suggestions on how to do this: 01. Widening it’s bike lanes, 02. Creating strong physical and visual markers (making everyone, both cars and cyclists feel safer when they know who should be where) and 03. extending the network even further, in a continuous pattern (not in a fractured way, as our bike networks exist in the city now).

    03. Continued… Creating a safe route for cyclists through Hoskin, around Queen’s Park and onto Wellesley would be a challenge but not impossble. This is already a favorite network for cyclists, would be great to pilot test and track the results.

    Here’s the kind of bike network (see red-ish lanes to the right) I travel on almost everyday, here in Amsterdam:

  19. I suggest turning Queen St into a something more like Oxford St in London — one lane in each direction, primarily for streetcars, local traffic and deliveries, with very wide sidewalks for shopping, sitting and gazing. Wider sidewalks would enhance the already vibrant retail mix. Result would hopefully look something like this:

    Yonge St is not a good idea for pedestrianization for the following reasons:

    – poor sunlight due to building heights
    – shabby retail will not improve under pedestrianization.
    – too many homeless in this area due to proximity to east side services
    – Eatons, PATH and subway will suck away foot traffic, energy and retail sales. Sure, they are also generators of these things but their presence will always pull away from the Yonge streetscape, leaving underused empty plazas. On Queen everything is at street level.

    Make the bold play on Queen, the one street that always gets mentioned in Toronto tourism articles. That’s your livable-city spine.

  20. Lots of war on the car people. No suggestions on improving access once you’ve won the war on the car.

    So many “crammed” sidewalks are busy very infrequently. Financial district gets crammed at 4:10pm but is otherwise empty and has HUGE sidewalks.

    Vaughan et al stop all moves towards livable city with their interim control bylaws and ridiculous blocks on development and new businesses. Can only imagine if they’d been councillors when mainstreet rosedale was developing “we already have 3 thieves, we’re over run with food stores that are destroying the neighbourhood, and too many furniture stores!!!”

    The city needs to stop planning, meddling, and blocking development (Ossington, Porter, etc). Build subways and stop everything else.

  21. Rob,

    I like what you said about Queen Street. I don’t know if it would ever end up like Oxford Street, but certainly the south side could use a little widening. Whenever a shop hits a renovation, I feel quite squeezed.

    Imagine, we shut down Queen Street to put in the Downtown Relief Line, and simply… don’t reopen it to cars when it’s done. Cut and cover subway, new pedestrian plaza! 😉

  22. Closing just one street to car traffic is often unsuccessful because it feels like what it is: an anomaly in the urban fabric. To be successful, you need to create a pedestrian “zone” of the city consisting of several streets. Otherwise, it’s a better idea to widen sidewalks.

    From a pedestrian’s perspective, it’s a lot more pleasant to stroll down the middle of the street and not worry about bumping into anyone and to have more perspectives available on the streetscape, instead of merely always on the edge of the road. There’s really no practical case for a pedestrianized street anywhere in the city; it’s a product of our desire to enhance our experience of the city.

  23. I feel that the pedestrianization of Yonge Street would be a big mistake, and I’ll be the first to admit I wish it could work.

    I don’t feel that eliminating cars should be the priority. I think the best streets are when there is a mix of all modes of transport (walking, cycling, vehicles). Yonge Street does not have enough people presently for this to work. For pedestrian streets to work, there needs an overflowing amount of people. I would much rather see expanded sidewalks, and slower cars.

    Streets in Kensington or Yorkville work well because the pedestrians spill onto the street and in turn create informal pedestrian zones.

    I’m opposed to closing any street, rather we should make it difficult for cars, but still accessible for delivery and emergency vehicles.

  24. 1. Yonge Street is ripe for change! No one can park there anyway, so taking it down to single lanes in each direction for cars and splitting the outside lanes into bicycle lanes and larger sidewalks is a very exciting idea. Instead of resisting, I’m sure most of the stores, cafes and businesses would be thrilled as it would greatly increase traffic to their doors. Also, what a lovely attraction for residents and visitors alike. 2. The York and Bay Street underpasses to the waterfront are another opportunity. Make them single lanes (plus a turning lane) and widen the sidewalk and bike lanes. This would fit well with ongoing waterfront revitalization. Also, improve the lighting under there!

  25. Roads with streetcars are a poor choice for pedestrianizing, they would be delayed by the crowds wandering on the tracks.
    As far as attracting the homeless or beggars, they’ll come to any pedestrianized street – it doesn’t matter where they are located.

  26. “Reality Check” (sorry, the name is ridiculous) can you point to a successful city anywhere where in the world that has “stopped planning” and “everything else”? Nairobi? Lagos? Kandahar? Interested in seeing how successful the unplanned city is.

  27. My vote will go for Yonge St. for starters. Angus had some really goods comments on this ..

    But I’m a bit pessimistic about all this whole “let’s give the city back to the pedestrians” thing. Aside from doing it here and there in the downtown area, it won’t work once you go past Bloor. The city was poorly planned from the beginning… A plaza here and there with a Dominion store, a Shopper’s Drugmart and a Pizza Pizza store is not a place where people can go out, socialize, have a walk, sit on a bench. All GTA areas should have such pedestrian-friendly spaces as having just a few downtown will not make Toronto / GTA a better city.

    My 2 pennies..

  28. “For pedestrian streets to work, there needs an overflowing amount of people. I would much rather see expanded sidewalks, and slower cars.”

    Robert, I disagree. I’ve been to many a city with pedestrian zones which see the same amount of pedestrian traffic as Yonge, with plenty of businesses lining the streets. The sidewalks need not be overflowing for it to work.

    Shaun, I’m also in the Nairobi approach. Spacing should visit some African cities in the future.

  29. A.R.> Well, if you’re for it, can you explain the Nairobi approach — and why it’s a successful liveable city? Please?

  30. There’s a bit of an elephant in the room w/r/t pedestrianizing Yonge St. Has anyone taken a look at what’s there now? It’s almost certainly not the “marquee”-type stores that the city that produced Toronto A la Cart wants to show off in its new, tourist-friendly pedestrianized street. I guess pedestrianization will ineviatably mean gentrification, which will be a shame, because I’ve always loved the weird stain on the middle of the city that Yonge’s bizarre clothing stores, leathers shops, cheapo music stores etc. brings.

    For the first Luminato, William Gibson had this to say about the area in the Globe:

    “Only the febrile tackiness of Yonge below Bloor preserves something of my past, and I invariably find myself walking there, considering how the cheap, flashy goods of the 21st century resemble the cheap flashy goods of the 20th. An immortality of battery-operated plastic crap, the business of its retail sheltering the actual texture of the gone world, these queer old buildings unnoticed above the lights and bright laminates and shining tat: weird Masonic dreams, blackened finials carved like chess pieces. Under a fresh fall of snow their former gaslight solidity can loom, breathtakingly peculiar, like Castle Gormenghast held overhead, at bay, by sex shops and knockoff sneakers. To the extent that I ever find the place my memory tries to take me to, in Toronto, I find it there.”

  31. (not to totally romanticize what’s there, of course. And yes, of course, things change and places are lost. But Yonge does seem to be some kind of last hold-out…)

  32. Yes, Jan Gehl is a great inspiration as an urban planner and philosopher. When he closed down traffic on Stroget in Copenhagen, it caused a lively debate and gloom-and-doom predictions. I lived on Stroget at that time and recognize the same debates going on in Toronto now.

    What we need in Toronto is just one example of how a pedestrian area invigorates and humanizes the city. It’ll be where people want to shop, live, eat and hang out. Retail will thrive, as I have seen happen in all the Danish towns and cities that followed Copenhagen’s example. People are no different here from those in Melbourne, San Francisco and New York, though some pretend to be.

    On Queens Quay we look forward to turning this busy thoroughfare into a local street with two lanes of traffic and an expanded pedestrian environment. It’ll be fabulous and attract more visitors than the 12 million we currently see in a year.

    People who live here typically don’t own cars. Those who need to drive jump on the Gardiner or Lake Shore Boulevard. We are well positioned to make Queens Quay the first example of the Gehl kind in Toronto.
    Ulla Colgrass

  33. All the Copenhagen, Amsterdam etc. bike lane stuff sounds great, but then I think about the fact that Toronto’s winter weather discourages all but the most dedicated cyclists for about 4-5 months of the year.

    Dedicated bike lanes that would be virtually unused through the winter don’t seem like an optimal use of space. Granted, if there were lanes, and they were well-maintained, maybe a few more cyclists would brave the cold, snow and sleet… but likely still not many.

    I wish more of your bike-lane related articles would address this problem.

  34. Paul makes a good point. Toronto’s weather is not Copenhagen’s. Not just the winter but the summer also. So to is the topography.

    Jan has some good idea’s. The best of which is willfully overlooked in this city. Namely verification. This ‘build it and they will come’ attitude, has not served Toronto well. It is presumptuous and driven by ideology. The TTC is a shinning example of this.

  35. Instead of the usual advocacy for Yonge street going on above, I’d suggest St. George street, Berkeley to just south of the AGO, and John Street from the Grange to the Lakeshore be rededicated to bike and pedestrian only use.

    These streets have the advantage of being reasonably close to the University subway line, and much of the space is already landscaped. The clubbing scene on John Street packs the sidewalks as it is, and getting cars off it would probably help make it safer for people at night. The U of T probably makes a very friendly place for bike access, given that cars are not a priority for most students, and traffic on St. George is already very restricted.

    Finally as this would create a very tourist friendly network ensuring use and interest the year round: it connects the Dome, the Glen-Gould, TIFF headquarters, The CNFB, Much, the AGO and OCAD, U of T and the ROM.

    Pretty spectacular connection, and none of the affected roads have drivers on them to make cranky.


  36. I second the John Street suggestion. It’s unlikely to create the uproar of closing off Queen West or Yonge, but would have a very positive effect for cyclists and pedestrians (especially visitors to this city). As a main thoroughfare and quick connection between many of Toronto’s cultural/entertainment offerings, it would enhance what already exists. It would also make way for advocating for a City of Toronto museum/Modern Art Gallery (sorry MOCCA, your parking lot Queen West location doesn’t do justice to your programming) set on the currently empty lot between Adelaide and the TIFF Bell Lightbox.

  37. I think the section of Queen between Yonge and University could work as a pedestrian zone. It’s a modest amount of road, and it’s anchored on either end by subway stations (which generate and absorb a lot of pedestrian traffic).

    It might also encourage pedestrians onto University avenue, which has that underused pedestrian boulevard in the middle.

    And if it’s successful, we might one day see it extended all the way to Spadina or Bathurst.

    It might even help the 501 run on time.

  38. How about pedestrianizing Bellair and Cumberland from Bay to the municipal parking garage?

    Yonge and Bloor/Danforth seem to be appropriate for the Oxford Street treatment – one car lane in each direction, wider sidewalks, safe refuges for pedestrian crossings and bike lanes. After all, both streets have subway lines so even the North York crowd couldn’t claim this was unreasonable.

  39. Just to play devil’s advocate; maybe automobiles don’t need to be banned outright.

    The usual candidates – those that are closed off for pedestrian sundays the past couple years: Kensington Market, Yorkville, Church St., any others I’m missing? (Oh, Ryerson) are my choices. But what if the streets were raised to sidewalk level in those areas(with some slope for drainage) and all demarcation – curbs, lane lines, etc. were removed and the surfaces would all be the same brickwork – sort of a piazza dealie.

    But let motor vehicles who want to nose their way through, including service vehicles, do so. Apparently, this concept has actually reduced car/pedestrian accidents where it has been implemented. We may all be driving little electric pods in a few years anyway.

  40. Good idea GB. I believe Jan Gehl was talking about the same thing when he mentioned the notion of “pedestrian priority street”. Cars should still be allowed to go there, but has a very low speed limit (let’s say 20Km), and must yield to everybody else. Parking should be banned but pickup/drop off/delivery is OK. I believe that is better than a strict pedestrian mall.

    In addition, I’d like to see a lot more weekend closure of street to auto, and the closure makes a network where you can ride your bike to a lot places (ravine/park/waterfront) right in the middle of streets. That will greatly promote recreational cycling, as well as utilitarian cycling other than commuting, with much less resistance from the commuting drivers. With a great deal more recreational cyclist we may see the public opinion tips in favour of cycling.

  41. GB – Your idea is excellent, and has proved successful in no less a city than London, England. Our equivalent is Kensington Market, which permits vehicles, so delivery vans can get in, but the throngs of pedestrians certainly discourage any that don’t have a really need to be there. I’d love to try it and see if it doesn’t spead up the Queen Streetcar. I often travel from the West End to the Beach on it, and downtown car traffic can add 20 minutes to the trip.

    Richard Birt – John Street would be perfect, and a more palitable first step in our car-centric culture. It would start at what is one of Toronto’s busiest and best inner- city parks, and connects several popular destinations in just a few blocks.

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