Last week, a new pedestrian advocacy group was launched in Toronto. Over 80 people gathered in Metro Hall last Wednesday to get the group off the ground, share their key interests and issues with each other, and vote on a name. And with that, Walk Toronto was born.
We (I was one of the event’s organizers) asked the participants to share with their table one key walking issue that brought them to the event. Many issues and ideas were brought up, starting, on a cold February night, from the immediate in the form of the need to keep sidewalks (and park trails) clear of snow and ice. Other themes also were safety- and sidewalk-related: improving pedestrian safety (including slower cars and better driver education); the negative attitudes of police towards pedestrians; and obstructed sidewalks and the need for better accessibility. Another theme was the necessity of working with other modes of transportation, including cycling and transit — there were complaints about cyclists on sidewalks, but also a recognition that the best way of getting cyclists off sidewalks is to enable them to use the road safely. In the big picture, there was much mention of the health and social benefits of walking, the value of making walking enjoyable all across the city, the importance of urban design, and the necessity of making suburban areas more walking-friendly.
Walk Toronto will be an independent, open-membership group run by volunteers. (In this, it will be different from the now-defunct Toronto Pedestrian Committee, which was an appointed citizen advisory group to City Hall, supported by the City Clerk’s office). Over a dozen people stepped forward after the meeting to offer to help with running the new association — once we are organized, look out for our next event and some new initiatives.