How to delay a sidewalk

From Chine Drive Schedule B Class Environmental Assessment Report

The saga of the proposed Chine Drive sidewalk continues. This Scarborough road, which is the only access to the local elementary school, needs to be rebuilt for various reasons. The project was launched in 2004, but for many years it has been delayed by a dispute between local parents, who want a sidewalk added to create a safe walking route to the school, and some of the road’s residents, who oppose a sidewalk because they want to preserve the road’s “rural” feel.

Last year, the Environmental Assessment study for the project (PDF) was finally completed, and it recommended putting a sidewalk on one side of the road when it is rebuilt. To minimize the impact on property owners, the sidewalk would be incorporated into the current width of the roadway/shoulder, so it wouldn’t take any of the City right-of-way currently used by landowners.

That recommendation did not stop the opponents, however. They turned to nature to try to bolster their case. A story on 680 News featured a deer crossing the road, suggesting that kind of event would somehow be threatened by a sidewalk. It’s not clear that a deer would notice the difference between a sidewalk and a road, except perhaps that nothing on a sidewalk is likely to kill it.

Then a gardening columnist in the Toronto Star wrote a story headlined “Who will speak for the trees?” suggesting that the mature trees along the road will have to be cut down for a sidewalk.

The answer to his question, of course, is that the professional arborists hired by the City of Toronto for the Environmental Assessment will speak for the trees. In fact, they did so in a detailed inventory and report (PDF) on the impact on the local forest of the various options for the road, which he does not refer to in his story.

The arborists inventoried a total of 337 trees in the study area. They found that, no matter what option was chosen, 22 trees would have to be cut down. To add a full sidewalk, another 26 would have needed to be cut down (less than 10% of the total), of which most are young or unhealthy. But with the recommendation to keep the sidewalk within the current roadway, it looks like only the original 22 that will be cut down no matter what need to be removed (see chart on page 37 of EA). None of these are both healthy and mature (and the healthy young ones can be transplanted). So the EA recommendation has already taken care of any concerns with tree removals.

Ironically, the option that would really destroy trees (107 of them) is the fully “rural” one, because that would require digging drainage ditches along the side of the road.

The final step in delaying the sidewalk was for one of the road’s residents to appeal the EA to the provincial Ministry of the Environment, which is where it is currently sitting. Work on this long-delayed project was supposed to start this summer, but it will now be delayed even further. In frustration, and to counter the voices of the sidewalk opponents, some local residents have started a petition in favour of a sidewalk on Chine Drive.

As the Global News story linked to above about the appeal notes, the importance of safe routes to school in this area has become more telling with the recent death of a young girl killed by a truck while walking home from school on Cliffside Drive, not all that far from Chine Drive. As a result of the tragedy, a petition has also been started for sidewalks and other safety measures on routes to school in that area.

17 comments

  1. Are u sure the pictures shows “with sidewalk” option? I am having a very hard time to spot sidewalk on it.

    In any case, for those want argues so passionately for the “rural feeling”, please, please move to a truly rural area. Last time I checked, there are still a lot of those around in Canada, and if you sale your home in Scarborough I am pretty sure you can afford many acres. Stop being a obstructionist and pretending to be rural while living in Canada’s most populous city.

  2. OK, there is that very thin stripe of grey that must be the sidewalk.

  3. Joel, thanks for the information. Ah, Toronto, the city of NIMBies.

  4. Wouldn’t a true “rural” road be gravel? Somehow I suspect the anti-sidewalk crowd isn’t arguing for that.

  5. Hold on? My first impression from reading this was that the road had to be out behind the Zoo or something where it is bit more rural feeling, but this is right in the middle of Scarborough! As already mentioned this is ridiculous, if these guys want to live in a rural place, I suggest they put their money where their mouths are.

  6. I really think there are some projects that need to be pushed by the government more, if for the greater good of society (as in, these things keep you/other people safe). Sidewalks are one of those…as are bike lanes, and speed limits. This group of individuals needs to be put in their place. Extra points if the city could slap a ticket on their doors for falsifying info. I’m all for community involvement, but not when lies are thrown around to stop projects.

  7. What about curbless, but with a nice ‘rural’ ditch between the road and the sidewalk/walkway.

  8. Is this not the area where one little girl was killed and other children injured by a garbage truck? Sidewalks provide at least some separation for pedestrians from the traffic. Is the life of a human being less important than the life of a tree or less important than “that rural feeling?” You want rural, move out of town.

  9. A neighbourhood street is a neighbourhood street no matter if it is located in an urban, suburban or rural neighbourhood. The excuse of maintaining a “rural” feel is just that, an excuse. Rural neighbourhoods have and deserve sidewalks; and rural residential streets should not be likened with lower standards/expectations in terms of equitable accommodation in the right of way. That this street is the only access to an elementary school and could provide a safe route for children to get to school makes this a “no-brainer”.

  10. I don’t see why roadwork should necessitate cutting down any trees, but if there’s a plan that involves sidewalks at no additional cost in trees, that’s the clear winner.

  11. Maybe they don’t want to shovel the sidewalk after a snowstorm. Maybe they’re the same people who don’t want sidewalks plowed by the city, since they don’t have sidewalks to begin with.

  12. Honestly, the people of these places are the dumbest. They live in a city and rather than welcoming the necessary infrastructure and push for attractive design, they just merely oppose anything besides the status quo (which, by the way, looks pathetic). They’re just like those in Etobicoke who opposed the renovation and expansion of the Brentwood Library and took it all the way to the OMB.

  13. Eric…I totally agree with you. I think trees have very little to do with the objection to the sidewalk. Seems to me the residents are wanting a gated community without a gate! I know the area and there’s a beautiful ravine at the southern end of the street. They don’t want outsiders coming and enjoying their ‘hood.

    Seriously? How can these people argue against the safety of children? Pathetic.

  14. Are there any Toronto tax experts out there who can tell us if there is a difference in municiple taxes between living on a street which is “unimproved” and a street which has been upgraded?

  15. I can’t understand for the life of me why these people don’t understand the children come first. They have no “real” ground to stand on and they seem to be grasping at every delay tactic out there. While they do this children are walking at the edge of a busy road, taking their chances, just to go to school. I love trees and nature just as much as the next guy but you can’t argue “keeping the street looking rural and natural” on one hand while building gaudy McMansions on the other, all the while preventing an absolute necessity to everyone who lives in the area.
    Seriously, are they waiting for another child to be hit until they wake up?

Comments are closed.