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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

A good week for walking

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The Walk21 conference last week got remarkable, and entirely unexpected, media coverage. In fact, I suspect pedestrian issues got more media coverage than they have probably ever had in any single previous week in Toronto’s history. Every day that I woke up to go to the conference, the lead story on CBC local radio news at 7:30 was something from Walk21. Conference organizers and speakers were interviewed on TV and on many Toronto radio stations (including AM640, about which conference organizer Jim Walker told a funny story — when he arrived to talk about walking and asked about their audience, they explained “male drivers,” and began the interview by asking why anyone would be interested in walking. But apparently he ended up carrying on a conversation on the show for quite some time).

Here are some of the walking-related stories that appeared this week:

Toronto Star: His credo for city: Walk don’t ride, by

Toronto Star: Conference on walking wants city to step up“, by

Toronto Star: Walk to save planet, Suzuki says“, by

Toronto Star: City plans bike, foot-friendly corridor“, by

Toronto Star: Nuit proves pedestrian plan needed“, by Christopher Hume

The Globe and Mail: “Pedestrian Thinking at City Hall“, by Jeff Gray (subscriber only).

CBC radio Toronto: Metro Morning – Interview with Gil Penalosa about “complete streets.”

It helped that the conference was accompanied by the release of the consultation document for the city’s Walking Strategy, and by a series of proposals by staff for quick steps towards making the city more walkable (along with other sustainable transportation initiatives), presented to Works Committee in the midst of the conference.

The staff proposals (PDF) in particular inspired media attention by their innovative nature. When they came up on the Works agenda, 12 different citizen deputants spoke about the proposals, and all of them spoke in favour — a rare event. And the proposals passed through Works Committee with little trouble, without even the usual raft of amendments. We can only hope they do as well at City Council.

The pedestrian proposals include many things pedestrians have been asking for:

Simple rules to make it easier to establish temporary pedestrian zones such as Kensington Market’s “Pedestrian Sundays”

Studying possibilities for permanent pedestrian streets

– increasing the pedestrian crossing clearance times;
– replacing the flashing “DON’T WALK” displays with flashing
“WALK” displays;
– introducing pedestrian scramble phases (where peds can cross in all direction) at appropriate locations on a pilot project basis (Bloor and Bay, Bloor and Yonge);
– expanding the “leading pedestrian intervals” or pedestrian headstart
feature to other intersections.

All road reconstruction projects will consider possibilities for widening sidewalks (this is really important, and something pedestrian activists have been seeking for years), with local consultation of course.

Finalize the “Streetscape Manual” that will shape the design of new and reconstructed streets

Develop a comprehensive “Green Corridor” plan for north-south access to the waterfront.

photo by Adam Krawesky 



  1. Yes it was a good week for pedestrians.
    I was worried about the initiatives at the Works Cttee and was pleased it got through, as it wasn’t clear. In particular, Adam Giambrone missed much of the meeting including the voting as he apparently had to go to France.
    But as one of the 12 deputants at the Works Cttee, I would have liked many of the raft of amendments to pass and some others put forward too. Merely widening the sidewalk doesn’t include room for bikes; we need to have some timelines on the study of the Bloor/Danforth bikeway (as the track record seems to be every two years we get a new study, albeit expanded); and we really need to have the downtown east-west core bike route scope expanded to include fixing the distinct lack of good safe bike travel from Parkdale into the core area, and the Bike Plan does essentially nothing to redress this systemic flaw and inequity.

  2. The reference about radio 640 is proof why it has less than 2 per cent of the Toronto radio audience.
    Actually, it’s 1.7 per cent and the figure comes from the BBM quarterly ratings released last week.

  3. Hello all. Yes, Walk21 did get incredible media coverage. It exceeded our expectations. As co-host of the conference we are extremely pleased. Green Communities Canada, and my personal intention, in bringing Walk21 to Canada was to raise the profile of walking and walkable, liveable communities. We are off to a great start!


  4. The city needs to do something about the horrible traffic lights on University Avenue. Currently, they are timed so that two light cycles are needed to cross the street – though if you walk quickly you can usually do it in one. Either the green time for the east-west streets should be increased, or University Avenue should be narrowed to make it less like an urban expressway.