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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered


  1. Does anyone else find the “war on cars” spin really tedious? Every time the city tries to improve pedestrian or cycling infrastructure, it seems to be painted as some kind of battle where the pedestrians and cyclists invade the drivers’ territory and oh, won’t someone please think of the cars?

    The reality is that North American cities are built for cars, and those of us who don’t drive are only beginning to reclaim our space on the streets. I’m preaching to the choir, I know, but it needs to be said.

  2. Yes slmykf, everyone around here probably finds the War on Cars rhetoric obnoxious, although I have to say some of the reporting the Globe article was decent. I wish they had mentioned the study showing the impact of bike lanes on Bloor in the Annex though…

  3. Totally agree with “slmykf”.

    I guess media outlets or websites that paint this as a “war” are just trying to increase readership by appealing to the lowest common denominator.

    The city’s plan to put bikelanes and permanent parking along Bloor-Danforth is a great one. Not only do we get great cycling infrastructue, but businesses concerned about parking get MORE parking. (currently parking is prohibited during rush-hours).

    The ONLY people this inconveniences are people using Bloor or Danforth as arteries. They don’t shop there, they don’t live there. All they do is drive there.

  4. “The ONLY people this inconveniences are people using Bloor or Danforth as arteries.”

    So what should they use as arteries instead?* I see a lot of car traffic along Bloor every day, and saying it “just” inconveniences these folks stretches that word pretty close to the breaking point.

    * They Shouldn’t Be Driving At All Street isn’t an answer; it barely stretches from Spadina to Parliament.

  5. lake shore, o conner, and st clair all move far smoother than bloor danforth. haven driven this stretch, i can say first hand that the subway is far faster than driving along b/d anyways – even with its high stop frequency.

  6. Anticorium – There are a ton of arteries that people can use instead of Bloor and Danforth – Gardiner, DVP, 401, Kingston Rd, Eastern Ave, etc. etc.

    If someone expects to be able to drive from the ‘burbs to downtown and not have deal with other road users or traffic hold-ups, I’d say they are being unrealistic.

  7. There is a war on cars happening right here @ Spacing, IMO. Why does Albert Koehl’s assertions escape scrutiny while the concerns of local businesses and residents do not?

  8. Indeed, with a subway serving the street, a useful and fast alternative has been implemented on Bloor and Danforth. It’s fast and when it isn’t available (early in the morning) there isn’t much traffic anyway.

  9. Regarding the creek and river signs, those are quite useful landmarks to know when in cities or even on the highway. They’re easy to identify on maps and make navigation easier.

    Also, connecting the Don trails should be a no-brainer and a priority. I once tried cycling from Glendon college downtown by the trails, but the system was confusing and disjointed and I eventually gave up and took the street.

  10. It’s not a “war on cars” as much as a battle of competing rights and who should compromise for the greater good. Local merchants aren’t pro-car necessarily; they just want to sell widgets to the maximum number of people, and they may have signed their lease based on expectations of certain demographic coming to their store by a particular means. Change is hard when you have invested in a 20 year lease.

    But, who is to say that the rights and expectations of a small shop that is merely renting space on Bloor should outweigh the desires of perhaps a large number of people that own their homes near the same street? And maybe their rights and expectations should be trumped by the needs of those who don’t live anywhere nearby or even in the same city but who work in the area and thereby provide the tax revenue the city needs to prosper? It’s really a mind-blowing mess when you think about it.

    All I can really say is to study carefully what has worked elsewhere and copy it. If we are willing to learn from other cities, the opportunities are there. Perhaps in presenting the plans for Bloor-Danforth the city should cite case studies and examples in order to bring everyone into the vision. A long-term successful result will please everyone in the end.

  11. Glen: I don’t know quite who Albert Koehl is, but the scrutiny “local businesses and residents” receive (although I’d argue it’s more the businesses) is likely due to the fact that their points of view are the conventional wisdom, and are usually reported without any scrutiny.

  12. Driving along Bloor or Danforth for commuting is like taking Eglinton Ave. to get from Scarborough to the west side of Mississauga. Sure, if you want to take your time and observe the streetscape all the way from Kingston Rd. to Winston Churchill, or into the countryside of north Oakville if you keep going after it changes into Lower Baseline Rd., but if you were actually commuting it wouldn’t make any sense. Lake Shore and O’Connor move much better and will get you to the same place.

  13. Rob Ford puts his soaring intelligence on display again with his comment on the watershed and river signs (which are quite good, IMO).

    “You’d have to be retarded if you can’t see frickin’ water in front of you,” said Councillor Rob Ford (Etobicoke North), apparently unconcerned at offending either the plan’s proponents or people with intellectual disabilities.

    “The last time I checked, I think everyone knows where the Don River is and the Humber River is. It’s only been there for over a hundred years. So I don’t really know what we’re trying to accomplish by putting up signs and telling people, yeah, underneath this bridge there’s water.”

  14. Plainly, Prof. Valverde has not considered that it is markedly more difficult to take a horse from an officer and throw it at him than it is a bicycle, given that we have recently seen the latter.

    That said, the secrecy about the budget number is ridiculous, and maybe it’s time given the dollar number that policing was made a separate tax and separately governed from the rest of the municipality like the school board.

  15. re: the metro link.

    PR flack – “Lego? Bubble Wrap? On an enviro mailout? Oops, FAIL.”

    Councillor (Saint) Gord Perks – “Excess packaging? no big deal in the scheme of things. But it won’t matter when I start laying into Loblaws and Best Buy.”

    Wow. Didn’t take long for him to learn to be a politician and turn out to be less capable of admitting error than a PR flack.

  16. has anybody studied whether a significant relationship actually exists between on-street parking and the success of small business on downtown roads? i’m wondering about something academic, peer-reviewed, or otherwise not reliant on conventional wisdom.

    anecdotally, it strikes me that queen street, king street, bloor street, college street and other major downtown streets in toronto have a lot of successful small businesses without a lot of on-street parking.

  17. Everyone always drags in merchants, nobody has actually determined the likely hood that someone driving by, will stop at a business they hadn’t originally had as a destination. This only occurs if there is nearby cheap or free parking, if they are required to go any real distance, say 1/2 block to the door from the parking spot, the chance of them stopping is very small. The more arterial the street the less likely drivers will stop for any reason.

    Walk by traffic, and cycle by traffic, are much more likely to stop, they move slower, are more aware of what they are passing and stopping is less of an inconvenience. For cyclists is much easier for a business to provide enough bicycle parking, then it is enough car parking, unless the business is set far back on the lot and can use it’s front “yard” for parking.

  18. I’m probably more “pro-car” than most people here, and even I can see that this “war on cars” is conservative media dribble for the most part. As someone who drives for a living, I welcome bike and streetcar lanes as it means I do not have to dodge these obstacles while driving.

    With that said, some of the policies at City Hall towards cars are very controversial. Talks about tearing down the Gardiner, making Richmond and Adelaide two-way to simply slow down cars, narrowing Jarvis*, and having councillor Adam Vaughan quoted as saying that “gridlock brings economic vitality” while ignoring the studies which show that gridlock costs our economy BILLIONS each year is distressing.

    To add insult to injury, Toronto is the only municipality in Ontario that taxes drivers with their own vehicle registration fee. So the city government is taxing a select group of people and using this money AGAINST them. I do not think this is fair or appropriate use of tax dollars. It is like taxing smokers, and then giving them second rate health care. If you are going to take money from this group (drivers), they should be see something back in return. Otherwise, find another group of citizens to tax.

  19. *I say this assuming Jarvis is as smooth an arterial as some claim it to be. I’ve never driven along Jarvis, so I don’t know how well it actually moves. Personally, if I had to get from Bloor and Jarvis to King and Jarvis, I would probably take the DVP/Gardiner and then head back up rather than drive straight down Jarvis. If it is no more efficient a north-south arterial than Spadina or Bathurst, then I say narrow it.

  20. Andrew,

    Those raising concerns are not comparing a hypothetical. They are comparing the status quo against a hypothetical. The positions are entirely different. In absence of any objective research, and in light of contradictory findings on Spadina One can’t blame them for having concerns.

    I a not saying that it is not a good idea. In fact it might be, as I can’t see Bloor as a good route for any long distance commuting. This might be a good candidate for a trial run. Or maybe the city could make this seasonal transition.

    See the Spacing post on the report you linked to…..

  21. Glen:

    umm…. Spadina doesn’t have bike lanes (no, those tiny narrow strips do not count). This is about bike lanes, not a transit right of way.

    Of course I don’t blame them for having concerns. I pointed to the report (which you linked to, thanks) just to show losing curbside parking might not mean financial ruin for the businesses. Take it as suggestive evidence to that effect.

  22. Ben writes: “If you are going to take money from this group (drivers), they should be see something back in return.”

    What if the city built, ploughed, and maintained roads everywhere for them? Would that be “something back in return?”

  23. Eric,

    If roads were exclusive to those paying the VRT you would have a point.