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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

World Wide Wednesday: a global tour of car-free festivities, David Byrne’s “Bicycle Diaries,” and Google Street View via tricycle

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Each week we will be focusing on blogs from around the world dealing specifically with urban environments. We’ll be on the lookout for websites outside the country that approach themes related to urban experiences and issues in Toronto.

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This week’s World Wide Wednesday is dedicated to automobile liberation (as in our liberation from the car… not the car’s movement for sovereignty).  Look out for my follow up piece later this week, discussing cycling diversity (or lack there of) in Toronto.

New York has revived their Summer Streets initiative for a second year, closing Park Avenue and connecting streets from the Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park to car traffic for three consecutive Saturdays this month. Along New York’s route are activities such as dance and fitness classes; arts and music events; and cycling-related workshops, such a demonstrations from bike share programs from around the world, including Montreal’s Bixi. Oh, and rapper-entrepreneur-extraordinaire Jay-Z was on hand to launch the program this past Saturday.

• Summer Streets can be traced back to “Ciclovia,” an initiative introduced in Bogotà¡, Colombia, where Mississauga’s own Gil Peà±alosa (of Walk and Bike for Life) was then Commissioner of Parks, Sport and Recreation for the City. The project sees 91 km of street closed to traffic every Sunday, with an estimated 1.5 million participants. A 2007 video on highlighting Ciclovia features Peà±alosa, who will be meeting with Ontario Minister of Health Promotion Margaret Best in upcoming weeks, recently hinted, “we should try that in Ontario.”

• Other cities that have been inspired by Bogotà¡’s Ciclovia include Portland, Oregon, where participants’ stories are being posted online; Paris, where participants have been regulated to cover-up; and Quito, Ecuador, where this Sunday, Ecuadorian singer Fernando Pacheco will be filming a video at Ciclopaseo (Quito’s version of the initiative), inviting the public to participate. Unfortunately, an experiment in car-free Sundays in Vancouver, dubbed “Summer Spaces,” was recently cancelled due to complaints from business owners.

• Former Talking Heads frontman and long-time cycling advocate, David Byrne has a new book coming out, chronicling his experiences as a cyclist in cities across the globe. Look for its Canadian release in September.

• Google Street View has taken its cameras off of cars and remounted them on tricycles in order to capture off-road locations. The trikes have recently been spotted traversing the British countryside, visiting such tourist attractions as Stonehenge and Loch Ness.

• And just for good measure — more lessons in road safety to be learned from the Dutch.  This piece from the Sustainable Cities Collective on the “Forgiving Highway” highlights nicely how theory can only get us so far —  but only appropriate application will take us the rest of the way.

photo by Northcountry Boy



  1. So many amazing initiatives elsewhere – when will Toronto catch up?

  2. Mary — when I’m in other cities and talk about some of the things that Toronto is doing, people say the same thing about their city. Even New Yorkers. Real New Yorkers. Can you imagine?

  3. I’d love to ride my bicycle to the stores for exercise and to enjoy the summers. I was caught on the footpath, which I use with respect to pedestrians, because I take my life in my hands on Dundas Street west in Etobicoke. I was given a warning by Toronto’s finest that I would be charged if they saw me doing it again.
    Very rarely do I meet a pedestrian but I give them right of way. At my advanced age of 85 I surely miss my bike rides. Why can’t the police recognize the difference between the letter of the law and the real intent of the law?