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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

An open letter to candidates about complete streets


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Dear candidates,

The individuals who have signed this letter met recently to discuss the theme of transportation in our city. We are a diverse group of people involved in all aspects of this issue who came together to help build a constructive consensus on this critical issue. We believe in transforming our city’s streets into livable spaces that function both as sustainable transportation routes as well as vibrant destinations. Complete Streets would bring us closer to Toronto’s stated goals of being green, clean, competitive and diverse.

We do not believe that there is a “war on the car.” The Complete Streets model strives to provide room for everyone including drivers, cyclists, transit riders and pedestrians. It’s simply about offering choice, and ensuring that everyone can travel safely. If there is a war, it’s just a war on old thinking. A war on inefficiency. A war on traffic. A war on pollution. Cities around the world are making this shift with great success, improving the quality of life for all of their citizens and their competitiveness as places to live, work and invest.

To describe transportation issues in Toronto as a conflict between drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians is a divisive approach that does our city a disservice and misses the whole point. There are not two Torontos, comprised of cyclists or drivers. In fact, statistics show us that those who own bicycles are more likely to own cars than those who do not. We are one Toronto. We drive, we ride and we walk. The goal of Complete Streets is to ensure that our streets are designed to safely accommodate all users.

This goal can be achieved by attracting more citizens into the process, turning neighbours into engaged informed advocates, and we are committed to working together collectively towards this goal.

We encourage all candidates to embrace this comprehensive and democratic approach to transportation, rather than perpetuating or encouraging a divisive framing that unnecessarily pits Torontonians against each other. We can only build a green Toronto if we all work together.


Jehad Aliweiwi • Executive Director, Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office
Yvonne Bambrick • Executive Director, Toronto Cyclists Union
Rahul Bhardwaj • President and CEO, Toronto Community Foundation
Matthew Blackett • Publisher and Creative Director, Spacing Magazine
David Crombie • Chair, Toronto Lands Corp.
David Crowley • Vice President, Halcrow Consulting Inc.
Julia Deans • CEO, Toronto City Summit Alliance
Susan Eng • Vice-President, Advocacy, CARP
Jane Farrow • Executive Director, Jane’s Walk
Luigi Ferrara • Director, School of Design at George Brown College
Adam Goddard • Composer
Eti Greenberg • Wellington Place Neighhbourhood Association
Ken Greenberg • Architect and urban designer
Paul Hess • Professor, Geography and Planning, U of T
Ed Levy • Senior Transportation Consultant and Transportation Engineer
Roberto Martella • Owner/operator, Grano Restaurant
Dave Meslin • Founder, Toronto Cyclists Union
Shawn Micallef • Senior Editor, Spacing Magazine
Eric Miller • Director, Cities Centre, U of T
Steve Munro • Transit Advocate
Gil Peñalosa • Executive Director, 8-80 cities
Dylan Reid • Co-chair, Toronto Pedestrian Committee
Nancy Smith Lea • Director, Toronto Coalition for Active Transportation, Clean Air Partnership
Adam Vaughan • City Councillor, Ward 20

NOTE: There is an excellent opportunity coming up to learn more about this concept at Toronto’s Complete Streets Forum on April 23.  Click here for details



  1. Dear Abovesigned,

    After attending numerous sessions at the U.N.’s World Urban Forum 5 in Rio de Janeiro three weeks ago on the question of and related to Complete Streets coupled with countless conversations with Mayors, urban planners, NGOs there, ‘Complete Streets’ as understood in Toronto apparently is still not enough by itself.

    We still have within our DNA as a city, a growing institutional gap between ’stated principles’ (viz. being green, clean, competitive & diverse) and ‘permitted practice’ (viz. appealing to an archaic OMB or Yonge Eglinton non-public public space plus countless tired examples.)

    I learned at WUF that Cities the World over are indeed making a shift, but it is less because of a ‘complete streets’ approach and more of a ‘complete citizen’ approach, if you will allow me that.

    Rather than typing more here within this comment box, you will find intelligent proven answers in the campaign platform I’ll have ready within a few weeks.

    HiMY SYeD
    Toronto City Council Candidate.

  2. I would like to sign on too… great letter…. let’s stay focused on the end game. Well done.

  3. Well written!!!!

    My only suggestion is to address it to the media in addition to the candidates.

  4. Adding my name to this excellent letter.

    Tim Falconer
    Author of Drive: A Road Trip through Our Complicated Affair with the Automobile

  5. I would be honoured to be part of this initiative.

    Robert Ruggiero, Bachelor of Community Design Honours Candidate.

  6. As we just tweeted (for those who don’t have the twitter) if you agree with the above, add your name here too.

  7. Very refreshing and intelligent take on the issue. It’s a “war on old thinking” indeed! I can easily get behind this.

  8. Bravo! The is bang on. I can’t help but notice how diplomatic it is considering all the current ugly rhetoric this is obviously intended to address. All the talk about the “War on cars” etc. is in fact simple politicking, I strongly suspect with very little real passion or belief behind it. It is simply a politcal game of dividing people, setting them against each other, and getting them riled up enough to come out and vote for the candidate with the simplest, angriest message. Heck, that’s what wars are usually all about anyway.

  9. I’m in.

    Jeremy Foreshew
    Event and development consultant

  10. Perfect. I will happily sign on!

  11. A noble note!

    Jacqueline Whyte Appleby

  12. Honoured and delighted to support this.

  13. You can add me too

    Michael Bulko
    Sales, Spacing Magazine

  14. We agree 100%.

    It’s time to stop the wedge issue politics & the piecemeal approaches. It’s time to consider the design of our city holistically.

    We are honoured to add our names to this letter.

  15. Couldnt’t agree more. Adding my name as well.

  16. This is great.

    “Complete Streets” is a great phrasing, and pushes back nicely against the faux-notion of a “war on cars”. The street belongs to us all.

  17. This is well articulated! End the era of us vs. them divisiveness on such an important issue as this. I’m happy to sign on to this letter.

  18. Put my name in there too. I’ve been riding bike as long as I’ve lived in this city, and I don’t hate cars. I reserve that for urban designers who leave me out of their streetscapes.

  19. Why can’t someone on this list run for mayor?

  20. This letter is a great start, but I’d like to know if there is a reason there are no concrete numbers or positions, eg, $50 million/annum on bike infrastructure, intensive lobbying to Queen’s Park for Transit funding, bike lanes on Bloor? I understand the desire to tone down the strident rhetoric, but asking all candidates to agree to something risks implying there are no tough decisions to make on this issue. I believe there are and I’d like to hear how candidates respond – on both sides of the issues.

    The devil is in the details, which, after all, City Council spends many an hour debating.

  21. Thanks for the fantastic letter I agree with it completely. One of the reasons I decided to throw my hat into the municipal election was this “war on car” rhetoric being thrown around by some mayoral candidates. I have always supported complete streets and is one of the main planks in my campaign.

    Derek Chadbourne
    Candidate for Ward 19

  22. I would like to add my name to this important letter as well. Thank you.

  23. It’s a privilege to add my name to this wonderful and growing list.

    Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler,
    Chair, Wychwood Open Door
    Director, Toronto Public Library
    Candidate, TDSB Trustee, Ward 11 (St. Paul’s)

  24. The war against bicycles escalates. Bricks fall on bicycles parked on sidewalk near Gould and Yonge. Some bicycles damaged. No humans injured.

  25. Articulate and accurate – count me in. Let’s hope candidates listen.

    Brad Marcoux
    Niagara Neighbourhood Now

  26. I’m absolutely on board with this.

  27. I would love to be on the list.

    Gareth C. Scales
    Film Editor, Citizen

  28. Complete Streets means less emphasis on the car which means drivers won’t be catered to and will be penalized, discouraged, slowed down and given less space.
    It’s really part of the war on cars and that’s how they’ll see it no matter how you dress it up.
    It’s still a good idea.

  29. If we are to be a truly diverse city we should be inclusive in all respects. I indeed drive a car, use transit, walk and would be far more inclined to ride my bike if we had a safer environment for them.
    Please add me to the list.
    Stephanie Ruthard

  30. W.K. Lis> The bricks on Gould fell on the sidewalk and the road. It was a complete streets collapse. No worries.

  31. Since I’ve been in Hamilton I’ve absolutely loved these cute folksy Canadian streets. Sign me up.

  32. The bus only lanes on Allen/Dufferin are a good example of where they forgot to make space for bikes. I support this movement to complete streets.

  33. Back in March 2005 I wrote the Star a letter talking about Complete Streets. It’s good to see it finally becoming part of the mainstream conversation. I’m happy to add my name to the above list of luminaries.

    Jacob Allderdice, Urban Designer
    Registered Architect (New York State)

    (read on for my original letter if interested)

    date 31 March 2005 23:23
    subject re: Narrow streets raise fire issues

    To the Editor:

    re: “Narrow streets raise fire issues,” by Catherine Porter, March 31 05

    The well-known adage about firefighters’ desire to have the biggest “tool” is being proven out in Regent Park. Kudos to local councillors McConnell and Janet Davis for refusing to knuckle under to their threats. Shame on Councillor Walker for fear-mongering.

    If we in the downtown areas start building all our roads to suburban standards, as the firechief demands, we may well lose the quality that most separates us from the suburbs. Streets are for people: “complete streets” serve the needs of pedestrians, cyclists, and people in wheelchairs and strollers, not just cars and trucks. Streets that are too wide lose their humanity. Buildings that are too far apart lose connection from one to the other.

    This is a lesson to keep well in mind as we look to the development of residential communities in the Portlands. It’s worth keeping in mind as we debate the merits of reduced car dependency, the goals of the Toronto Official Plan, and the goal of the Kyoto agreement on global warming.

    Let the firefighters deal with Regent Park the same way they deal with the narrow streets in neighbourhoods that border it: with smaller trucks, trucks scaled for downtown city streets.

  34. Signing on! As a cyclist/pedestrian/driver, I have always found the “war on…” rhetoric utterly tiresome. Let us be civil to one another while moving about the city, and let’s start thinking about the big picture as you propose. Bravo.

  35. This letter strikes exactly the right tone, and is very impressive. Who would have thought that bike lanes could ever become a wedge issue.

    I do think one thing is missing from the letter’s position on why complete streets make sense. Yes it’s certainly about equal access, but it also has to be in part a realization that their can never be enough room for cars. We know from 70 years of building new roads and widening existing roads that our road infrastructure can’t hope to handle the demand their very construction creates.

    So while the moral argument is strong, there’s also just the cold hard math of it: If we’re going to talk about using our streets to move people, rather than just cars, than things like bikes and transit vehicles are going to do it far more efficiently than any other option.

    Well done.

  36. I totally agree. After living in Copenhagen I know it is possible for cities to make this transformation, and Toronto desperately needs to get there.

  37. Add me to the list as well. The more people fluidly moving through the streets, the more complete the streets are in their purpose. The streets aren’t for large amounts of low-manoeuvrability mostly-empty metal boxes. We need to increase the human mass to vehicle mass ratio!

    Mark Cidade
    Mayoral Candidate

  38. I will sign onto this. I will not vote for any candidate that doesn’t recognize several key concepts.

    1. Cycling in Toronto is not safe – cycling lanes are not continuous, adequate, or well designed where they exist. Bikes are not cars, and have unique design needs. The European model of physically separated lanes is often the best option.

    2. Dramatically improving the ability of Torontonians to commute safely by bicycle is beneficial for everyone.

    3. There is no war between bikes and cars. But the best way to improve traffic problems is to provide alternatives to driving.

  39. I’m in.

    Michèle Champagne
    Designer, OpenCity Projects (Toronto)
    Founder, Experimental Urban Renewal Unit (Amsterdam)
    Student, Sandberg Masters of Design (Amsterdam)

  40. Count me in.

    Ian Clark
    Masters of Science in Planning candiate 2011, U of T

  41. YES.

    Pete Gorman
    Pedestrian, Cyclist, Transit User

  42. Seems to me that the “Complete Streets” concept still requires a lot of discussion, debate and analysis with a view on adapting it to Canadian climates. It is not and should not be a short term thing, but a revolutionary long term vision and plan implementation for the next several decades.

    Infrastructure redesign is terribly expensive and disruptive while being implemented, so we must be sure of where we are headed.

    The focus needs to be on how do we travel in this city and the GTA. It’s not just about bicycles, cars, public transit and pedestrians. It should be about INTERCONNECTIVITY and the availability of OPTIONS.

    Yes, debate and educate now during the election campaign, but we need much more input from all sectors. Not just planners, academics and single mode lobbyists, but from everyone.

    I can sign on to this – tentatively, provided we have fulsome debate and sensible planning. I can agree we need anew way of thinking about how we get around in this city.

    Ken Wood
    Candidate for city council, Ward 18, Davenport
    Leave a Comment

  43. I have inherently believed in all of this, and that is why I have pushed for better biking along Bloor. So where have folks been with the lack of provision for safe cycling through Bloor/Yorkville with that Bloor St. Transformation project? How can we/you give credence to this good rhetoric without looking at what is done? This project – that Adam Vaughan and 31 other Councillors voted for – only provides the feeble sharrows as an afterthought and its design wastes that mere metre of space needed for easy bike lanes in a dead zone between new granite planter and new granite curbs in the area that was found to be the best spot for east-west bike lanes in 1992.
    If there is any spot in Southern Ontario more suited for a bike lane due to the proximity of the subway, could your erudite readers suggest it?
    PS – they’ve taken out the bike parking too, and do not apparently plan to replace it near Bloor/Yonge.

  44. I think this is a great opportunity to orchestrate a modern transportation plan for Toronto.
    Because I live in Mississauga, my hope is that we could tie in suburban modes of transport with those in Toronto.

  45. Brilliant letter! Please sign me on as I too “believe in transforming our city’s streets into livable spaces that function both as sustainable transportation routes as well as vibrant destinations.”

    The only missing piece is economics — “transforming” the design of our streets will require transforming how we generate the revenues required to build them. In short, we can no longer simply request our leaders to support visionary transport policies without stating how we will pay for their implementation. Currently the City has a $200 million+ backlog in “business as usual” street repairs. Given federal and provincial deficits totalling $75 billion and a Metrolinx shortfall of $44 billion, there won’t be much new money available to redesign and reconstruct Toronto’s roads. Therefore, I strongly believe that we must invest in our road infrastructure ourselves through property taxes, developer charges — and user pay fees. This will require transforming minds from a century-old “roads are free” mentality to a new culture that universally accepts road pricing (road tolls) in the same way that we accept transit, train and airplane fares — let alone everything else we purchase.

    Since this transformation to user pay is an extremely difficult one, Transport Futures was established to facilitate a rational road pricing discussion through Ontario-based learning events and research. I invite everyone on this list to attend our next Leadership Summit on June 18th in order to hear first-hand how American and Canadian politicians support road pricing in the face of widespread opposition. After all, without leadership, neither road pricing nor complete streets will happen. See for further detail and registration info.

    Marty Collier, MES
    Founder, Transport Futures

  46. My only problem with this letter, is “Why does this even have to be written?”

    I would be happy to co-sign this obvious statement of principle.

  47. Great letter! Count me in too!

    Michelle St-Amour
    Co-Founder and Advocacy Coordinator
    BikeSauce: Bicycle Resource Centre

  48. Consider me signed on!
    Beautifully succinct and eloquently stated.

    Bike Union Member, Driver-in-Training

  49. This letter takes a great approach to this issue.

    Jen Lalonde
    [bike commuter, car owner, transit user]

  50. Well said. Signing on!

    Jaime Rosen
    (pedestrian/cyclist/driver/transit user)
    Graphic Designer
    Transit City

  51. Good point, well stated. I support this.

    Jim Prall
    (Car owner, cyclist, TTC passenger)

    P.S. I knew there was a cyclists’ group but what a thought that we can have someone represent us as pedestrians. After all, we all get out of our cars and walk, at least from the parking lot into the mall!

  52. There is a Complete Streets Policy campaign currently being spearheaded by the Toronto Coalition for Active Transportation & the Toronto Cyclists Union, please email if you are interested in getting involved. We’re just getting started and are looking for a broad coalition of partners.

    See the following links more information about Complete Streets.

  53. Well said and count me in.

    Patrick Brown,
    Past President of Ontario Trial Lawyers Association,
    Director Ontario Safety League, Union Member

  54. Happy to sign this… wish i could make it to the forum.

  55. We at the Toronto Environmental Alliance would be happy to sign on.

    We even have a Complete Streets priority for the upcoming Municipal Election! Please find more information on this and our other election priorities here:

    Alison Barrie
    Environmental Outreach Coordinator:
    Toronto Environmental Priorities & Public Education
    Toronto Environmental Alliance

  56. I find the inclusion of the very fringe mayoral candidate Himy Syed laughable.

    This is the link to this self-professed Islamic banker, but not a banker under Canadian Law.

    Or how about his advice on how to Get Into Canada a guide to abusing Canada’s immigration system?

    Nobody in their right minds would believe this clearly corrupt candidate!