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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Walkability in tower neighbourhoods, and other walking news

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I’ve written before about the project by Paul Hess and Jane Farrow to study walkability in Toronto’s high-rise neighbourhoods. It’s been a great way to broaden the focus of walking beyond the downtown core to areas where walkability is really bad, but also where the biggest improvements can be made.

The authors have now released their final report, Walkability in Toronto’s High Rise Neighbourhoods. There’s an executive summary (PDF) and the full report (PDF).

The study found that many residents of these high-rise neighbourhoods do not have cars and have to rely on walking in areas that are quite hostile to getting around on foot — although there are exceptions, such as well-designed Thorncliffe Park, where residents reported the greatest satisfaction with their walking conditions. Residents of most of these communities are relunctant pedestrians, and would prefer to drive if they could afford it. They also felt little hope that walking conditions would be improved, but they often identified particular locations and characteristics in their communities that enabled them to enjoy walking and socializing.

Other pedestrian news

– The City is proposing, in its new budget, to cut sidewalk snow clearing for residential streets (PDF, p. 24), which currently is only provided in the suburbs (supposedly because downtown sidewalks are too narrow). The budget proposes some kind of “seniors grant” for seniors who cannot clear their own sidewalks (there’s supposed to be a program in place downtown but it does not work well at the moment).

However, experience downtown shows that many non-seniors do not clear their sidewalks of snow and ice, leaving them dangerous, especially to seniors who are more likely to suffer serious injury in a fall. This move is a serious blow to pedestrian safety across the city.

The city will, however, continue to clear sidewalks on major streets, including their recent expansion of this service to the downtown.

– A proposal is going to City Council to improve the intersection of Coxwell and Fairford/Gerrard East (PDF), which is currently terrible for both pedestrians and drivers. There is some concern that it will cause problems of traffic infiltration for residents further east, but the local councillors (it’s on the border between wards 30 and 32) are working to find solutions that address this concern. The improvements will include closing the second entrance road to Fairford to create a much larger, nicer parkette at the intersection, and providing separate traffic signals for crossing pedestrians, and for the cars turning left from Gerrard onto Coxwell who currently intersect with them.

– The Toronto Centre for Active Transportation (recently renamed from “Coalition” to “Centre”) is looking for input about complete streets policies across Ontario. If you know about any relevant policies in an Ontario municipality, have images of any streets that have been transformed in a complete streets manner, or know of any specialists who might have insight, please let them know.


One comment

  1. It costs about $7 per house per year to provide residential snowplowing, one of the cheapest investments a city could make in terms of quality of (winter) life for all of its citizens. And I agree – although people are supposed to clean their sidewalks downtown, all it takes is a couple of people who don’t to make it unpleasant to walk, especially if one’s pushing a stroller.