Cars Versus People

April 8, 2010

A couple recent posts over at Kris Scheuer’s blog caught my eye as they related to a major pet peeve of mine that anyone who has read anything I’ve ever written here will attest to. Cars, parking, bicycles, bike lanes, pedestrians. The whole kit and caboodle.

The first entry reveals some surprising information emerging from a survey done by Clean Air Partnership. It seems of the 500+ folks interviewed who were going about their business along the Dundas Street West strip between Kennedy and Jane streets, more than ¾ of them arrived there through non-car means. In fact, more than twice as many walked to their destination rather than drove.

More surprisingly, a majority of business owners in the area favoured reducing parking along the street to make way for bike lanes and wider pedestrian friendly sidewalks. This has long been my argument about persistent retail woes along some of our major downtown arterial roads including much of Dundas Street West. Pedestrian unfriendliness. Even the Bloor-Danforth corridor, our main east-west drag, is largely devoid of strolling appeal. Nevermind it being unfriendly terrain to bike except for the portion between the Bloor Street viaduct and roughly Sherbourne Street. There’s the Danforth’s Greektown from Broadview to about Pape that makes for a pleasant few hour wander but that’s about it. Even trendy Yorkville draws its pedestrian crowds to the side streets one, two and three block north of Bloor.

Despite sitting atop a subway line, Bloor Street is not ultimately an attractive and desirable stop to hang out, browse, shop and generally revel in city life. It is little more than a (semi) functional traffic conduit whose fortune lies almost exclusively with the ups-and-downs of the nearby residential areas that border it. Anything that can be done to make Bloor-Danforth (or Dundas Street West) more people friendly will inevitably increase retail health as well, despite what your local B.I.A. might tell you.

Which segues nicely – something a writer always likes – to Kris Scheuer’s second post of note. After a decade+ back-and-forth on the issue, Forest Hill Village is finally getting 11 new parking spots and it’s only going to cost slightly more than a million dollars! Does that seem entirely out of whack to anyone else? There’s no reason to disbelieve that the price tag will be quickly recouped through parking fees as the Toronto Parking Authority claims, so it’s not the money that grates. But are 11 additional spaces for cars really going to alleviate the congestion and traffic problems that plague Forest Hill Village? Won’t having more parking simply bring more cars with the promise of less driving hassle? As anyone who’s ever tried to drive there (or bike) will tell you, it ain’t pretty. How more cars on the scene will alleviate the problem is a mystery to me.

Cars, cars, cars. They are the past, people, not the future. Making the city more amenable to drivers and their deathmobiles lessens the livability index rather than increases it. Pedestrians know it. Cyclists know it. Transit users know it. Even enlightened business owners know it. So let’s stop catering to the increasing minority of those who refuse to acknowledge the reality of it.

doggedly submitted by Urban Sophisticat