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19’s Plenty: Toronto Drops Speed Limit to 19 MPH on Residential Streets

“There is no war on the car,” said Toronto City Councillor Paula Fletcher. “There’s basically been this continued war on people who don’t have a car.”

30 km

The new speed limit is 30 kph, or 18.6 mph.

To remedy that situation, Fletcher, along with all of her colleagues on the Toronto and East York community council, voted last week to reduce speed limits to 30 kph (or 18.6 mph) on 240 miles of residential streets in the central districts of the city.

The lower speed limits are expected to encourage more people to bike and walk, and to improve air quality and noise conditions in the affected neighborhoods.

Toronto Mayor John Tory opposes the plan, preferring a neighborhood-by-neighborhood approach. Previous Mayor Rob Ford was (not surprisingly) more blunt, called the idea “nuts, nuts, nuts.” But on this issue, the mayor doesn’t get a vote.

Opponents of the plan argued that it will backfire since some streets are designed for faster speeds. It’s true that lowering the posted speed limit is no substitute for street designs that slow motorists. That’s why 20 mph zones that have saved lives in London include engineering changes as well. But it’s also true that blanket speed limit reductions, with no additional interventions, have a track record of success.

The lower speed limits in Toronto will make difference, and hopefully will serve as an impetus to redesign streets for safer driving speeds too.

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Toronto City Council Blows Its Chance to Transform Downtown

Toronto could have had a waterfront boulevard but the Council voted to keep an elevated highway instead. Image: ## TO##

Toronto could have replaced its downtown elevated highway with a surface boulevard, but the City Council voted to keep an elevated highway instead. Image via Blog TO

Tearing down Toronto’s Gardiner East Expressway would remove a hulking blight from downtown, improve access to the waterfront, open up land for walkable development, and save hundreds of millions of dollars compared to rebuilding the highway.

But that didn’t convince the City Council.

In a 24-21 vote yesterday, the Council opted to rebuild the aging Gardiner with some minor modifications instead of pursuing the “boulevard” option that would have removed a 1.7-kilometer segment of the highway.

Replacing the elevated road with a surface street would have cost $137 million less upfront (in Canadian dollars) than rebuilding it, and nearly $500 million less in total costs over the next 100 years.

Read more…

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Decision Time for Toronto’s Gardiner Expressway


The “hybrid” proposal favored by Mayor John Tory would rebuild the Gardiner East Expressway at twice the cost of tearing it down, and it won’t even move any more traffic. Image: Globe and Mail

Toronto is facing a critical decision about the aging elevated Gardiner East Expressway. Will Canada’s largest city go ahead with the plan to replace the one-mile-long concrete relic with a surface boulevard and walkable development? Or will it cling to yesterday’s infrastructure?

Toronto's Gardiner East Expressway. Photo:

Toronto’s Gardiner East Expressway. Photo:

The debate has been heating up ahead of a key City Council meeting next week.

A poll released Monday showed a plurality of Toronto residents prefer tearing down the Gardiner to rebuilding it. Among respondents, 45 percent supported the teardown, compared to 33 percent who favored rebuilding. The remaining respondents didn’t know enough to answer or didn’t like either option.

Meanwhile, Toronto Mayor John Tory this week reiterated his opposition to the teardown, saying, “I didn’t get elected to make traffic worse, and let’s be clear, removing that piece of the Gardiner will almost certainly make traffic worse.”

But just 3 percent of downtown Toronto workers commute on the Gardiner East. As teardown proponents have pointed out, the boulevard option doesn’t reduce traffic capacity compared to the rebuilding option supported by Tory, and even the feared decline in driving speeds is likely overhyped, given everything we now know about how drivers adjust to new conditions.

Tearing down the 1.7 kilometer road and replacing it with a boulevard, meanwhile, will cost about half as much as the mayor’s preferred “hybrid” proposal, which would rebuild the Gardiner East “with three of its support trusses/ramps slightly modified.”

Among the coalition supporting the teardown is the city’s chief planning official, Jennifer Keesmaat, who said it would allow the city to build connected “complete communities” within walking distance of downtown.

Part of the Gardiner was demolished in 2001 and replaced with a boulevard — and somehow Toronto managed to avoid grinding to a halt.

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#MinimumGrid: Toronto Advocates Move Politicians Beyond Bike Platitudes

Bike advocates are putting these questions to Toronto mayoral candidates. Image: #MinimumGrid

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Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

Almost all urban politicians will tell you they think bikes are great. But only some actually do anything to make biking more popular.

In Toronto’s current mayoral and city council election, a new political campaign is focusing candidates on a transportation policy issue that actually matters: a proposed 200-kilometer (124-mile) citywide network of all-ages bikeways.

The campaign, led by advocacy group Cycle Toronto, was given its name by international walking-bicycling advocate Gil Peñalosa. It’s called “#MinimumGrid.” And it seems to be working: Last week, 80 percent of responding city council candidates, including more than half of the council’s incumbents, said they supported building such a system by 2018.

Speaking this month at the Pro-Walk Pro-Bike Pro-Place conference in Pittsburgh, Peñalosa (a Toronto resident) explained the concept: to move cities from symbolic investments in bike transportation to truly transformative ones.

“We focus on the nice-to-have,” Peñalosa said in his keynote address at the conference. “Signage, maps, parking, bike racks, shelters. Does anyone not bike because they don’t have maps?”

Those amenities “might make it nicer for the 1 or 2 percent” who currently bike regularly, he said. But “nice-to-haves” won’t deliver the broader public benefits that can come from actually making biking mainstream.

“What are the must-haves?” Peñalosa went on. “Two things. One is we have to lower the speed in the neighborhoods. And two, we need to create a network. A minimum grid.”
Read more…

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Rob Ford’s Greatest Hits

Ford wipes sweat from his brow during the judicial hearing that found him guilty of a conflict of interest. Photo: Edmonton Journal

Rob Ford, internationally renowned nemesis of the livable streets movement, was removed from his post as mayor of Toronto today after being found guilty of violating local ethics laws. Ford will have an opportunity to appeal the ruling.

As villains go, Ford was actually sort of ideal: brash, unthinking, and prone to embarrassing himself. The Canadian press dubbed him “Toronto’s clown mayor.” When he wasn’t finding ways to undermine the city’s plans for surface transit and bikeways, he was finding new and inventive ways to star in the wrong kind of viral YouTube videos.

There’s a chance Ford’s appeal will succeed and he’ll end up back in the mayor’s office. But today, we’re enjoying the moment and paying tribute to Rob Ford with this retrospective of his most memorable antics.

#1. “Cyclists are a pain in the ass”

Ford made headlines as a mayoral candidate and City Council member when he said that “cyclists are a pain in the ass” and they should ride on the sidewalk. That Ford never even seemed to consider that this would inconvenience pedestrians as well as cyclists encapsulated his “cars above all” philosophy.


After he was elected, Ford made good on his promise to end the “war on the car” by removing bike lanes, which attracted international attention to the city for all the wrong reasons and prompted some memorable acts of civil disobedience.

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Livable Streets Heroes Block Rob Ford’s Removal of Toronto Bike Lane

Photo: Toronto Star

Hats off to Steve Fisher, Wayne Scott and others who took to the streets today to stop the removal of bike lanes in Toronto.

The Toronto Star reports that Fisher and Scott were part of a sit-in to save the Jarvis Street bike lane, which workers are attempting to erase under orders from Mayor Rob Ford, who is on a mission to reverse street safety measures put in place by his predecessor David Miller.

“I don’t believe the Jarvis bike lanes should be removed,” said Fisher. “Before the lanes were involved I was hit twice by cars.”

A street crew worked around Fisher only to encounter other protestors. Contractors eventually stopped work this afternoon. Both parties are planning to return tomorrow.

Hopefully it won’t come to this, but Toronto’s setting a good precedent for civil disobedience if New York elects its own Rob Ford next year.


Time-Lapse Scrambling in Toronto

Scramble from Sam Javanrouh on Vimeo.

Here is a mesmerizing time-lapse video from Spacing Toronto and photoblogger Sam Javanrouh. The clip shows traffic moving through Toronto's pedestrian scramble -- a.k.a. priority crossing, a.k.a. Barnes Dance -- installed at Yonge and Dundas Streets last August.

There's no music, so you'll need your own soundtrack. We suggest the Beta Band's "B + A"


Eyes on the Street: Parking Density in Toronto

This Toronto bike rack is a perfect illustration of how curbside parking sucks up valuable street space. Here, six cyclists are able to park in an area normally taken by one motorist, and since the rack was installed on the street, rather than on the sidewalk, pedestrians are unimpeded.

Photo: Spacing Toronto


Toronto Cops Pull Over a Pedal-Powered ’86 Buick

Artist Michel de Broin removed the engine, suspension, transmission and electrical system from his 1986 Buick Regal. He then equipped it with 4 independent pedal and gear mechanisms transforming his old Buick into the "Self Propulsion Car." De Broin's piece was shown here in New York City back in 2005 at an Exit Art exhibition entitled "Traffic".

In this video (via BlogTO), a perplexed Toronto police officer pulled the car over during a test drive. On the artist's website, you can also see a video of the "Self Propulsion Car" in action on the streets of Hell's Kitchen.

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Toronto Politician on Bike Lanes and the Future of Cycling

Toronto City Council member Glenn De Baeremaeker bicycles 26 miles each way to work at City Hall, all year round. Thirty-five minutes into his ride, De Baeremaeker finally reaches a bike lane. The Toronto Star profiles his ride:

He has clipped on his panniers, buckled his helmet and set off on an hour-long pant to his cluttered office in city hall, where he has become a powerful figure. He's chair of the city's works committee, which oversees all of Toronto's infrastructure, including its roads.

A growing number of councillors see cyclists less as large flies on their windshields and bicycles more as a clean, healthy and -- most importantly -- legitimate form of urban transportation.

"The political stars are aligned," says De Baeremaeker, who pulls up into his underground parking space at city hall on his 21-speed. "People's world view has changed," he says. "The future for cycling is very, very good."

Getting smashed by a truck or van is a big worry of De Baeremaeker's. That's probably because he was hit two winters ago. He had barely pedalled out of City Hall on his way home when someone opened a cab door without looking and sent him flying. He landed under the wheels of another taxi, which, thankfully, wasn't moving. If he had been in a bike lane, it wouldn't have happened. "Bike lanes aren't just a frill. They save people's lives," says De Baeremaeker.

Photo by Martino