Will Toronto get "Complete Streets"?

complete street sketch
via Globe and Mail complete street sketch

In 2007 we headlined The time has come for complete streets and now, almost a decade later, most of us are still waiting. Now it looks like they are being proposed for Toronto, Canada, where the last Mayor said “streets are made for cars and trucks” and the current Mayor says he will remove a new bike lane if it is “bad for neighbourhoods, bad for business.”

But according to Oliver Moore, writing in the Globe and Mail,

There’s a new kind of road coming to Toronto. A road that uses the space differently, recognizing that it has to do more than just move cars. One that is “beautiful and vibrant” and puts safety first – a crucial move in a city struggling with a rising tide of pedestrian deaths.

The guidelines for Toronto’s complete streets specify “ that the safety of vulnerable road users has to be considered “at every stage.” They reduce speed limits and make the streets less dangerous. They are further defined in the article:
Complete Street designs by transportation planners and engineers manage infrastructure for all ages, abilities, and modes of travel across the entire transportation network. They offer safe and comfortable access for pedestrians, bicycles, transit users and people with disabilities. Design features include trees and benches to encourage people to linger and enjoy the environment.

But Moore also notes that it is not easy or cheap. "The scale of this change would be difficult to overstate. In North America, cars have enjoyed primacy for decades, while pedestrians and cyclists were left with crumbs."

Less than crumbs, actually. The number of pedestrians killed this year is higher than it has been in decades. Massive development and growth east and west of the downtown core means that the transit system is overcrowded to the point of breakdown. Something needs to be done and everyone knows it. But do they have the nerve?

The proposals call for tighter lanes, reduced corner radii, separation of transit, wider sidewalks and protected bike lanes. Great credit is due to the planners and particularly to Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat, who asks:

We know designing our streets differently saves lives. The question is: Are we prepared to tolerate, are we prepared to live in a city where preventable deaths are not prevented?

The answer to that question in Toronto has historically been “yes.”

The comments (I know, you shouldn’t read comments) go on about lack of parking, slowing down commuting, the cost of the work, the out of touch planners and how “the car isn’t going anywhere” One reader asks: “Does anyone expect that a pro-car, anti-urban Council dominated by lowest-common-denominator suburban clowns will approve anything this sensible?”

The answer to that question remains a probable “no.”

Will Toronto get "Complete Streets"?
The planners say so. I hope so.

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