Room to share: How cities can make physical distancing work

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Blackfriars Bridge open to pedestrians and cyclists in London, Ontario

For my latest TVO article, I spoke with Councillor Shawn Menard in Ottawa, Councillor Rowena Santos in Brampton, and Ryerson University epidemiologist Anne Harris about how cities in Ontario are reallocating road space for pedestrians and cyclists during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, or why they may be hesitant to do so.

In Brampton, five kilometres of new bike lanes, proposed in that city’s new transportation plan, were quickly approved as part of its response to COVID-19. This benefits both pedestrians and cyclists by reducing conflicts on sidewalks, reducing congestion on city paths, and recognizing that cycling is an increasingly important mode of transportation.

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Cyclists on Howden Boulevard, Brampton

In Ottawa, despite resistance from the the mayor and council, Shawn Menard, who represents an urban ward just south of Parliament Hill, was able to temporarily close two lanes of traffic on a narrow bridge on a major retail street, and worked with the National Capital Commission to re-allocate a section of parkway for active transportation.

Meanwhile in Toronto, the mayor and medical officer of health were resistant to increasing calls for sidewalk expansions in congested urban areas, including where queues formed to enter grocery stores, pharmacies, hardware stores, and LCBO outlets.

This was one of my favourite articles I have written so far. 

 

Loblaws queue on Church Street

Queue on Church Street at Carlton to enter Loblaws supermarket

With Walk Toronto, I have been involved with pushing the City of Toronto to take action, especially in pinch points where store queues, construction barriers, and other obstructions have made it difficult — if not impossible — to safely practice physical distancing when walking or cycling for essential purposes, or even getting a little bit of fresh air or light exercise in dense urban areas.

The good news is that ten problem areas — including the intersection of Carlton and Church — have finally been identified for curb lane closures, with potentially more on the way. This is a timid first step, made after weeks of advocacy, but it is welcome.

This entry was posted in Brampton, Cycling, Infrastructure, Ontario, Roads, Walking and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Room to share: How cities can make physical distancing work

  1. Stephen Saines says:

    [Meanwhile in Toronto, the mayor and medical officer of health were resistant to increasing calls for sidewalk expansions in congested urban areas]

    The ‘gist from memory’ retort was:
    “Well if we do that, they’ll think they have the right to be there”.

    Even brioche wasn’t so begrudged…

    • Stephen Saines says:

      Just catching up on the latest news Marshall is referring to as per Toronto. From TorStar:
      […][Dr. Eileen de Villa, the city’s public health chief, confirmed she is concerned big new pedestrian spaces could encourage people to mingle and possibly contaminate each other at a crucial stage of efforts to halt the virus][…]

      I’m going to die from bleeding from biting my lip…

      This is the very same ‘public health chief’ who stated on a number of occasions….best I reference this:
      March 6, 2020 8:27 am
      [“This information is being provided out of an abundance of caution. We’re talking about low-risk situations,” said Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s top public-health doctor, in a briefing Friday.]
      https://globalnews.ca/news/6639525/ontario-covid-19-case-las-vegas/

      One of many completely wrong calls ‘the good doctor’ made.

      I’m livid, best I leave it at that reference…

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