bike lanes, Parkdale - High Park, Public health, Public infrastructure, Public safety, Safe streets, Toronto, Vision zero, Ward 4

Unsafe bus stops at Parkside Drive

A vigil for Fatima and Valdemar Avila will be held tonight, Tuesday, Oct. 19, from 4:30 to 5 p.m. at the corner of Parkside Dr and Spring Rd.

The Southbound bus stop at Parkside near Geoffrey St is such an infamous example of poor infrastructure design it should win some type of award for bad planning. There’s no sidewalk or crosswalk with street signals near it. It’s not near any High Park entrance. So, it would seem it was designed to encourage jaywalking in a major artery.

Dude, where’s our crosswalk?

Of course, all these problems could be solved by building a sidewalk and a crosswalk with street signals, but you know the status quo is so deeply entrenched in city hall that raising this issue will result in the usual pretexts for inaction. It takes real talent to come up with the excuses we frequently hear from the City of Toronto.

It gets worse. The intersection of Parkside and Algonquin Ave has what looks like a former or half-built bus stop on the Westside. What happened? Did the TTC get rid of a potential bus stop because the city didn’t want to build a crosswalk with street signals? No wonder TTC riders and pedestrians often feel an afterthought in T.O. a car-centric city by design.

Dude, where’s our bus stop?

And when you thought it couldn’t possibly get worse. The Southbound bus stop on Parkside just North of the Queensway has a “sidewalk” a dirt path where Google maps captured a Kodak moment of a pedestrian unsafely walking along with a dog. Imagine how much more treacherous this path gets during rain or winter.

Dude, where’s our sidewalk? ©2021 Google

Parkside needs a complete rethink, and I am not sure the folks currently in Council have the vision and initiative to undertake this work without public pressure. Often, they focus their energy on defending the status quo not on improving public safety. Otherwise, we would have seen action a long time ago.

Here are the typical status quo excuses and ways to counter them:

  • But Parkside is classified as a major artery and we cannot change this. Classifications can change or exemptions made to improve safety.
  • But infrastructure costs money. Infrastructure is an investment in safety, health, and creates jobs.
  • Enforcement should solve the problem. Temporarily maybe but not long term e.g., speedbumps are less expensive and more effective than constant policing.
  • But new sidewalks will remove parkland and affect the ecology. Not if we replace the rightmost Southbound car lane with bike lanes and a real sidewalk. Also, let’s not pretend the status quo protects the fauna frequently killed by vehicle collisions all along Parkside.
  • But more crosswalks with traffic signals will slow down traffic. When the 50km/hr. limit is not being respected, it is perfectly reasonable to build new safety infrastructure.

However, despite the excuses for inaction, I believe this time in consequence of recent fatal and serious collisions the pressure for change from the community is so strong we will see a safer Parkside. Parkside has been so unsafe it’s likely discouraged walking, taking the bus, and cycling. And now even drivers feel it’s unsafe. With adequate infrastructure (such as sidewalks, raised crosswalks with street signals, and bike lanes) we will see safety improvements for all, and more public transit users, pedestrians, and cyclists. Build it and they will come.

Further reading:

Two Wheeled Politics: It’s Time for a Safer Parkside by Robert Zaichkowski

The Parkside “sidewalk”
bike lanes, Public infrastructure, Public safety, Safe streets, Toronto, Vision zero, Ward 4

Parkside Drive needs more (raised) crosswalks with traffic signals

Without traffic it only takes 4 minutes to drive along Parkside, from Bloor to Lakeshore.

A prediction from residents that one day there would be a fatal car collision on Parkside Drive became a tragic reality a few days ago. Joanna Lavoie’s excellent article documents many of the facts regarding this crash, and recommendations to make Parkside safer. So, rather than repeating this information kindly refer to this very informative article:

https://www.toronto.com/news-story/10496599-parkside-drive-residents-predicted-a-fatal-crash-on-their-speed-prone-street-now-two-people-are-dead/

It’s been said on social media that some drivers treat Parkside as an on-ramp to Lakeshore Blvd as if Lakeshore was a speedway. As someone who drives along Parkside once a week to visit my parents in Scarborough I must sadly agree. Furthermore, many pedestrians and cyclists have stated how unsafe it is to cross Parkside to get to High Park.

Consequently, a recommendation that should be strongly considered is the implementation of more crosswalks (preferably raised) with traffic signals along Parkside. Since more red lights mean less jaywalking, and less chance for vehicles to accelerate beyond the speed limit.

Parkside stretches almost 2 kilometers and only has four pedestrian crosswalks with traffic signals at Indian Valley Cres, Howard Park Ave, High Park Blvd, and Spring Rd. Without traffic, it takes only 4 minutes to drive along Parkside from Bloor to Lakeshore. No wonder many drivers treat it as a main artery. It’s time we put safety first and demand more crosswalks with traffic signals along Parkside, and other safety measures. Two lives were lost, and we have a moral obligation to try our best to prevent further injuries and deaths.

Of course, there are also many other good suggestions to improve safety in Lavoie’s article. More crosswalks with traffic signals are one idea. Finally, please consider contacting Councillor Gord Perks about this very critical local issue that has affected our community: https://gordperks.ca/contact-us/

Update: you may have heard the argument that Parkside is already classified by the City of T.O. as a major artery, as a pretext to justify the status quo. This argument fails to note that classifications can change, and having Parkside which is next to High Park (one of the largest public parks in the city) classified as a major artery was an incredibly bad decision in the first place. So, perhaps, it is time to reclassify Parkside as a minor artery. Finally, many in social media have recommended raised crosswalks which protect pedestrians by acting as speed bumps. This is an excellent idea.

Affordable Housing, Healthy Homes, Parkdale - High Park, Public infrastructure, Public safety, Safe Buildings, Toronto Election, Ward 4

Pedestrian Bridges of Parkdale – High Park

A tale of two bridges: the Wallace Avenue Footbridge and the Humber Bay Arch Pedestrian-Bicycle Bridge remind us that public infrastructure is so much more than fixing potholes. When done right public infrastructure can inspire, bring people together, promote safety, remind us of our past, serve our public and private needs, and even be artistic creations.

In 2018 I had the honour of running for Council in Ward 4, Parkdale – High Park. In the all candidates’ meeting in Parkdale, I gave our campaign brochure to a voter in the audience, who asked me about our platform. My focus was on improving public infrastructure, I replied. The voter asked further, but what are you doing for the community? My reply was that public infrastructure is for the community, such as affordable public housing buildings. Yet, the voter did not seem persuaded.

Unfortunately, many voters see public infrastructure as banal day-to-day fixing of potholes and not something that particularly helps the community. However, infrastructure can be something exciting and even visionary when it serves our public and private needs. A great example I can think of is the Prince Edward Viaduct, which during its construction in 1916 already contained a lower deck for a future subway thanks to the vision of its designer Edmund W. Burke and R. C. Harris the Commissioner of Public Works in Toronto. The lower deck ended up saving millions of dollars 50 years later when the Bloor – Danforth subway was open in 1966. Years ago, when I studied engineering at U of T while living in Scarborough, I would take the subway from Kennedy to St. George to go to class and I would admire this bridge while crossing it after Broadview station, which inspired me just before going to my first morning engineering class. For an interesting novel based on the construction of the Prince Edward Viaduct I highly recommend Michael Ondaatje’s, In the Skin of a Lion: https://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/detail.jsp?Entt=RDM2906451&R=2906451

This magnificent book tells us about the anarchists, dreamers, engineers, immigrants, and workers who envisioned and built modern T.O. during the early years of the 20th century. We could use some of that same spirit of the past to solve today’s challenges. Just to name a few challenges, for a world-class city, we lack public washrooms, sidewalks, apartment building standards, public transit options, safe crosswalks, flood prevention and mitigation systems, and a modern effective electrical grid. The lack of adequate public infrastructure has consequences: people cannot find washrooms, an ice storm results in a major blackout, stormwater sewers fill beyond capacity resulting in rapid flooding (flooding is a problem in just about every underpass in  Parkdale – High Park), pedestrians forced to jaywalk due to no crosswalk or sidewalk get hit by cars, and 1,500 apartment residents find themselves without a home after a failure in the building’s electrical system causes a major fire. If these stories sound familiar it is because all of them occurred here in T.O.; here is one: https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2020/03/02/residents-of-650-parliament-finally-allowed-back-home-this-morning-18-months-after-a-fire-forced-them-out.html

Yet, we can do better, and we have done better. For example, there are two fascinating pedestrian bridges in Parkdale – High Park, which are not as large as the Prince Edward Viaduct, yet serve our public and private needs very well. The Wallace Avenue Footbridge located North of Bloor and Dundas has been connecting people on both sides of the track since it was built in 1907. If you enjoy walking, jogging, or cycling the West Toronto Rail Path you have seen it several times. This pedestrian bridge encourages walking. A couple of years ago, I went to friend’s BBQ who lives in Symington Ave. I took the bus to get there since I knew there would be plenty of Sangria my favourite drink. After the party, it was easy for me to walk safely to my condo near High Park by simply crossing over the Wallace Avenue Footbridge. We sometimes take public infrastructure for granted, but that night I did not since it allowed me to completely forget about driving. For more information on the Wallace Avenue Foot Bridge please read: https://historicbridges.org/bridges/browser/?bridgebrowser=ontario/wallaceavenue/

The other amazing pedestrian bridge in Parkdale – High Park is the iconic Humber Bay Arch Bridge which is a pedestrian-bicycle bridge and part of the Martin Goodman Trail. It is not just a feat of engineering it is also a work of art with design elements inspired by the indigenous history of the Humber River. During the pandemic one of my few escapes has been to rent a bicycle from Bike Share, cycle to the lake and cross this spectacular bridge. Often the indigenous inspiration in this bridge reminds me of what is happening today with the discovery of unmarked gravesites in residential “schools”. Now more than ever we need to acknowledge, respect, and learn about the indigenous history of this land. So, the Humber Bay Arch Bridge at the mouth of the Humber can be a small reminder that this land was taken away forcibly, there was a genocide which we cannot ignore, and reconciliation and justice are a must. So, this Canada day perhaps instead of a celebration it is a time for reflection. For more information on the Humber Bay Arch Bridge please read:

Public infrastructure can inspire, bring people together, promote safety, remind us of our past, serve our public and private needs, and even be artistic creations just like the pedestrian bridges of Parkdale – High Park.

Update: an excellent comment was sent to me recently about this post, which is that public infrastructure must be accessible. This is an area where the Wallace Avenue Footbridge falls short. So, perhaps it is time to refurbish this bridge by adding elevators to it or build a new accessible bridge or tunnel in the West Toronto Rail Path.