Safer streets through design: Toronto pop-up aims for lasting impact

Click to play video: 'Pop-up aims to showcase safer Toronto streets' Pop-up aims to showcase safer Toronto streets
Temporary expanded sidewalks and separated bike lanes aimed to boost safety on Danforth Avenue this weekend, but not everyone was happy with the changes. – Aug 24, 2019

Part of Toronto’s Danforth Avenue was transformed into a display of safer street design this weekend.

The two-day pilot project, which was located along Danforth Avenue at Woodbine Avenue until Saturday, re-purposed two curb lanes into an expanded pedestrian space. It also included protected bike lanes along with parklets and sitting areas.

“Cars are basically a tonne of metal, and cyclists are quite vulnerable — they have squishy bodies — so it reduces the possibility of impact,” said Amanda O’Rourke, executive director of 8 80 Cities, which helped build the installation. The Toronto-based non-profit aims to improve the lives of people living in cities.

Toronto experienced 46 pedestrian and cyclist deaths in 2018, according to O’Rourke, with 22 fatalities so far this year.

“It reduces the possibility that there will be an interaction between a fast-moving vehicle and a person,” she said.

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The goals of the pop-up align with those of the city’s Vision Zero plan to achieve no injuries or fatalities through a “data-driven and targeted approach.”

“I think it’s really helpful to see it in a tangible way, to be able to come out here to the neighbourhood and see some of these things that we talk about in press conferences,” said Coun. Brad Bradford.

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Some residents opposed the pilot, citing increased traffic congestion.

Victoria Bankuti, who was biking by but also drives, said rather than solving problems the project instead shifts them elsewhere.

“People are diverting into the family neighbourhoods and communities just to avoid the congestion, which is a very challenging thing,” Bankuti said.

Meanwhile, another resident, Prasanna Balasundaram, who lives nearby with his wife and children, said he supports the pop-up and that it is up to drivers to adapt.

“There is a subway that runs along the entirety of the Danforth, which is in my view the best way to travel up and down the street. Frankly, we can’t design cities for cars anymore. It just is not sustainable,” he said.

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Two more of the temporary installations are planned for residential areas in the city this fall.

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