Life is a high­way, but Yonge St. is not

John Fil­ion Ward 18 Wil­low­dale Coun­cil­lor

Bayview Post - - NEWS | LOCAL POLITICS -

Over the past seven years, 78 pedes­tri­ans and cy­clists have been hit by cars along Yonge Street in Wil­low­dale. Sev­eral were killed, oth­ers se­ri­ously in­jured –– not count­ing the van at­tack. Seven­ty­five per­cent of the cars speed­ing along Yonge –– or clog­ging it in rush hour –– come from the 905, at­tracted by the six-lane stretch of road en­ter­ing the city.

Adding to the pedes­trian un­friendly en­vi­ron­ment, both the road and its side­walks des­per­ately need re­pair. And, in most lo­ca­tions, the side­walks are far are too nar­row for the num­ber of peo­ple who use them daily. Take a walk be­tween Shep­pard Av­enue and Finch Av­enue and tell me a trans­for­ma­tion isn’t nec­es­sary.

This spring, the fu­ture of this sec­tion of Yonge –– and with it the fu­ture of Wil­low­dale –– will be back be­fore coun­cil.

I ex­pect com­mu­nity lead­ers, pedes­trian safety ad­vo­cates and ur­ban ex­perts to once again sup­port a set of city staff rec­om­men­da­tions known as Trans­form Yonge.

The rec­om­men­da­tions, which coun­cil de­ferred last year, call for wide side­walks to­gether with plant­ings, benches as well as out­door cafés.

The space to do this would come from re­duc­ing the cur­rent six lanes to four, plus turn lanes and bus lay-bys. That’s more us­able lanes than any other sec­tion of Yonge, and hav­ing Doris Av­enue and Beecroft Road a block away means that the to­tal num­ber of north-south lanes serv­ing lo­cal res­i­dents will to­tal 12 lanes.

The pro­posal also en­vi­sions bi­cy­cle lanes, sep­a­rated from both cars and pedes­tri­ans, on the same level as the side­walks.

Yonge Street is sched­uled for a ma­jor mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar re­newal project — some­thing that hap­pens once ev­ery 60 years.

If recre­at­ing the past was good enough, we’d sim­ply pour new con­crete in place of the old. But that would be a fail­ure to seize this rare op­por­tu­nity to shape our fu­ture.

Even in the short term, we can ex­pect driver­less cars, ride shar­ing and a gen­er­a­tion liv­ing in higher den­sity hous­ing who will be far less in­ter­ested in own­ing a car than their baby boomer par­ents and grand­par­ents.

We will want more jobs and re­cre­ation close to where we live. And as our pop­u­la­tion con­tin­ues to mul­ti­ply, we’ll need to rely on a com­plete pub­lic tran­sit net­work, on walk­ing and on cy­cling.

Let’s plan for that. Sixty more years of high­way is sim­ply the wrong di­rec­tion.

“Take a walk on Yonge Street and tell me a trans­for­ma­tion isn’t nec­es­sary.”

Coun­cil­lor John Fil­ion has a dif­fer­ent vi­sion for Yonge Street

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