Toronto City Council is currently reviewing two or three options with respect to calming traffic in the downtown core:
Outside of Toronto's borders, folks often think of this city as forward-thinking, but Toronto's downtown traffic calming measures have been stalled for decades. As with Hamilton, our streets are increasingly infiltrated with more traffic and faster speeds. And, as Hamilton plans to integrate more and more condos into its own downtown infrastructure, Toronto's inner city housing boom continues to pour hundreds and thousands of residents onto its increasingly dangerous streets.
In a response to the proposed right turn ban, Don Valley East councillor Denzel Minnan-Wong suggested, "This city seems to be on a deliberate campaign against drivers ... (against) people who drive or who want to come downtown to shop or just go to work."
He also suggested the ludicrous notion that swiftly moving traffic should be used as a cure for air pollution. "It's going to create more pollution. You're going to be sitting in an intersection. There's going to be no one crossing the road, and you won't be able to turn until the light turns green while cars back up behind you, and all of you continue to burn gasoline."
Councillor Minnan-Wong is wrong. You don't solve environmental problems by speeding up traffic - you find environmental solutions.
In case the councillor hasn't noticed, Toronto's downtown streets are neighbourhoods now, lined with childen skipping their way to school, young people out for a jog, Mum's and Dad's picking up the laundry or strolling to the shops. These streets are where we live. They are not suitable for speeding traffic.
I am a downtown resident and I would like to ask councillor Minnan-Wong three questions:
I know downtown driving is a pain but our streets are supposed to be safe and they are supposed to be shared. For too long we've seen traffic volume and traffic speeds steadily climb.
Councillor Minnan-Wong and all the other red light right turn detractors would do well to remember that Toronto's streets are not just for cars, they are for people, and it's time for the two wheeled, two-footed folks of Toronto to start taking them back.
(Note: an edited version of this blog entry will be published as a letter to the editor in tomorrow's Toronto Star.)
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