City Council is wrapping up its monthly meeting (extended to a third day to accommodate a full agenda and some election-laced rhetoric), one which has been particularly action packed. In addition to banning new bars and restaurants on Ossington for a one year “cooling off” period, and passing a precedent-setting green roof requirement (the first in North America), Council has considered several proposals for addressing the balance—or redressing the imbalance—between the different modes of transit on our city streets. The Jarvis lane reallocation grabbed Monday’s headlines, and today Council has voted to install sidewalk, transit, and cycling improvements on Roncesvalles, and also passed a comprehensive Walking Strategy which will (among many other excellent measures that have garnered almost no press) introduce pilot no-right-turn-on-red restrictions on ten especially pedestrian-heavy intersections. Given that the city has approximately 2,100 signalized intersections, this represents the smallest foray, an experiment really, in redistributing roadway space.
The much-discussed militaristic language has both inflamed tensions and distorted the real issues, and all we have learned from it is that at least some councillors are now firmly in election mode. According to one councillor today, there is not just a war on cars but a guerrilla war on cars, which puts active transportation advocates on par with either terrorists or freedom fighters, depending on your point of view. A less helpful contribution to one of the most significant policy debates our municipal government faces cannot be imagined. Claiming that pedestrians’ and cyclists’ desire for a share of the roadways amounts to an attack on their fellow citizens is the only instance of war-mongering we’ve seen to date.