After my last post on the Six Points interchange, a friend of mine who studied planning in Sweden wondered if the area can truly become pedestrian friendly. We both seemed to agree that fixing the interchange will improve the situation for pedestrians, but his point that wide suburban arteries present a barrier to true pedestrian-friendly neighbourhoods is a very good one. In an ideal world we would narrow the street the make it easier to cross and slow down traffic, but since such a suggestion would not be well received in this political climate, we must look for ways of turning wide suburban avenues into pedestrian-friendly streets without removing lanes. I believe it is possible, but we need to look across the ocean for inspiration.
Champs-Élysées, Paris’ grand avenue, is much wider than a typical suburban artery in Southern Ontario – ten lanes compared to six or eight lanes – but it is largely regarded as being very pedestrian-friendly. If recreating Champs-Élysées on Dundas or Hurontario can be broken down into a list of ingredients, then the above image shows some of the elements:
- Mid-rise buildings which do not overwhelm and front directly onto the sidewalk.
- Wide sidewalks with opportunities for off-street bicycle paths, cafes and other outdoor attractions.
- A physical barrier from traffic – trees, planters, on-street parking or similar.
- Short blocks with more opportunities to cross the street.
- Mixed-use zoning so that office workers and residents can access most services locally.
I’m not a fan of emulating other cities for the sake of emulating other cities, but this is an example where emulating will most certainly produce a better product than the car-dominate suburbs we’ve created – and that, in my opinion, justifies emulating Paris on streets like Hurontario and Dundas. That said, we are not Europe and certainly cannot expect to turn every driver into a pedestrian or a bicyclist. However, the status quo is not acceptable either.