Think of one of downtown Toronto’s main traffic arteries, King Street for example, or Queen. Measure the width of the street, building to building. Then take a look at one of Europe’s cities, Berlin for example. Why Berlin? Because it’s the same size as Toronto, similarly in financial trouble, and yet remarkably functional in terms of automobile traffic management, public transit and bike infrastructure. Plus, it isn’t perfect in this regard, so from a Toronto point of view it doesn’t look like unattainable perfection.
So, here in Berlin, I look at the traffic-artery equivalent of Queen Street, say Kottbusser Damm. Here’s what it looks like:
As you can see, it’s about twice the width of Queen. And unlike Toronto roads, that width isn’t taken up by increasing lanes for cars. On this picture we see a sidewalk wider than a lane of traffic, an off-road bike lane (red paving) separated from traffic by a line of trees, parked bikes and parked cars. Then two lanes of traffic, just like Queen, but with a line of trees in the middle.
Poor Queen Street should never have to carry the volume of car traffic it does. It creates bad air, is unsafe for cyclists and pedestrians, leads to angry drivers and creates crazy people like Rob Ford. In Berlin, a street the width of Queen would never be asked to do the work that our downtown arteries do. It looks more like this:
So what’s my point? We can’t shift the buildings back on Queen Street. But we can start investing money in the kind of infrastructure that will get the cars off the roads and give the streets back to the people.