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U.S. ahead of Toronto when it comes to inclusive streets

It’s an issue that has municipal election candidates frothing at the mouth. But the push to add bike lanes and pedestrian amenities on city streets isn’t unique to Toronto, according to experts who gathered in the city last week for the Complete Streets Forum.

It’s an issue that has municipal election candidates frothing at the mouth. But the push to add bike lanes and pedestrian amenities on city streets isn’t unique to Toronto, according to experts who gathered in the city last week for the Complete Streets Forum.

Complete Streets is an American movement to entrench cycling and walking amenities in road design. The idea is to build and retrofit roads so they’re usable for people of all ages and physical abilities. It frequently involves the controversial practice of taking lanes away from cars.

Yet 125 U.S. jurisdictions have adopted Complete Streets policies since 2005. Ontario has none.

“They’re definitely further ahead than we are. But we’re starting further ahead in terms of sidewalks and access to transit,” said Nancy Smith Lea, head of the Toronto Coalition for Active Transportation.

While active transportation advocates in Toronto struggle to mute the political “war-on-the-car” rhetoric in favour of a debate about reallocating the road, Charlotte, N.C., has already begun renovating to accommodate bikes and foot traffic, said Mark Cole, a manager of the city’s transportation planning and design department.

Although it has faced similar objections to those levelled at plans to put bike lanes on Jarvis Street and University Avenue in Toronto, the complaints die away once the projects are built, he said.

Since it began making over its roads about five years ago, Charlotte has renovated 19 streets, taking out lanes of car traffic to make room for bike lanes and pedestrian islands. Eleven intersections have also been renovated, with another eight underway.

Toronto doesn’t have a Complete Streets policy yet, but it’s something the city will probably take a serious look at soon, said Gary Welsh, general manager of Toronto’s transportation services.

 
 
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