Critics of Mayor David Miller accuse him of launching a “war on the car” in Toronto. More power to him.

The fact is, cars have been polluting the air, running down people, terrifying cyclists, destroying neighbourhoods, facilitating sprawl and otherwise wreaking havoc on the city for decades. The time has come to fight back.

To date, the counteroffensive is tentative. Last week, city council voted to replace Jarvis Street’s reversible centre lane with bike lanes. Coun. Adam Vaughan is calling for Adelaide and Richmond streets to be transformed from one-way thoroughfares into more neighbourhood-friendly, two-way streets.

An experimental ban on right turns on red lights at 10 intersections has been approved. Discussion about tearing down the eastern portion of the Gardiner Expressway continues. A proposal for a bike lane that runs along Bloor Street and Danforth Avenue from Kipling Avenue in the west to Victoria Park Avenue in the east is being considered. Plans are afoot to launch a public bicycle system that will allow purchasers of a pass to borrow city-owned bicycles for short trips in the area bounded by High Park, Broadview Avenue, Bloor Street and the lake.

A real war on cars would go much further. It would involve installing bicycle lanes that separate cyclists from traffic with actual barriers rather than painted white lines. It would introduce highway tolls and downtown congestion charges to generate revenues for public transit investments. It would hike parking fees. And it would embrace the idea of car-free zones.

The media recently carried photographs of New Yorkers lounging on chairs in the middle of Broadway after the city opened a five-block-long Times Square pedestrian mall. That’s what a real war on cars looks like.

The watered down Toronto version amounts to Pedestrian Sundays in Kensington Market once a month from May to October. The first of the car-free days happened last weekend and guess what? The streets were full of people. They listened to the blues, the salsa, the drumming. Occasionally, a couple, unable to resist, would dance a step or two. Some folks shopped. Some wandered around eating empanadas.

Others waited in line for spicy chorizo. Nobody missed being squeezed onto the sidewalk by the usual bumper-to-bumper, exhaust-spewing traffic.

Critics of the war on cars say it will be a ballot issue in the next municipal election. I say bring it on.

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