A Call For Action – Safer (& Prettier) Urban Streets!

It has been almost a year since we examined Bayview Avenue– we ultimately concluded that it was an unpleasant walk for three main reasons. One, it takes no advantage of being adjacent to a scenic creek. Two, it is an impersonal overall street width (5 lanes of traffic) causing an unsafe feeling. Three, it has completely neglected pedestrians in terms of any type of streetscape.

After (almost)  a year, should we really still be feeling so unsafe so often? Is this really the modern day’s survival of the fittest?

Sometimes I am walking along a park in town and I wish I could enjoy it but the narrow sidewalk and busy traffic beside me just doesn’t allow me to feel comfortable enough to stop. So, why can’t Toronto work the same way as some Italian cities do? Like the featured image of a public space in Verona- pedestrians, cyclists, and vehicles all share the same paths. Somehow, everybody finds their own space to move.

Before when I accessed Bayview Avenue (map below), I was solely relying on school taught tactics, but as we all know, the real world often adds a different perspective. Today, I feel better equipped to ask more related questions that can perhaps lead us to an increased realistic and logical assessment of Bayview Avenue.


2017-03-06 21_50_45-Google Maps


Flood hazard? Environmental protection?

First, as seen above, Sherwood Parks, crosses Bayview Avenue- so is there possible flood hazards? Will there need to be flood mitigation if we want to widen the road for more streetscape? Nobody likes to walk on flooded sidewalks, except maybe if you have a pair of super squeaky rainboots, and if so, please splash on, my friend.



C:Crystal3BASBN02-06 STUDIOProject 3Working Sections Model
A draft section in one of my urban design projects featuring a section through a park and housing.



Property lines?

Then, this leads us to then question, is it protected? That could be a reason why the street is so limited as it is. If not, is the land ownership fragmented? If that is the case, then sharing is caring which often does not apply to any monetary issues anyways, who would pay for the road?



Land use designations?

After, once confirming ownership, can we then look at land use designations? This could particularly be helpful in the case if we think densification could be a beneficial factor. We obviously can’t be building a spa on a residential lot, try as we might- do you really want to go through land use amendment process?


Site Diagrams-03
Looking at layers of a city can be particularly helpful in seeing how land use, circulation, and existing conditions work and build upon that (literally).


Built form?

Speaking of, so what about densification? Do we think about what a store front could do to this road? Maybe it’s an opportunity to build something exciting, creating a new node of activity?


Each built form will have an impact on its context so it’s important even within urban design that we consider the architecture!



Transit orientation?

Which means… We would have to think about how people are accessing this space if it was more populated. Currently, Bayview Avenue on the focus area already passes a cemetery, a hospital, a rehabilitation center, strip malls, suburbs, and offices. Obviously, it is a busy street and is already serviced by local buses but we have to dream bigger! What if we include bus designated lanes for a more commute-friendly transport?



The Big Dream…

Finally, all these questions lead us to a more affirmative design solution that Bayview Avenue possesses many possibilities that I had never considered in my first naive quick glance. But this isn’t it. This is much more than just Bayview Avenue, this could be the entire corridor! We should not have to live in a city where fatalities and serious injuries are prevalent. They are preventable and it’s time we reanalyse current street conditions everywhere.

The City of Toronto has already started a Vision Zero Road Safety Plan to initiate better safety for everyone. We as pedestrians, and especially we as designers must refocus our attention on reviving old streets to better reflect our priorities. A collective disapproving shake of the head and rant to our municipality won’t create change (although certainly heard), so we must approach it logically, efficiently, and with the tools at our disposal, convince that changing our streetscape will benefit everyone. THIS IS A CALL FOR ACTION!