3 March, 2018

Best Practices For a Better Toronto (Part 4)

Fourth in a Series.

When I write about international best practices I also like to identify ones that are present in Toronto. This time I would like to give a shoutout to the East Scarborough Storefront for their “Sports for Change” Initiative. In its fourth season their program gets Kingston, Galloway, Orton Park 9-13 year olds playing indoor and outdoor soccer. Their program was adapted from a Kenya model that uses play to build a community. A program that has twice been nominated for a Nobel Prize. Storefront’s Calvin Kangara, now the coordinator of the Residence Leadership, was actually instrumental in developing the model in Kenya. Storefront founding director Anne Gloger told me this about Calvin “he is the most humble and unassuming guy ... but a force to be reckoned with” (future city councillor?). For more about the Storefront read my November 9th post entitled “Scarberia”.

Here are three interesting international best practices:

International Business District (IBD) Songdo South Korea While many in Toronto are fighting to maintain streets full of cars, cars, cars, South Korean is building a $35B smart city where nobody needs a car. Currently a work in progress, about the size of downtown Boston, it will prioritize mass transit, and bikes instead of road traffic. Some details:15 miles of bike lanes, 40% green space, eco-friendly mixed use, pneumatic tube trash system; and very much walkable. Best practice model for our West Don Lands?

Barcelona Super Blocks Another “win the streets back” idea that could possibly work in our Don Lands area. Barcelona plans to give back its streets to residents via a radical new strategy where it will restrict traffic to only a number of big roads, drastically reducing pollution and turning secondary streets into citizen places for culture, leisure, and the community. Right now, private vehicles account for just 20% of total movements in the city, but occupy 60% of roads (sound familiar Toronto?). Their new mobility plan will free up nearly 60% of city streets used by cars and reduce car traffic by 21%. Their plan is to dramatically increase mobility by foot, bike and public transport. They already have 100 km of cycle lanes and plan to add 200 km more. Interesting that when the city’s mobility councillor talked about their plans she remembered the spirit of Jane Jacobs and her activism for taking back the city for the neighbours. Barcelona has a very impressive dream to create a city where streets actively become second houses or extensions of their residences.

Baana Helsinki Toronto is (too) slowly building protected cycle lanes in the downtown and this is resulting in far more cycling traffic. But how do we get more people from the suburbs out of their cars and on to bikes - - bike super highways! Already London has 6 with two more in planning. Berlin has 13 under construction. Holland has their excellent 11 mile RijWadpal. And since 2012 Helsinki has had its Baana (“rail” in colloquial Finnish), a cyclist and pedestrian highway that was formerly a rail track. Today their Baana is one of Europe’s premier modes of “active transport”. So, enthusiastic has it been received by the many different kinds of users they are now considering widening the cycle tracks and building a network of similar tracks throughout the city. All of these cities are large and congested, but each of them found a way to get their bicycle super highways done. Toronto?

How do these four best practices stack up to my four Toronto values

  • East Scarborough Storefront: healthy, inspiring, inclusive
  • IBD South Korea: sustainable, healthy, inclusive
  • Barcelona Super Blocks: sustainable, healthy, inclusive
  • Baana, Helsinki: sustainable, healthy, inspiring, inclusive

Best practices for a better Toronto.


A passionate city builder

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