What I Would Like The City To Know ...
My Toronto Budget Committee Written Deputation for 2023
Last night I sent the below as a letter to Toronto City Council’s budget committee as a written deputation for this year’s city budget consultations. If you would like to do the same you have until this afternoon at 4:30pm to submit. You would send your email to firstname.lastname@example.org and you can also include Mayor Tory and any councillors you would like to add. I sent this to the committee, Mayor Tory, and both Councilor Holyday and Councillor Morley as they cover a lot of the area where the current concerns lie in this letter. I should mention, it also covers concerns in Etobicoke North but that ward's Councillor is on the actual committee and so Councillor Crisanti will already be privy to this letter as part of his work on the budget.
The Meat of The Letter (I left out all the technical boring letter stuff)!
“Those in Etobicoke who know me know that I have a passion for making walking a safer activity for everyone in our community. I have spent many years working to get a proper crosswalk installed on Renforth Drive near Toledo to improve pedestrian safety near multiple local schools. The need for such infrastructure is very high in Etobicoke as the area was designed at a time when there were fewer cars on our roads and less drivers using our neighbourhoods roads.
Last year I launched an idea of sorts, I wanted to bring all the road safety concerns of Etobicoke residents together in one place. I wanted to launch a loud and active community advocacy group to tell the city that we expect better. This idea led to the creation of Walk Safe Etobicoke; a group of like-minded community members who want to see our neighbourhoods made safer for everyone who uses foot power to get around! While I have been working on collecting data to initiate the work of this group, it has become apparent that many are not satisfied with the condition of our streets throughout Etobicoke.
The city needs to know that we expect our kids to be able to cross busy streets safely while walking to school. They need to know that we expect our sidewalks to be wide enough and free of obstacles so that our older population can enjoy walking and getting out on their own safely. They need to know that going for a walk to buy bread shouldn’t be a concern because of the busy roads that residents must cross to get to a local plaza or business.
Etobicoke in most areas could be very walkable with just a little more thought put into our local infrastructure. We could use more crosswalks placed in areas near where kids cross on their own like near schools and parks. We need sidewalks everywhere so that residents are not walking on roadways with cars. We need intersections rethought (possibly with islands half way) on busy main roads that are 6 lanes wide and are designed more like a mini-highway.
Many residents are not happy about the multiple new developments being proposed throughout Etobicoke and many of these concerns are not actually about the new homes; many of us appreciate the huge need for more homes and the need to increase density here in the west end. The concerns come from our calls for safer streets that have been ignored for years and we see things only getting worse as more units built equal more cars on our streets. We want to welcome new neighbours into our communities and we want everyone to be safe when going out for a simple walk to get exercise.
The city brags about the Vision Zero program and how Toronto is working towards a vision of zero pedestrian deaths on our roads. However, it seems that these kinds of serious injuries and deaths are on the rise. There are cities all over the world that are also working on Vision Zero and doing much better than us. There are examples across the world that Toronto could be using and so this is not a matter of creating something brand new, it is just a matter of looking at what works elsewhere and how we could take these ideas and make them work here!
These issues need money, yes the work to change infrastructure is very expensive and the competition for capital funding is enormous this year. This work actually does make a city better and in fact would make more people in Etobicoke more likely to spend in the community. We could all feel better about walking to our local businesses instead of hopping in the car. Once in the car residents will go all over and local businesses miss out. Climate is another winner as more walking equals less carbon emissions but it also wins because road improvement leads to more residents considering walking to local bus stops and possibly leads to more transit users. Without changing the topic all I will say on this is that it could even lead to even more help on other issues of concern the city is dealing with at this time.
Many residents feel that they are unheard of when bringing concerns about pedestrian safety to Toronto City Council. Many residents in Etobicoke feel ignored by Toronto City Council. Honestly, Etobicoke residents feel ignored by the rest of the city when we bring our traffic concerns to the table. We are considered a suburb of drivers who value roads over sidewalks and that is not a fair judgement. We are a suburb designed in the 1940’s, 50s, and 60’s, a time when a car was needed because of a lack of other modes of transportation to connect us to the downtown core of Metro Toronto. After that initial development many things stayed the same in our communities for decades. Those of us who have lived here our entire life can honestly say the changes that we have seen in the last 5 to 10 years are really the first major visual changes many parts of Etobicoke have seen in over 40 years.
Our neighbourhoods are now becoming more known because of apps like Waze and Google Maps. Our main roads are being used by commuters avoiding the highways who are from outside of our community and are more likely to ignore a local crossing guard in the morning than stop at a crosswalk, so that they can get to work 30 seconds faster. This happens multiple times at my local crossing and the issues only get worse over time and not better. Why do some of our parents drive kids to school 5 minutes away? It is because they want to know that their children get to school and do not get hit on the way. Why do we drive; because many times it feels like the safer option.
Residents do not always want to be car dependent but many times we feel we do not have a choice. We see other parts of the city having this issue examined and improved and today I ask on behalf of all of my neighbours here in Etobicoke; PLEASE take some time THIS YEAR to improve our streets and make PEDESTRIAN SAFETY FOR EVERYONE a priority!
Development can be exciting and can be scary, change takes time to get used to but eventually everything needs to be updated and as residents of a constantly growing city we know this to be true. Many in Etobicoke will be more willing to work with the city and even with developers if the city itself will do a little bit of work for the current members of the community.”
A Note about Walk Safe Etobicoke
As you see mentioned in this letter I mention Walk Safe Etobicoke. This is a project that originally was run by me as a separate community newsletter advocating for pedestrian safety in Etobicoke. In the last few weeks it has become apparent that the tech end of multiple newsletters and all the back office work that goes to support that work takes away from the actual purpose of what you are doing! And so over the next few weeks the Walk Safe Etobicoke project will become a section of this community newsletter and those who have subscribed will be invited to connect with us here at The Etobicoke Voice. Regular updates will appear here on this site to keep everyone up to date on our work.
Walk Safe Etobicoke started out as a small crosswalk request by a school council and has now lead to a study to identify intersections, roads, and neighbourhoods that span the borders of Etobicoke where improvements are needed to make walking a safer mode of transportation. We are looking to join with residents in the community to identify these areas and so if you have never reached out before, please feel free to so today via the comments section or in an email to TheEtobicokeVoice@gmail.com
Stay tuned because later this week we will be learning more about a strong and powerful tenant association and a really cool community project being held to bring attention to a dangerous road. Both will show it takes creative ways to bring communities together and get things done!
Thanks for reading The Etobicoke Voice ! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.