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2005 10 13
Best Investment
Unobtrusively and without fanfare the heart of Toronto is becoming more of a walking and cycling city. Our sprawling agglomeration of neighbourhoods and downtown has sprouted well-used bicycle rings on almost every sidewalk. The density of cyclists (for an ever longer portion of the year) and walkers is increasing as the city fills in and the population rises. Our relative flatness, the connectedness of the 19th century quasi-grid, some new on-street bicycle lanes and some off-street trails have all helped.

While unspectacular, this ‘quiet revolution’ in getting around is one of the best things which have happened in our city. A “walkable” and “bikeable” city is not to taken for granted. In fact as a recent trip to Caracas dramatically revealed it is entirely possible to have enormous density of population wedged into a tight urban setting and still have virtually no one on foot, with all the car-dependent woes and inconvenience of remote low density suburbs.

Why is this simple and homely activity so crucial? It is the best local offense against various forms of environmental degradation. It gives us choices and reduces our reliance on a single and increasingly vulnerable technology. It becomes a habit and way of life that promotes health and well-being. But far from being a penance it is also a pure visceral pleasure and its own reward. Cycling or walking through the neighborhoods of Toronto is a way of seeing and experiencing at a pace which reveals what is otherwise invisible, engaging all the senses. We get to know our city and each other. This face to face interaction and eyeball to eyeball contact is the critical basis for security in the city. Without it we enter a spiral of withdrawal into barricaded enclaves and fear.

As we make choices about what to do next, and how to allocate scarce resources, the creation and care of sidewalks, bike lanes, boardwalks and trails, not just within well established areas but between them is one of the investments in our future which will make the greatest difference. It is the indispensable connective tissue that ties us together and makes us a city.
[email this story] Posted by Ken Greenberg / Eti Greenberg on 10/13 at 04:45 AM

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