Did you know that the City of Toronto is making pedestrian-focused design a key part of new developments in the city?
This approach is very different from the 1950s when suburban areas like Etobicoke were developed with the automobile in mind. Chief City Planner, Jennifer Keesmaat, believes that cities should be designed for people and not for cars. For years Keesmaat has been a proponent of getting kids to walk to school. And she cycles all over the city to get her job done collaborating with city departments, councillors and educating the public. In her efforts to design what she calls, “complete communities”, pedestrians take precedence.
Design favouring people, not cars, can be seen across the city. Many people are opting to live where they do not need a vehicle and this trend is apparent not only in downtown condo developments, but increasingly in the Islington area too.
The new Six Points interchange has been designed with the pedestrian in mind. Wider sidewalks, bicycle lanes and new parks will be coming to this area soon. Reliable public transit and a redesigned transit hub at Kipling will also encourage people to walk or take transit.
Walkability is a buzz word familiar to the real estate industry. Agents in the booming Toronto market know the value of a high walk score, one that positively impacts the value of properties. A higher walk score usually means more expensive real estate. Can you do grocery shopping or foot, reach your hairdresser or get your shoes repaired without hopping into your car? How close is public transit? All of these factors contribute to a location’s walk score.
“Wikipedia defines walkability as a measure of how friendly an area is to walking. Walkability has many health, environmental, and economic benefits. Factors influencing walkability include the presence or absence and quality of footpaths, sidewalks or other pedestrian rights-of-way, traffic and road conditions, land use patterns, building accessibility, and safety, among others. Walkability is an important concept in sustainable urban design.”
Local commercial realtor John Alkins, whose family has been in business in the Village of Islington since the 1950s, tells prospective buyers that they don’t have to be right on the subway line to enjoy the benefits of Islington Village. According to Alkins, “a five to ten- minute walk makes the area very attractive because you can enjoy the small village feeling without living in the congested city. It’s all here -- whether you’re going the condo route, buying a detached home, or setting up a business.”
What appeals to people is the convenience of getting what you need and doing what you want just outside of your front door. Living in a community where you can have all of your needs met without needing a car is good for the environment too! Toronto Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) are strong advocates for “shop local” and do everything locally if you can. This makes walking very important to BIAs.
Across Toronto, BIAs work hard to encourage people to walk around their local neighbourhoods. This not only promotes economic prosperity, but helps develop community pride.
In the Village of Islington BIA, walking tours feature 26 murals which showcase our neighbourhood brand Toronto’s Village of Murals. Every year around 1500 people visit the murals on tours organised by the BIA. Countless other visitors tour the murals on their own. By participating in Jane's Walk and Doors Open Toronto, the BIA gets more locals and visitors to explore our area on foot with the expectation that they will return and do business with our merchants and service providers in the future.
Above all, the local business and property owners support the positive impact that walking has on the people who live, work and enjoy the BIA.
“To get a sense of Toronto’s urban health and vitality, you need to look no further than our sidewalks. Good sidewalks are essential to vibrant communities. They offer space for residents of all ages, abilities and income levels, to move, explore and navigate the city. Walkable wards, after all, are more inclusive -- and we need to keep advocating for them with our feet. When people walk together they not only contribute to their own personal wellness, but they develop an important, communal perspective about the built environment that contributes to citywide stewardship and urban health. In fact, it could be said that good sidewalks are a litmus test for strong, connected and healthy communities.”