Category Archives: Accessibility

Car-less Kensington : A Good Idea?

I have always loved shutting down the streets in Toronto’s Kensington Market to cars for the final Sunday of every month from May through October. The streets flood with people and performers. It is obvious this is something desperately wanted by many, and some local businesses boom when it happens.

For years I, and many others, have been frustrated that we cannot shut these streets and others around the city to cars on a more regular, if not, permanent basis. I have written about this frustration in the past. It had never occurred to me that there could be a serious downside to creating a permanent no-car zone in a place like Kensington.

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Making Connections at Richmond Street West

By Jake Tobin Garrett

401 Richmond in downtown Toronto is an adaptive reuse of an old tin factory into a hub of artist studios and galleries. Located at the corner of Spadina Ave and Richmond St West, this huge brick building extends its exterior, dotted with old loading docks, one entire full block east to Peter St. Up until just a few months ago, however, the south side of this stretch of road had no sidewalk. In order to walk east, you had to cross the street and use the thin strip of sidewalk there.

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G20 Could Have Used Some Design 101

A Long, barricaded fence in the heart of downtown Toronto.
20,000 police officers
A billion dollar security budget.
It was designed to fail.

Here at OpenCity, we’re continually broadening the typical definition of design.  Not only about creating shiny and slick objects of desire or building a better kitchen. Good design can help solve problems. It enhances our experiences, both big and small. It creates solutions that satisfy opposing interests. Design thinking requires identifying many stakeholders and researching each of their specific needs.

Let’s examine the different stakeholders involved in hosting an international summit.

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NYC Miles Ahead of T.O.

About a year ago I heard that they closed off Times Square in New York City to cars (OCPer Andrew Horberry commented on this at the time). This closure meant that the entire space would be reserved for pedestrians, cyclists and people who wish to use the space with new seating provided throughout the area.

Two weeks ago I had a chance to experience this first hand on a trip to New York City. Yes, they had re-opened one small part of the street to vehicle traffic, however, much of the space is still reserved for people and plants and fun on a semi-permanent basis.

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Toronto Cyclists Union Steals the Show

Recently I made my yearly trip down to Toronto’s Green Living Show. As always I saw friends, heard inspiring speakers and tasted some great food. That said, it wasn’t what was inside the Direct Energy Centre that impressed me the most.

No, this year it was the combined efforts of the Toronto Cyclists Union and Mountain Equipment Co-Op outside of the event that really blew me away. Upon arrival I, and five hundred other people, were able to hand off our bikes to these folks for the free valet parking they were providing. This was a simple but clever service for them to offer.

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Toronto’s Twenty-Foot Rhythm

By Jamil Bundalli

Walking down Queen, College, or Bloor Street in Toronto, you experience a rhythm whose origins date to the early 1900s. Pounding at every six steps, this rhythm is the city’s primal heartbeat, and the secret underlying the success of Toronto’s urban street life.

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TTC Gets A Wake Up Call

I want to personally thank George Robitaille, the now infamous TTC employee who napped his way onto the front page of local newspapers and became an unlikely Twittersphere sensation.

Until very recently, any time I criticized the TTC, I was sternly rebuffed: accused of being an anti-environmentalist or a self-loathing Torontonian. Or even both.  We had a “world class system” I was told. My criticism upset people.  However, ever since photos of our guy sleeping in a ticket booth gained viral status, TTC bashing is coming from all corners imaginable and fixing the TTC has become the biggest talking point in Toronto’s mayoral race.

Let me add my voice to the mix.

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Uncovering Buildings’ Secrets

As an immigrant to North America, one of the things I found hardest to adapt to was my inability to ‘read’ North American buildings. I’d grown up in a culture that used a complex series of symbols and architectural cues to communicate a building’s purpose – and sometimes other information about its owners or commissioners.

In North America, either there was a different system of symbols at work, or more recently, no symbols at all. The driving purpose seemed to be to enclose the biggest volume of space at the lowest possible cost. And as a result, I was hopelessly disoriented. Was that a discount warehouse or a place of worship?

So I was intrigued by this NPR article, that offers a whole new way of reading meaning into buildings.  Leaving aside some obvious caveats (such as, any individual with this capability probably shouldn’t be allowed to carry a gun at the same time), the technology opens up some intriguing possibilities to make our cities more open.

What sort of information would you like to see laid bare by this technology?

By Andrew Horberry
Andrew is Global Account Director at Imagination, a brand communications agency.

photo by AllAboutGeorge

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A Tale of Two Cities

If Toronto’s decision to transform one lane of Jarvis Street into two bike lanes is “a war on cars” (© opponents of the scheme), what would they call New York’s action to completely close Times Square and Herald Square to cars? A pre-emptive nuclear strike? Armageddon? The End of Days?

Oh, and the New York move has actually happened (without any discernible blip on seismic monitors, and with some unexpected consequences). The Toronto changes won’t take effect immediately – there has to be an environmental study first, and there’s no firm timeline beyond that.

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