The Tapestry of Cities
For me, summertime is when Toronto really shines. There’s a moment every year when we finally shake off the icy grip of winter, and suddenly the whole city comes alive. Friends and families fill parks and patio tables. Street festivals showcase our seemingly unending diversity of cultures and backgrounds. People are walking, biking, actively exploring their city. Toronto feels vibrant and coursing with energy.
Open Streets is a vision of the best version of Toronto – an active, engaging city with a strong sense of community. Two of Toronto’s busiest and iconic streets, Yonge St and Bloor St, are closed to cars and instead taken over with live music, dance lessons, local business pop-ups, cultural demonstrations, grass-filled play spaces – and through it all, people walking, running, and biking. There’s something incredibly freeing about walking right down the middle of Bloor St and being able to take in all the neat little shops, the architecture, even just the weather you couldn’t otherwise see when relegated to a narrow strip on one side of the street. It’s a very special way to experience the city, one that shows the power of what happens when you make streets available not just to cars, but to everyone.
I’m not convinced that anyone has ever felt like they’ve really seen a city from the window of a moving car. Boxed into a few tons of metal, unable to spare more than a sidelong glance at anything other than the set of tail lights in front of you, closed off from the public except perhaps for snippets of music or lively conversation floating through an open window. In terms of moving through a space, cars do well enough. In terms of actually being in a space, though, they fail on every measure. Great cities are a tapestry of sights and sounds and smells and experiences, and every person contributes simply by being there, by living in it.
Above all else, Open Streets gives me a glimpse of the Toronto we could be creating for everyone. One that’s healthier, safer, more inclusive, more engaging, and just plain fun. And the best part? We already have most of the tools to make it happen. Opening up our streets gives us the freedom to really be in our city, not just move through it.