The Streets Have Changed

I’ve mentioned before that one of the big differences during the lockdown is that traffic is lighter. This has mostly resulted in better sharing of space between cyclists and drivers in my opinion. As a result I’m much more comfortable riding on traditionally busier streets. I find that with roads less congested, drivers are much more likely to give me loads of space – often a full lane when passing. It’s a huge relief to me and makes cycling feel joyful.

Today, determined to take advantage of that I used an app to plot a much more direct route to work, caring less about whether or not it was on busy streets. Instead of being 20 km to work and 25 to get home, it was less than 18 each way. I saved over ten minutes in each direction and so, twenty minutes of my day were returned to me.

Along the way I got to experience something I’ve seen riding by but never ridden on, the “COVID-19 Quiet Street”. Not long after lockdown started the city realized that there would be more people at home and more people wanting to be active in their neighbourhoods. Socially distancing isn’t so easy on narrow sidewalks so traffic calming measures were installed.

As you can see at every intersection, traffic barriers are set up discouraging drivers from using this road that runs parallel to a busy street as an alternate. The barriers alternate sides so that it is nearly impossible to quickly get from the north end of the street to the south several kilometres later. And now, instead of this road being busy with cars trying to bypass Yonge street, there are runners, cyclists in families and alone, and walkers enjoying the extra space.

Riding on it as a cyclist was a dream. The barriers are constructed such that bikes can easily pass through so travel was smooth and easy. Sharing between modes – pedestrians, runners, and cyclists was easy as well.

On the way home at rush hour I saw even more cyclists including a group of kids all around 10-12 years old. I’m not sure they should’ve been together from the standpoint of isolation. However I did appreciate that they were able to ride in a group. As they rode they talked about their plans – they were going to bike over to Tim Hortons to get some snacks. I remember when I was that age and how much I loved that new level of independence – one that is often denied kids that age in the city due to the hazardous traffic – especially at rush hour.

And so, like many other positive things I’ve experienced during the pandemic – connecting more with groups of friends scattered around the world, seeing performances and taking classes from places far away, and working more from home going in to work only when necessary, this is something I’d like to see continue after the pandemic. How can we better design our cities to make it safer and more comfortable for people traveling by all means and of all ages. Perhaps soon, we can hope for people to take the advice of the group “8 80 Cities” which advises designing cities such that cities are designed not only for drivers to get to/from work quickly and have ample parking when they get there but to make people between age 8 and 80 equally comfortable in those spaces.

While we all want to see the pandemic end quickly – what are some things you’re hoping to see continue afterward? What can you do to make sure that happens?

8 thoughts on “The Streets Have Changed

  1. Already traffic has picked up with the slight easing of restrictions; along with that, the crazy maneuverings of motorists. I shudder to think of Everything going right back to the way it was!

    1. I notice the same is happening here. The challenge I see us facing soon will be public transit. Right now we’re just at the edge of being able to maintain physical distancing on buses and subways with ridership down at about 20% of normal. What happens when we all have to go back to work. Unless we are in the middle of a snow or ice storm I could probably manage it but not everyone can.

    1. I agree – we are doing the same thing. And I think even more than the humans, the rest of nature is really appreciating the fact that we’re all taking a break from creating so much pollution. I know I am!

  2. Sadly our street has turned into a race stretch, pretty silly since it is only a few blocks long. I think a lot of young men are really really bored!

    1. Yes – that aspect has also happened here but mostly at night. We are not too far from a divided highway and late at night you can hear the motorcycles going – and sometimes the sound of high end sportscars – Lamborghinis and Ferraris flying past each other. I’m surprised that at the speeds they clearly are going there aren’t more accidents.

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