In the winter of 2017, I was walking on the sidewalk near the Royal Ontario Museum. While I knew to walk on the center rail of the sidewalk until the space ended, I expected to feel smooth and steady as I made my way down the sidewalk. But when I reached the end of the sidewalk, I was horrified.
The sidewalk abruptly ended with no warning — right where pedestrians need it most. It was a perfect storm of lack of a sidewalk, left- and right-side parking, insufficient signage and inadequate lighting. Looking at my broken-legged feet, I immediately called the city.
An advocate for pedestrians, I took it upon myself to have this sidewalk repaired immediately. I went to the CAM offices to request help. After a frustrating phone call, I received a form letter. Over the course of the next two weeks, I went back and forth with the city. Nothing happened. The city never responded to my repeated requests. I made two visits to the CAM offices. Then, without warning, a shove came from above. The sidewalk got worse in the meantime.
With the winter fast approaching again, I knew that I would need some kind of safe sidewalk for my family and I to travel from York to the Royal Ontario Museum. The family would park on the outside of the hall and then walk down the sidewalk to the museum. The access to the sidewalk was very difficult, and at times dangerous, such as a busy intersection where the sidewalk often became obscured and completely swept. The sidewalk seemed to abruptly end whenever there was too much traffic. The slippery cobblestones added to the difficulties I was already facing.
At this point, the Department of Transportation Policy and Programs at the City of Toronto began a public consultation on the future of the sidewalk (on the CAM front steps). The City took the advice I gave. They need the addition of a place for street parking, median, and landscaping. In addition, there should be a dedicated sidewalk where there is no sidewalk currently on York St. Between Dundas St. and Upper Dundas St.
After a lot of bad luck, I got on the phone and asked the City if a sidewalk had been added. With an auditorium seating over 1,200 people at the Royal Ontario Museum, including ticketed and non-ticketed entrance, I was afraid that my family would not be able to get to the museum. Immediately, an advocate in the Toronto District School Board stepped up. They were able to get $100,000 invested in a sidewalk, which will alleviate many of the concerns I had at the moment. And for a child to get to a school, I guess that is all we ask of our government.
While the moment was short, I will remember the TTC who came to my rescue by putting out that pride to the MOST important piece of my family’s journey from downtown to the Royal Ontario Museum this fall.
If anyone is stranded in this predicament with a City of Toronto sidewalk, let me know. There is no excuse. There are no excuses.
Julie Mackenzie is a product development consultant living in Toronto, Ontario. She was honored as the “Toronto 2018 Walkout Award Winner” for actions related to safe and transit-based urban transportation. She works at Forest Hill Office Realty Investors, a commercial real estate firm based in Toronto, Ontario. View previous Walkout Award Winners.