Category Archives: Whose Space is Public Space?

Metrolinx continues to push for increased driver distraction

accidentThis week marks the National Day of Remembrance for Road Crash Victims.

Every single day Canadians of all ages die on our roads.  Surprisingly, the leading cause of fatal collisions is not speed nor alcohol.  The #1 cause of death on our streets is driver distraction.

That’s why governments, health agencies and community groups are trying desperately to reduce driver distraction.  Yet stunningly, Metrolinx remains the only government agency that is actively trying to increase driver distraction on our provincial highways. Continue reading


Colour in the streets • Bringing street murals to Toronto!

Across North America, neighbours are coming together to paint murals – on the road! The idea was born in Portland Oregon and has now spread to cities from coast to coast.

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The idea is simple: Street murals are a great way to slow down traffic, make the road safer and also to engage neighbours in a creative process to beautify the community and build stronger connections.

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Inspired by the folks down at Intersection Repair, we’ve started a street mural project in our neighbourhood, Regal Heights.  We’re hoping to paint our first community street mural during 2015, but for now we’re promoting the project and building local support with temporary chalk installations.

This weekend, we took over the intersection of Regal Road and Westmount Ave, in front of Regal Road Public School, and we created our first full-scale intersection mural.


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If a billboard falls in a forest… Part 1

[note: this is cross-posted from spacing magazine]

Bathurst and Davenport cross each other just below the steep shoreline of ancient Lake Iroquois. The intersection is lush with greenery and steeped in history.

On one corner lies the TTC Hillcrest Yards, where our streetcars have been repaired and rebuilt for ninety years. A recent makeover has transformed the landscape adding new shrubs, trees, interlocking brick and public benches to the corner.


Across the street is a public park, the home of Toronto’s historic Tollkeeper’s Cottage museum.

tollkeepers park

Just steps away you’ll find the Wychwood Park neighbourhood, a former artists’ colony and the first residential zone in Ontario to be granted heritage status. Walking north on Bathurst, you’ll find yourself in a picturesque Toronto scene with large trees leaning across both sides of the wide street casting a broken leafy shadow on the streetcar tracks below.

And then suddenly, like one musical instrument terribly out of tune with the rest of the band, something sharply interrupts the thick green grove of trees. Steel structures protrude from the maple branches, inserting two massive commercial billboards into the scene.


Someone might ask themselves “Who would possibly allow billboards like this to get a sign permit?”. It turns out the answer might be: nobody would, and nobody did. In fact, I have been told by City Staff that they do not have any records of permits for these signs. This is not an isolated scenario.  It’s quite possible that dozens of billboards across Toronto, if not hundreds, are illegal signs without any proper permits.

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Drivers for Jarvis • Moving beyond rhetoric

Last year, Toronto City Council voted to remove the bike lanes on Jarvis Street.  This was done without any public consultation, without the support of the local Councillor and against the advice of City Staff.  It was a political move that puts the safety of hundreds of cyclists at risk. Luckily, the bike lanes have not yet been removed.

I’m working on a project, with Cycle Toronto, called ‘Drivers for Jarvis‘. We want to show that the debate about Jarvis Street isn’t about cyclists vs drivers.  It’s about safety vs rhetoric.  It’s about sharing the road vs hogging the road.  It’s about common sense. Continue reading

Location, location, location!! Strategic Placement of LED Bilboards

I’ve written a couple of of blog posts recently that are critical of the Monster LED Billboards that have been proposed for Toronto’s highways and residential neighbourhoods.

I don’t like to always be negative, so I’m going to write something positive today: Continue reading

Five Weeks at Fourth Wall • Adapting to the life of a tour guide (photo gallery)

It’s been just over a month since the Fourth Wall exhibit launched at the Urban Space Gallery, and I can’t tell you how inspired and amazed I am by the public response.  I knew that a handful of municipal geeks would be into it, and some long-time urban activists… but I didn’t expect a non-stop flow of students, civil servants, politicians, journalists, etc.

I’ve been leading tours through the exhibit, almost daily.  And each group brings with them a different point of view and different suggestions/questions.  And no matter what their age, or background, or career, they all seem genuinely interested in the subject matter – even the students who are forced to be there!

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Monster LED Boards • Public Consultation December 14 at City Hall

Two months ago I wrote the following:

When Dundas Square was proposed, and public concern was raised about the proliferation of annoying LED billboards in the city we were told not to worry.  “This is ONLY for Dundas Square”, we were told.  “We won’t allow huge electronic billboards in other areas of the city”.

Well, guess what?  Once again, the incremental intrusion of the Outdoor Advertising industry is about to take a huge leap forward – and it’s NOT in Dundas Square.

A report is going to the Planning and Growth Management Committee at City Hall tomorrow, proposing SEVENTEEN new LED screens in Toronto, at ten locations.  These locations include many residential areas – including the neighbourhood I grew up in – York Mills and Leslie.

The next day, a small group of citizens went to City Hall and spoke to the Planning and Growth Management Committee, asking for the opportunity for proper community consultation.  The Committee agreed, and a public meeting has been set-up.  This is your chance to speak out against the growing commercialization of our public spaces.  Please write this in your calendar:

Monster LED Boards – Public Consultation
Wednesday December 14th, at Toronto City Hall
6:30 to 9:30pm

Additional information: Sign Bylaw Unit

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Great News! Toronto City Manager evicts ‘info pillars’.

NOTE: November 18, 2011.  I just received a very polite phone call from the City’s Strategic Communications office, asking me to revise this post to make it clear that this is indeed satire, and NOT about an actual letter from the City Manager.  So, to be very clear: The City of Toronto is NOT evicting Astral’s clunky sidewalk billboards from public space.  They are only evicting our most engaged and optimistic youth.

Original (satirical) post:

“In a stunning turn of events today, City Manager Joe Pennachetti sent out eviction notices to Occupy Toronto and to Astral Media.  The residents of the Occupy camp have been asked to dismantle their tents, and Astral Media has been asked to dismantle their so-called “Information Pillars”, both for the same reasons.  This is a huge step towards reclaiming our public spaces from improper use.

Read Pennachetti’s full eviction notice here.” (Note: THIS IS SATIRE. I have added ink stains and oil spills to obscure any City trademarks or references to City staff)

Ten simple reasons to join the bike union

10) For those who ride bikes, we know how dangerous our streets feel each day.  Only with a unified voice can we create safe space and transform the city.

9) It only costs $2.50 per month.  Is your health and safety worth the price?

8) Starting last week, bike lanes were being removed by constructions crews on Pharmacy and Birchmount – against the advice of city staff. Jarvis is the next scheduled removal.

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The Fourth Wall • Transforming City Hall

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