Top 10 city? Not if you’re cycling or walking

We remain far too dependent on cars, according to urbanist Richard Florida

“I don’t feel safe when biking on busy streets, and using TTC isn’t the most pleasant experience either,” says Luciana Gibertone, a Toronto bicyclist and pedestrian.

That was her reaction to Metropolismag, a monthly magazine about design and architecture, recently namng Toronto one of the most liveable cities in the world.

The city’s ongoing efforts to become more walkable and bike-friendly helped the city reach number nine in the magazine’s ranking — but Richard Florida also has a few things to say about that.

Florida, an acclaimed urbanist and head of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, calls Toronto “probably at this point my favorite city in the world, with New York City as close second.”

However, “our biking infrastructure is a disgrace,” he said in a email. “Our lag on pedestrian and cycling interest structure is, in a word, shameful.

Urbanist Richard Florida
Urbanist Richard Florida says Toronto’s cycling infrastructure is a “disgrace.” (Photo courtesy Jaime Hogge)

“In my neighborhood I see children and families riding on the weekends trying to navigate cars [by] riding on the sidewalk.… I saw another car tailgating a family through the side streets and beeping his horn and then accelerate wildly around them,” Florida says. “I see students and other commuters riding along Bloor street taking our lives in their hands. Then, I see terrified cyclists riding on the sidewalk with pedestrians weaving in and out of their way. None of this makes sense.”

According to Trends Issue Intensification Downtown Toronto, a study on the infrastructure demands of Downtown Toronto endorsed by the city, the majority of local trips within Downtown “require not only better surface transit service, but an improved quality of streets for pedestrians and cyclists.”

Gilbertone agrees. “Owning a car in Toronto is very expensive, so you bike, use public transit and walk as much as you can — but those options left aren’t ideal either,” she says.

“Honestly, at least once a week I have to warn a driver who passes by way too close to me while biking. I understand that technically I wasn’t supposed to be biking where there’s no bike lane, but what can I to do?”, Gibertone says.

Luciana Gibertone says she doesn't feel safe riding her bike in Toronto.
Luciana Gibertone says she doesn’t feel safe riding her bike in Toronto. (Photo courtesy Luciana Gibertone)

“The bike lane on Bloor [street] is fantastic. But then it stops at Avenue road,” Florida says. “Everyone and everything needs its own protected lane: a way for cars, a bike lane for cyclists, and a sidewalk for pedestrians.”

The discrepancy between bikers killed in transport accidents against people killed with guns in Canada is significant. Police reported 156 firearm-related homicides in 2014. In the same year, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a total of 720 bicyclists were killed in crashes with motor vehicles.

“Great cities, bigger and denser cities like New York and London have bike infrastructure that is far more well developed than Toronto,” Florida says. “There is no way to grow a great global city of five or six or more million people … without having great transit, great cycling, and great pedestrian infrastructure.”