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Altho the Hybros argued that the Boulevard would be congested like crazy, they were also saying that it would be speedy and perilous. It would be “just like an expressway,” Mayor Tory told the CBC. “It will be dangerous for pedestrians.”
Pedestrian safety was top of their minds. Addressing the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee (PWIC) in the run-up to the council debate, Janet de Silva of the Toronto Region Board of Trade fretted about “families crossing the new eight-lane road.” That was the word she deployed, families. Denzil Minnan-Wong (Don Valley East) in similar vein pictured senior citizens trying to negotiate that heartless grand boulevard “in inclement weather, with the cold and the winds howling.”
Those naive idealists who expected to be “sipping their lattés” along the grand boulevard, Mayor Tory told the Empire Club, would find themselves sadly disappointed.
Note, by the way, that reference to lattés, code for pretentious idle urban élite. John Tory, who practically lives at the Empire Club, was serving up sound bites that would resonate with Ford Nation.
Yet it would be tough to find anything more hostile and dangerous to pedestrians, and in fact to all users, than the current arrangement under the Gardiner with its obstructed sight lines, with traffic barrelling off ramps and making stressed-out left turns thru a chthonic décor of concrete pillars, steel beams, drainpipes, guard rails and asphalt, that as good as declares “Abandon hope all ye who enter here.”
But let's back up a second. Speaking of lattés, what’s with that fixation on cafés? I must have missed something. Somebody at some point must have boasted that the grand boulevard would be hopping with cafés, and evidently that struck a Hybro nerve. It must be that there’s some serious café envy brewing in suburbia, which might explain why James Pasternak (York Centre) gloated to Keesmaat that on a recent trip down University Avenue, the planning department's paragon boulevard, he had counted “only one café between Queen’s Park and Front Street.” He didn't mention whether he was on foot or driving.
“There are nine cafés between Queen’s Park and Front,” Keesmaat shot back, with that crisp certitude that so endears her to council’s dimmer lights.
Who was right? How many cafés on University? I had to know. I hoofed it down University one sunny afternoon and found that the answer depends on what you mean by “café” and also what you mean by “on.” Now, University has twelve blocks if you calculate by the east side of the street, ten if you calculate by the west. Disappointingly, I saw no Deux Magots, no Café de Flore. There were, however, eight “coffee shops” of Tim Hortons or Second Cup calibre as well as numerous snack spots that weren’t necessarily wedded to the coffee concept. There were a couple high-end restaurants and also some rough and ready food wagons. There were coffee take-outs in building lobbies, and there were other places on sidestreets a few paces from University, but I didn't include them. And there were throngs of people on the sidewalks, which I think answered the underlying issue on Councillor Pasternak's mind, which was whether it is conceivable that a busy eight-lane thoroughfare can have an animated street life. Incredibly, it can.