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Safer Streets in The Peanut

Over the Family Day long weekend, I spent a few days driving all over the city of Indianapolis, Indiana. My family and I were there for a basketball tournament that my grandson was competing in. There were multiple venues spread across the suburbs of Indianapolis, as well as NBA All-Star events happening in the centre of the downtown core.


The city center of Indianapolis, Indiana.


When Councillors occasionally travel to international cities, it’s all business. On these basketball trips with the kids in my personal time, I get to compare, contrast, and observe all sorts of details that are useful when I get back to work in municipal government. With its jumble of highways for just one million people, Indianapolis is a cautionary tale, described years ago by Jane Jacobs in her famous book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities.


If lots and lots of highways were the answer to a city’s mobility and productivity, then Indianapolis should be the perfect place. It has an ambitious network of highways that fan out from the downtown core like a spiderweb, feeding into a giant suburban ring road and then extending to endlessly sprawling subdivisions.


A map of Indianapolis showing the network of highways.


While some might think these highways make it easy to get around the city, they do the opposite. It felt like there was no way to get anywhere without spending at least 45 minutes in a car, despite the city being only a third of the size of Toronto. You had to use the highways to get anywhere, and neighbourhoods were disconnected by the real estate that highways take up. I also learned that pedestrian and cyclist injuries and deaths were about three times higher in Indianapolis than in Toronto in 2022 and 2023.


When I got back home to Toronto, I thought about the work we’re doing to make our city move both more quickly and more safely. Neighbourhood Streets Plans (NSPs) are one new tool we’re using to deliver comprehensive traffic solutions to areas of the city with a history of unsafe travel patterns. We have a street network already in place, so we have to figure out how to make it work for everyone.


Each Councillor was asked to nominate a neighbourhood for an NSP. After reviewing collision history and ongoing conversations we’ve had with the community, the DVN team and I put forward The Peanut and its surrounding street network for consideration.


An aerial photo of the Peanut from the 1960s, named for the shape made by Don Mills Road between Sheppard Avenue and Finch Avenue.


Last year, we were informed that The Peanut was selected for the 2023-2024 program cycle. Based on concerns raised by local neighbours, we identified the following major issues with the existing road network:

  1. Pedestrians are separated from community amenities (like Oriole Community Centre, Oriole Park, Peanut Plaza, Woodbine Middle School and Georges Vanier Secondary School) by three lanes of traffic on Don Mills Road.

  2. The area frequently experiences excessive speeding and unsafe driving

  3. Walking routes need improvement

  4. Cycling routes need improvement

  5. There are frequent crashes and near-misses School areas in particular need enhanced traffic safety measures


I want to thank everyone in the neighbourhood who has worked with my office to identify and grapple with these issues over the years. While we’ve been tackling these problems one at a time, the benefit of a NSP is that it will develop a comprehensive set of solutions for the neighbourhood as a whole. This means that the traffic safety improvements will be coordinated and work together to make the entire area safer.



This process will also be done in consultation with the local community. The first community consultation is taking place on Wednesday, March 27 from 6 PM to 8 PM at Georges Vanier Secondary School (3000 Don Mills Road East). This is a drop-in event, which will give neighbours the chance to learn more about the project, share comments and suggestions, ask questions, and speak with the project team. There will also be Mandarin, Cantonese, and Persian (Farsi) interpreters present.


To give you a quick overview, the Peanut Streets Plan process will:

  • Consider the needs of all road users in the neighbourhood including vulnerable road users (e.g. pedestrians, children, older adults and people cycling).

  • Assess network-wide transportation needs throughout the neighbourhood, and coordinate with existing and planned future connections.

  • Develop solutions that, together, support local and City of Toronto objectives for mobility and safety.

  • Identify opportunities for short-term action that can be implemented with quick-build materials.

  • Identify opportunities for long-term changes that can be installed over time alongside planned road resurfacing or reconstruction.


The project area is shown in the map below:



If you live in or travel through this area, I really encourage you to take part in the community consultation. I’ll be there with my team and hope to see as many neighbours as possible come out to make this plan the best it can be. In these early meetings, I always like to remind folks that the main goal is to get every issue on the table. You don’t have to arrive with all the answers in hand. Rather, we want you to bring every question and concern you can think of. City staff will then use everything they hear from you to design our Neighbourhood Streets Plan. This way, it really will be a made-in-neighbourhood solution.


It will be important to remember the overarching goals of the NSPs, both short-term and long-term. Any NSP aims to address three main concerns in a project area:

  1. Road safety for vulnerable road users (e.g. pedestrians, children, older adults and people cycling)

  2. Excessive speeding

  3. Excessive motor vehicle traffic on local streets


With our NSPs, we want to create transportation networks in neighbourhoods that move people safely and efficiently. Our local streets should be about livability, safety, and connecting communities. In my view, there’s no better way to achieve that than working hand-in-hand with the community itself. I look forward to a productive first meeting on the Peanut NSP next week, and to see the solutions we come up with in collaboration in the months ahead.

 

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