Over the course of the year, there are multiple festivals that temporarily close streets and create pedestrian-only spaces. This year, Market Street closed during the PanAm Games. The International Beaches Jazz Festival closes the majority of Queen St E for three nights a week over the course of three weeks in July annually.
Similarly, some streets close for monthly “pedestrian-only” days – Kensington Market becomes a car-free zone the first Sunday of every month.
The success of these temporary closures have definitely helped the cause of pedestrian-only spaces being created on a more permanent basis. We as a city have started to see the permanent versions popping up, first in the Distillery District, and more recently, the closure of Gould Street within the boundaries of Ryerson University. The permanent pedestrian-only spaces have created opportunities for farmer’s markets, street vendors, and outdoor festivals and concerts alike.
In both neighbourhoods, “pedestrianization,” the term coined to describe the restriction of spaces to pedestrians only, has helped build a sense of community within a small area. It can improve the vibrancy and excitement around a space, and has an added safety feature: no cars to cross your path. Each aspect associated with the trend adds to the well-being of a complete community.
As we are seeing the vibrancy of neighbourhoods across the city becoming increasingly present (think of the recent popularity of the Junction, or the up-and-coming vibe of Queen and Dufferin), people are also choosing to almost eliminate their commute by living close to where they work. Where a separation between “work” and “social” spaces has always been present, Torontonians are choosing their homes with criteria such as a high walk score, looking for a community where they can learn, work, play, eat and shop.
We see the same way of thinking happening is some new townhouse communities as well, where a mews area is present for residents to enjoy without the constant buzz of passing cars.
The concept of “pedestrianization” is all about creating a complete landscape and community, where pedestrians feel like a top priority. These communities have become assets for Toronto as a whole, both for attracting tourists, new residents and for current residents to enjoy.