The city of Toronto is planning to lay down more sidewalks in residential areas that don’t have them, whether residents want them or not.
According to a proposal from city staff, sidewalks will be added to local roads during construction or repaving without consultation with residents or councillors.
Previously, residents and councillors could petition to keep sidewalks from being laid in front of residences. But following the implementation of the province’s new Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) on Jan. 1, sidewalks have been deemed an essential requirement on residential streets.
“The city’s always had a missing sidewalk program, but up until now we consulted with residents whether they would like it or not,” said Fiona Chapman, city manager of pedestrian projects. “Now with the AODA-built environment standard, we must put this in to ensure accessibility for all Torontonians.”
Chapman says sidewalks will only be added when other road work like repaving is planned for an area.
“What we do is we work with the neighbourhoods,” she said. “Reconstruction is a fantastic opportunity because we can realign the roads sometimes; We can actually narrow the road and slow down the cars, which is often a concern in neighbourhoods. And then we talk to people about where were going to put the sidewalk.”
There are currently five streets that are in the tendering process now, all in North York. They are Old Colony Road, Doon Road, Highland Crescent, Cedarwood Avenue and Beechwood Avenue.
Chapman says the city will do everything possible to work with homeowners to ensure damage to driveways and other property is minimal.
“Sometimes it’s challenging because this is actually the city’s right of way,” she said. “This is all city-owned land, so what we’re trying to do is negotiate as best as possible to make sure it goes in the right place and reduce those impacts to put things back wherever possible.”
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How common are streets without sidewalks in this city?
A: Quite common. Almost one quarter of city streets don’t have sidewalks at the moment.
Q: Why is this being done?
A: Accessibility rules. Provincial accessibility legislation requires municipalities to remove barriers and AODA’s Built Environment Standards requires municipalities to conform, starting January 1. The city does this already by installing tactile walking surface indicators, cross slopes, curb ramps, audible pedestrian signals, etc.
Q: What about other areas of the city without sidewalks? When will they get them?
A: The city says the most efficient and cost-effective way to build sidewalks is to add them when roads are already slated for reconstruction, and that is a “once-in-a-lifetime” occurrence. (every 100-125 years) There are 5 streets scheduled to get sidewalks in 2016.
Q: Which 5 areas are getting sidewalks this year?
A: Currently in the tender process, these roads in North York have been chosen because they are set for reconstruction already:
- Old colony Rd.
- Doon Rd.
- Highland Cres.
- Cedarwood Ave.
- Beechwood Ave
Q: Who has the final say? Can I dispute a sidewalk coming onto my street?
A: City staff say they will make every effort to accommodate resident needs and wishes, as well as consider the impacts on trees, landscaping and utilities. Residents will be able to provide input during public consultations, but the final decision will lie with the city.