There are several ways to travel through the neighbourhood. Some not particularly freindly or easy such as travelling by car from Lord Dufferin School to Ontario Street south of Dundas. What should be an easy trip to pick up the kids from school means circling about, one way streets and no right turns. Walking the neighbourhood is much easier although there are several long blocks with little opportunity to cut through the residental sidestreets without veering north or south to the main east west roads. Sherbourne Street is totally cut off from the rest of the neighbourhood by locked gates and fences put in place by the Toronto Housing Authority as a security precaution for the Dan Harrison Complex. The Dan Harrison Complex was likely designed with pedestrian walkways, inner courtyards and playgrounds but quickly the open spaces became magnets for unwanted behaviour and outsiders hanging about. The THC approach to security needs to address why unwanted activity is drawn to the complex in the first place. The housing complex has turned its back on Oskenonton Lane and built perimeter fencing to block access from many of their "Garden Units".
The Sherbourne Estates high rise rental buildings on Sherbourne from Dundas to Shuter also had open greenspace and gardens which soon required locked gates to guard against unwanted activity, visitors and vagrancy.
Pembroke Mews on the west side of Sherbourne has also caged their grounds to hamper pedestrian traffic through their properties.
On the north end of the neighbourhood the Winchester Square housing complex has closed off pedestrian walkways from Winchester Park onto Bleeker Street. Is this fortress mentality really the best route to infleunce how people move through the neighbourhood?
Our residential laneways were once open parking pads with easy access to the kitchen stoop. Homeowners knew their neighbours next door and across the laneway and area children actually played in the laneways. Now 8 foot fences and padlocked gates line our laneways with no eyes on the laneways other than the occcasional dog walker and those few car owners who do not opt for street parking.
With the new Regent Park densities we are now seeing greater pedestrian traffic flow through the neighbourhood and part of any study of the neighbourhood needs to address how people move through the neighbourhood whether by foot, car, streetcar, bicycle or scooter. The more people moving through a given area the safer and more inviting the neighbourhood becomes. The more traffic the more restaurants, bars, coffee shops, dry cleaners and retail move onto our main streets and intersections. As the residential densities increase in the New Regent Park and as new housing development increases along our main streets like Parliament and Sherbourne it is important to develop a plan for how people will travel, where they will park, where they will walk etc.
The east west streetcars tend to be quite crowded by the time they reach stops within our neighbourhood. The north south bus routes tend to be less crowded but do not connect well with the destinations in the financial district where many area residents work. We are of course close enough to Yonge Street to walk during good weather but those days when the weather is inclement often means a soggy wait and a slow commute. Many area TTC shelters were removed due to problems with vagrancy, grafitti and litter problems.
One solution might be a new bus route circling along Gerrard to River, Shuter to Yonge Street which could connect with Queen and Carlton subway stations. With the new densities in Regent Park such a route could be economically feasible.
Currently many of our residential sidestreets are one way and often with right turn restrictions to hamper unwanted traffic through the neighbourhood. In part a means of limiting commuters from zig zagging through residential areas and in part a means to deter Johns from circling Hooker Strolls these traffic controls are a fairly recent development in the area. Seaton, Ontario and Berkeley were all two way streets until 20 years ago when the city decided that oneway streets and turning restrictions was the most expedient way to deter street prostitution and hooker strolls. Street Solicitation remains illegal and should either be properly policed or only tolerated away from residential neighbourhoods. Two way streets would make the function of the neighbourhood much easier and as the streets are not particularly wide would also likely promote traffic calming. Having to negotiate two way traffic causes drivers to slow down and in itself would probably make speed bumps redundant.
Pedestrian walkways such as the one illustrated below create an easier flow and connection between major streets. They of course need to be kept clean and maintained (yes even in winter) and should naturally flow with parks and other greenspace in the area. School and Library grounds should function as part of a pedestrian network by being open to the public after hours to create a natural flow through neighbourhoods and creating less potential for illegal activities such as grafitti tagging.
Laneways too need to be maintained and give more multi purpose usage. Whether it is neighbourhood kids (moms and dads too) off the couch and playing lane hockey or maybe even a network of bicycle paths through the downtown neighbourhoods. Cabbagetown South needs to better connect with Cabbagetown Donvale and the Garden District. Pedestrians and cyclists zig zagging from Riverdale Park through Cabbagetown Donvale, Regent Park, Cabbagetown South and the Garden District down to Moss Park and beyond to the financial district could help bring more eyes and energy to our area laneways. A mix of Pedestrian, Cyclists and Vehicle traffic flowing through the neighbourhood could create a better and safer environment in our back alleyways.
Any new infill development and any rethinking of the current housing along Sherbourne street needs to address better pedestrian flow and safety. Dead end laneways and locked pedestrian right of ways need to be redesigned. This laneway with infill housing runs south of Spruce Street but dead ends north of the Double Take Store Parking lot on Gerrard Street.
Publicly accessible pedestrian walkway networks should be encouraged from the residential sidestreets onto the Main streets like Gerrard. One and two storey buildings such as Double Take which are well situated in the downtown and close to transit will likely be redeveloped. Hopefully new redevelopment will reconnect broken street grids and address pedestrian and traffic flow with the new Regent Park to the south. This could be one of many access points between Donvale through the New Regent Park and Cabbagetown South creating a natural flow between the three neighbourhoods. The City's Infill and planning regulations take the flow of people through new development as an improtant aspect of good planning. To review that document click here. http://www.toronto.ca/planning/urbdesign/infilltownhousing.htm
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