comments 4

No sidewalks — feature or bug?

I tweeted the above photo on Saturday morning with the following text: “No sidewalks. Towers in the distance. Welcome to the inner suburbs of Toronto.” What I, of course, wanted to highlight is the contrast between the rural-like street with no sidewalks in the foreground, and the high-density towers built on top of Kipling subway station in the background. It is a perfect example of the kind of Toronto we are building, by design, all across the city. And it also exemplifies one of our great philosophical divides.

If you look at the responses on Twitter, you’ll see that there are a few opinions. Generally speaking, though, there are probably two main ways to think about this scene. One way is to look at the transit-oriented housing and think of it as urban progress. We are adding new housing and we are doing it in a way that hopefully results in more walkable communities. With this in mind, you might now see the three humans on the street (one of which is in a stroller) and think it’s a shame that they have been forced to walk on the road.

The other main way to look at this is that not having sidewalks is actually a feature and not a bug (indeed, a lack of sidewalks can be a pretty good indicator for rich people/wealthy households). From this lens, not having sidewalks means uninterrupted driveways (more parking), less through foot traffic, and a more quaint small-town feel. Also with this lens might be a view that the rural-like street was there first, before the transit-oriented towers. And it was doing just fine before people like me drove through their neighborhood and pointed out the lack of sidewalks.

How do you see this scene?


  1. AM

    I’ve always felt that with its aggressively anti-pedestrian public realm and overhead wires canada feels third-world-ish. Don’t get me started on the potholes.

    These are two of the myriad little things that places who care about their inhabitants take care of.

    In its current state it telegraphs the following: “We’re just going to do the bare minimum and that’s all you can expect.”

    It’s sad because with minimal effort it could be so much more.


  2. Jordan Trinder

    Hey Brandon, I am a walkability first individual but would like to add that no sidewalks can be safer for pedestrians. Like ‘woonerfs’, these shared roads force drivers to pay attention and drive with caution as they are sharing the road.


  3. Melodie Barnett

    I know this neighbourhood well and I find the lack of sidewalks brutal, especially because in this ‘hood in particular, a lot of bungalows are being replaced by McMansions and the prevalence of contractor vehicles all over the roads mean pedestrians are pushed to the centre. This neighbourhood has been resistant to sidewalks forever but more and more there is no safe passage for people to walk here, including kids walking to school. In other, less affluent neighbourhoods to the north and south of this, we’ve seen moves to put in sidewalks everywhere and remove the precious few trees in those neighbourhoods, to accommodate them. This raises yet another problem: lack of trees. The imbalance of tree to people ratio AND cars over safe passage for people walking is weird. Seems more affluent neighbourhoods have way more trees and way fewer sidewalks than others. Wouldn’t it be better for all of us to have more trees and more ways to get around on foot to enjoy them, without having to dodge drivers that seem more inclined to see stop signs as pause signs or even challenge signs? Being a pedestrian in this city is becoming a blood sport.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s