Make Believe Ideas and the City

streetcar

The mayor of Toronto, like other 20th century mayors, believes in mystical solutions to urban problems. In the 21st century smart mayors are shedding the myths and make-believe thinking around urban design. In forward looking places we see neighbourhoods made livable and large swaths of land made into the human scale. Paris is opening more areas for people and even New York reclaiming useless land. What am I referring to? Cars. The magic ability of cars to solve all problems. Over at Spacing they have quite the piece on this make-believe notion we should abandon.

In the make-believe world, the car is a necessity, which allows many planners and politicians to resist changes that adversely affect “traffic” on roads. Thirty percent of Toronto households nonetheless manage to get around without owning a car, even while their transit journeys are routinely blocked by cars. A measurement of traffic volume by all modes along the Bloor corridor in October 2019 showed 267,000 daily trips, among which there were only 17,000 cars. Politicians nonetheless claimed that a proposed bike lane in the same stretch would prevent people from going downtown.

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Artists Want You to Better Know Your Land

A series of thought provoking art works commissioned by Toronto History Museums wants to shake up your understanding of local history. The collective project called Awakenings approaches tales from the past that have gone unheard, or highlight the efforts of people traditional ignored by historians. The project isn’t just about recognizing the past, it’s also about recognizing the present. The ongoing series features features local Black, Indigenous and artists of colour in all aspects of its creation. The short films are powerful and here’s hoping that they change the modern discourse of history.

“When you acknowledge this land and its history, what are you actually acknowledging? Do you know who these nations are?” asks actor Nadia George. Well, do you? Watch and learn a few things about the city’s Indigenous origins, such as the 250,000 acres, stretching from the lakeshore up to King City, sold to the British for a paltry 10 shillings, worth about $40 today.

“It’s really a call to action. So when you see all of the different … artistic interventions, they’re meant as a jumping-off point. So we’re not just illustrating what took place; we’re saying, OK, how does it relate to the present? And how can it help shape our future?”

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Floating Trash Bins a Great Success, May Influence Policies

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We’ve been following the installation and study of Seabins in Toronto for a while now. Good news just keeps happening from these floating garbage cans!

Floating trash collectors were put in the Toronto harbour a few years ago and the research team behind the project keeps finding interesting things. The University of Toronto’s Trash Team has realized that beyond keeping the water clean the bins can help identify sources of pollutants. With this increase in knowledge of how trash flows in water we can craft better policies to protect nature from human waste.

Since the Seabins were first installed, it’s been U of T Trash Team co-founder Chelsea Rochman’s job — along with team members like U of T student Cassandra Sherlock — to comb through what comes out of them.

Rochman is working on guidelines for classifying the waste that will eventually be put to use in communities around the province.

“Any type of trash trap does one thing really well… divert our plastic waste out of the Great Lakes,” she told CBC Toronto.

“But it also can involve policy because what we find tells us something about the source.”

Take those pre-production pellets that Fisher found all over an island beach in Lake Superior, which Rochman says also turn up regularly in the Toronto Seabins after blowing away from industrial sites.

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Bike Lanes Save Lives in Toronto

Here in Toronto we’ve seen little to no changes in our urban space during the COVID-19 pandemic. Other cities have been closing streets and making more room for people while in Toronto we’ve closed a couple streets on the weekend and gave up sidewalk space to private enterprise. Neighbouring communities have done a lot more (and I’m jealous).

The biggest development in Toronto was to catch up on the scheduled installation of bike lanes. Without a doubt these bike lanes are popular and there was clearly bent up demand for safe, sustainable, transportation. Ryerson University in Toronto has shown that not only are the lanes popular they have been saving a lot of lives!

  • Fully separated cycling facilities (like cycle tracks) could reduce the number of injuries along Bloor-Danforth by 89%. This could mean 153 to 182 fewer serious injuries over the next decade, depending on ridership
  • Fully separated cycle tracks are significantly safer and prevent more injuries than other types of cycling infrastructure, like partially separated lanes and painted lanes
  • The availability of safer cycling infrastructure throughout the COVID-19 pandemic could have a “safety in numbers” effect, attracting higher cycling volumes and preventing even more injuries
  • Removing temporary cycling infrastructure could have a “bait and switch” effect, actually leading to more injuries; temporary infrastructure attracts new users to the route, but when this protection is removed, the number of injuries could increase from pre-implementation levels

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Decolonize Games at the Toronto Biennial

This coming Saturday (Nov. 23) from 2-5pm you can play a game which challenges the colonial narratives present in too many games. Presented as part of the Toronto Biennial, Unsettling: Settlers of Catan uses the bases of Settlers of Catan to get players to think about all sorts of assumptions on games. The game was made by Golboo Amani who creates art around and about our social interactions. It’s a really fun game and you should go play it!

Unsettling: Settlers of Catan is a playful, discursive intervention into the popular board game, Settlers of Catan. Artist Golboo Amani disrupts its colonial narratives with methodologies of treaties, collaboration, and allyship, inserting new game pieces, cards, and rules. With these new tools, players develop strategies of building on and repatriation of the colonized landscape, offering the opportunity to play out strategies for radical, social, political, and industrial change.

Biennial visitors can play the full game set with facilitated guidance from card dealers and the artist. Free ticket registration is required to play the full game, or join at any time to watch, or participate by tag-teaming.

Check it out!

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