Last week I started a new job in Liberty Village, Toronto — a series of converted office lofts (my office used to be the Toronto Carpet Factory), new condos, cafes, and restaurants. When I don’t bike to work (read: when it’s cold or raining) I take the King Streetcar west from downtown, get off at the intersection of Fraser and King West, and cross south at the crosswalk.
That is, until this morning, when, instead of a crosswalk, I found a yellow sign that read “Caution: Crosswalk Removed,” and had arrows pointing left and right, towards the closest intersections, a few hundred meters away each.
Google searches of words like “fraser, king, crosswalk” fail to turn up any evidence of warning or consultation regarding this apparent crosswalk kidnapping. In fact, most of the search results were Due South fan pages. (Fraser. Benton Fraser.)
This sort of thing is allowed to happen because pedestrians have not had an advocate at city hall, which collectively seems to believe that cars have more rights than people. (I’m talking about the crosswalk here, not the proliferation of Due South fan pages. That’s allowed to happen because Due South is awesome.) It’s the same reason why bike lanes and even whole sidewalks can disappear during road construction, as was the case last month on the busy south-east corner of University and Queen.
Pedestrian deaths and injuries in this city are already too high; the last thing we should be doing is killing crosswalks. I’m going to write Gord Perks, the councillor of this ward. I’ll let you know how that turns out.
This morning some cars were still stopping where the crosswalk used to be — in part out of habit, but also because there’s still a steady stream of people who cross the street there. Let’s hope that as memories of the crosswalk fade no one gets hurt.
UPDATE (December 12th, 6pm): Got a reply from Perks’ office. Turns out the crosswalk was removed because a new intersection was installed about 100m east to accommodate a new development, and there are rules that say you can’t have a crosswalk that close to an intersection. (How surprised are we that that rule didn’t work backwards, “you can’t put that intersection there, it’s too close to the crosswalk!”)
As of this morning people were still crossing at the phantom crosswalk in large numbers, while confused drivers slowed to a halt and tried to figure out why we were in their way. Perks’ office has asked the TTC to move the stop back to the new intersection, further from where those of us who use(d) the crosswalk are trying to get to. Not the world’s biggest deal in the grand scheme of things, but still an unfortunate example of the systemic bias that favours cars against transit users and pedestrians. (Just so we’re clear, I’m not blaming Perks for this. Not only is he new, but apparently the last councillor, Sylvia Watson, didn’t give them any files at all.)