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Would you donate to support Toronto’s roads?

Toronto’s roads needs your support!

Every day, these roads suffer. After decades of neglect and abuse, they deserve to be nurtured. There are too many car accidents and too many road deaths. But does anyone think of the roads themselves — they have gone through hell each time. They need your help! Without your support, they will continue to live in these terrible conditions.

Donate now!

Imagine you read this on a pamphlet or saw an advertisement on television asking you to donate funds to the city to help develop safety infrastructure for your neighbourhood. It sounds ridiculous right? And yet, not ridiculous enough to avoid becoming a recommendation to city council.

At this week’s Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, a report on the city’s Vision Zero Road Plan actually recommended accepting donations from residents for local projects. It reads: “In addition, this report considers the feasibility of accepting donations from the public to provide funding support for local projects and recommends commencing the detailed planning and implementation process for an automated speed enforcement program to operate in school zones and community safety zones.”

City staff said that an additional $6.303 million in capital funding will be needed between 2019 and 2021. These funds can help “further accelerate” the Road Safety Plan. The cost of Vision Zero is already $80.3 million.

This report will be heading to city council on Dec. 5.

Now, I know funds are tight. There are very few outside revenue sources available to city staff, so it kind of makes sense they would resort to these type of suggestions.

HOWEVER, there is a serious socio-economic problem with this recommendation.

First of all, the report indicates the funding will support “local projects”. This means that donations in Regent Park will be used in Regent Park and donations in Forest Hill will be used in Forest Hill. The wealthier neighbourhoods — whose residents may be more inclined and able to make those donations to the city — will reap the benefits. The other neighbourhoods will be left behind.

This is unacceptable.

The whole idea of Vision Zero is to reduce fatalities and injuries on roads, aiming for zero traffic-related deaths and injuries. This will never happen if some neighbourhoods are safe and others are not. Instead, it will just reinforce the economic divisions within this city.

The truly disappointing part about this recommendation is that there was no amendment proposed by any committee member that would change this section of the report. No one said – well why don’t we look at increasing taxes or looking at outside revenue sources for this $6 million instead of asking people to donate funds to a government they already pay for.

We can only hope that council sees past this and is able to have an actual conversation about what crowd-funding for road safety really means. Because at the end of the day – safety is about the people, not the roads.

What’s with the animal-themed parks in Toronto?

Toronto’s parks are transforming to appeal to animal lovers — and it turns out there are a ton in this city. First, the Berczy Park Revitalization features man’s best friend and now, the same architect said he may create a cat-themed park near Front St. West.

Berczy Park/Plaza is centered around a giant tiered fountain surrounded by 27 dog sculptures. These puppies shoot jets of water out of their mouths into the fountain towards the giant golden bone sitting at the top of the structure. There is plenty of seating space and enough greenery for families, and their canine friends, to roam.

The trees were planted using Silva Cell technology, a suspended pavement system that supports large trees while providing storm water management at the same time. This allows Toronto to support the growth of plant life in an urban setting.

The fountain within Berczy Park has received a lot of attention in the media. While some people love the quirky concept, others feel it isn’t sophisticated enough for this city. Either way, people have crowded around the fountain day and night (it lights up when the sun goes down) to enjoy the public space. It creates a fun and whimsy atmosphere that can’t be found anywhere else in Toronto.

That is until architect Claude Cormier gets his hands on the mega development at Front and Spadina.

It is rumoured that Cormier has a plan for a cat-themed promenade. There are few details available. The only information publicly available is that Cormier will work with the other developers and architects to create a new green space as part of the mixed-use project…and that feline sculptures may be involved.

Not everyone will be thrilled with this concept, but honestly, anything that creates a space for people to enjoy each others company in the outdoors is a win for Toronto.

 

What do you think? Would a cat-themed park be welcome on Front and Spadina?

Hello Spring! Now, get outside!

Have you ever gone outside just for the sake of going outside?

Taking a walk outside and breathing in the fresh air, running along the beach, or just sitting in a field of green can work wonders for relaxation and stress-relief. Nature can be incredibly peaceful and rejuvenating — and luckily in Canada, these green spaces and beaches are accessible throughout any landscape.

Most people feel they need a reason to go outside, whether it be to play sports or for a planned outdoor adventure to get their next Instagram photo opportunity. Instead, why not just go outside for the sake of it. When I’m in a bad mood, taking a break and walking outside cures the blues faster than almost any other possible solution. The fresh air, sunshine, and peaceful silence creates an appreciation of life that is impossible to find anywhere else.

If you aren’t quite sure how to get outdoors for the pure enjoyment of it, the secret to success lies in making sure you do it mindfully. Don’t go outside equipped with your phone to distract you. Free yourself from all your devices and take your lovely self for a walk and really look at the world around you. You will find that there is so much beauty to see once you remove yourself from the bubble of technological existence. Birds still exist. Trees actually grow taller. It is amazing how much can be noticed without our phones two inches from our faces at all times.

Take note of how your body feels when you are outside as well. It is good to stretch out in the open space and understand which muscles are sore and target those areas. Even doing yoga outside would feel relaxing and in tune with how nature can make our aching bodies feel better.  Even if you have a cold, talking a brief walk can help get some fresh air into your body and may rejuvenate you if you have been inside sleeping for a long period of time.

Next time you find yourself with a free 30 minutes (or even an hour), go outside and revel in the oncoming spring. There is so much to be thankful for in good weather, and taking time to appreciate it leads to a more fulfilling and connected life. The more people use the greens paces and natural areas, the more likely it is to be conserved for future generations. Get outside today and enjoy it!

Green spaces: necessary for health and soul

Have you ever wondered why you feel so much better when you are biking through a park or hanging out in an outdoors in the city? Green spaces are actually healthy for people living in cities and here’s why.

Having well-kept parks, green areas and cycling paths elevate positive physical and psychological health and also promote social cohesion and community by sharing public space. Understanding the impacts of green spaces helps planners strategically include a natural environment in cities to better people’s lives.

According to a report in the Journal of Urban Health, “by 2030, 60 per cent of the world’s population will live in cities”. The importance of creating appropriate planning infrastructures is paramount to creating healthy cities for the urban sphere.

Looking back, the first public parks were built in Spain in the 16th century. In the 20th century, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States further popularized parks and gardens in cities. Today, most cities have parks, but lack of variety in green spaces.

Walkable Cities, a 2012 report written by the City of Toronto, says that people who live in Toronto with access to green spaces and parks have lower BMI indexes than people living in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Using a vehicle to get across the city lowers the amount of physical exercise people obtain on a daily basis. By creating walkable parks and green spaces within the proximity of services, it motivates people to travel to these spaces and remain active.

The study says that 85 per cent of Canadian adults do not get the 150 minutes of prescribed weekly physical activity and 91 per cent of boys and 96 per cent of girls do not get the daily 60 minutes of needed exercise.  Green City, another health study by the City of Toronto reads that children that have a playground within one kilometre of their home were five times more likely to have a healthy weight. Having access to playgrounds, parks and walkable green spaces becomes a necessity for physical health of urban residents.

Poor air quality in large urban centres such as Toronto is a mounting concern for health experts in the city. An increasing pollution has been directly correlated with the rising numbers of people who have been diagnosed with respiratory illnesses and cardiovascular diseases.  Green spaces can also help to emit better air quality and reduce rates of pollution in the area because the concentrated greenery acts a carbon sink.

Green spaces also have positive impacts on mental health. Being in nature lowers stress, depression and loneliness due to the relaxing effect of large open spaces. The Green City study concluded that people living within one kilometre, as compared to three kilometres, of green space reported lowered rates of loneliness and stress. Green space can help children with Attention Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). According to the study, when children play in areas with large trees and grass, the symptoms of ADHD noticeably decreases. Walking for 20 minutes in a park with a child with ADHD also helps improve concentration performance.

If you have ever walked in a large park and seen families enjoying a picnic while other people play sports, it is easy to see the sense of community green spaces help facilitate. People can share spaces in a healthy manner, which allows for community related activity to be fostered. Often, physical activities that take place in green spaces promote social cohesion, which lowers stress rates and promotes people being together in a leisurely manner.

On the other hand, green spaces that are neglected do not show the same positive health impacts as parks and paths that are looked after. Neglected green spaces can become dangerous for communities and, according to a report by Social Science & Medicine, it actually increase rates of stress.

So, next time you walk past that park by your house, duck in for a quick wander and you will come out feeling refreshed and satisfied. By interacting with green space, you will allow yourself a healthy lifestyle, and if everyone uses the green space, the city won’t forget to incorporate parks, paths and green areas into their urban planning strategy.

Dogs: Man’s best wingman

Dogs have long been considered man’s best friend.  However, there’s more to being a best friend than cuddling with you throughout the finale of The Real Housewives Of Vancouver and sniffing your crotch, even if those are two very important best friend qualities.

Can man’s best friend also be man’s best wingman?

We filled our pockets with treats, poop bags, and a couple of balls to hit the city with an adorable dog named Baxter as we put this to the test.  Our extremely scientific experiment has revealed these to be among the best places in Toronto to take your dog if you’re looking to have someone tell you to lie down and roll over.

Riverdale Park West:  Just south-west of Riverdale Farm is the Carlton Street lower playing fields. This baseball diamond beside the DVP serves as a gathering place for the haut monde of Cabbagetown and their pedigree pooches.  The crowd there is mature, a mixture of gay and straight, and all are friendly.  A couple of the conversations we had there were a little on the pretentious side, but if you plan on meeting the man of your dreams and moving from your 450 sq ft apartment into his million dollar Cabbagetown brownstone, you’re going to have to learn the language of the affluent, dah-ling.

Allen Gardens dog park:  This is a great place to have your furry wingman work his magic.  Serving as a social hub for the surrounding dog owner community, the guys there are very laid back and quite chatty.  You may not be able to find your next millionaire ex-husband like you might at Riverdale Park West, but we’re confident you’ll get a fun ‘pitcher-of-beer-and-pound-of wings’ type of date.  The biggest downside to this dog park is that it looks like a giant cat litter box.

Trinity Bellwoods Park:  Since this has the reputation of being a gathering place for Queen West hipsters, we dressed Baxter up in a plaid coat and took him for a walk to see if he’d attract us some sensitive and creative hotties.  Success.  Unlike some of the other locations we conducted this experiment, we weren’t just approached by other dog owners.  Several attractive boys stopped us to pet Baxter and comment on how cute he is, striking up some fun and flirty chats.  If you’re looking for a guy who probably knows where the best loft parties are every weekend, this is the place to be.  And we totally recommend dressing up your wingman in hipster-style plaid… Ironically, of course.

Cherry Beach dog park:  While an amazing place to have your pooch run free, Baxter had more luck there than we did.  We had a few conversations with the multitude of dog walkers that use this place but didn’t manage to get our flirt on.  It’s likely that you’ll have a bit more luck in the summer months when this place is packed, but for now you and your furry friend will be heading home alone to a tub of Häagen-Dazs, a single spoon, and an Adele CD.

Church Street:  We walked the gaybourhood strip at various times of the day and found that this is your best bet for utilizing your furry wingman to his full potential.  On our walks through the Village, we were stopped many times by hot guys of all types and more often than not we got the impression it was so the guys could talk to us, not just the adorable Baxter.  Oh, and strictly in the name of science, we walked Baxter there just after the bars closed on a Saturday night…

Good boy, Baxter. Good boy.