Parkdale is not a suburb. It is a walking place. But it just became much more dangerous now that the Jameson Avenue pedestrian bridge that connects Parkdale residents to the lake has been closed without warning for the summer.
Three other pedestrian bridges in Toronto are closed for maintenance this season; Parkdale was not targeted in a specific show of disrespect. But it never matters whether arrogance is unintentional or deliberate. The result for those who were not consulted is the same.
At a meeting May 26 sponsored by the Parkdale High Park Waterfront Group, the Parkdale Residents Association and the Parkdale Liberty Economic Development Corporation, slides show the shore of Lake Ontario is least accessible in high-density Parkdale.
With Jameson closed, only two points to cross remain in a 2-kilometre stretch. By contrast, there are 17 access points in an equal distance at the eastern Beaches – but of course they don’t have a highway running through their neighbourhood.
Shots taken of the closed bridge the previous weekend show families and women with strollers waiting to make a daring dash through rushing cars. The many older, slower-moving residents who want to get to the water are right out of luck.
A local-??living architect points out that 100 years ago Dowling, Cowan and Wilson Park all led to the lake. Yes, and Sunnyside beach looked like fun, but no one swims there now.
It will cost a million dollars to repair the pedestrian bridge. No alternative crossing was budgeted for. It is suggested at the meeting that this repair could be redundant, pending the outcome of the Western Waterfront Master Plan. It is also suggested that, were construction workers facing the same risk to their lives as pedestrians, the Ministry of Labour would intervene.
Various ideas are floated, from a temporary bridge to calling police to help in crossing or hiring paid-duty officers. ( Why such duty would mean extra pay I don’t know.) People at the meeting generally agreed upon a permanent light to cross at Dowling, something residents fought for but the city rejected (see sidebar). Many refer to the swiftly installed light that serves only those parking their cars at the Palais Royale.
Local MP Cheri DiNovo questions the whole operation and wants to know “why, how and what tree to chain myself to.” I’m impressed by her use of the word “overarching” at least eight times – perfect when the subject is a bridge.
There are a lot of questions and no one to answer them.
The meeting wraps up with a resolution to send a letter to the mayor demanding the bridge’s reopening.
Just then, local Councillor Gord Perks appears, direct from a council vote on Streets To Homes. If he were an actor, he’d be cast as the handsome priest. He removes the jacket of his black suit and literally rolls up his sleeves. He is accompanied by John Bryson, the city’s point man on bridges.
Perks offers an apology for lack of notice on the bridge closure on the city’s behalf. The closure was a line item slipped into the budget, and he can’t quite say when he learned of it.
Bryson says the Jameson bridge was closed during Caribana last year because “that bridge was not meant for 2,000 people dancing and jumping on it.” He explains that work can’t wait. Any postponement means more expense. His price for rebar, for instance, is guaranteed for only 10 days from the date it is ordered.
He says they did look at a temporary bridge, but that would involve stairs, not a ramp, and take almost as long as the “rehab” of the current structure. Traffic lights take a year.
A resident calmly states, “In Bombay, where I come from, people would put up their own speed bumps” to cross Lakeshore.
Lights were rearranged up at Queen and Jameson a while ago, but all that did was facilitate the flow of drivers cutting through Parkdale to get to and from the Gardiner. I’ve seen people miss their bus due to the change.
The city will probably “enrich” the contract to speed up the reopening to August 14, because, when the CNE is on, you have to pay admission to get near the lake.
Perks, who seems well adapted to his political vocation, suggests going to the city’s webpage to view “phenomenal proposals” for the waterfront. He refuses to be pushed into a commitment he knows he can’t honour without a directive from council.
He says in future planning, the priorities will be 1) pedestrians, 2) cyclists, 3) transit, 4) drivers. Toronto is the city of the future. And it looks like it always will be.