Archive for May, 2005

Mayor of Toronto proclaims “BikeWeek.” Toronto cyclists proclaim “We deserve better.”

Tuesday, May 31st, 2005

In what is surely one of the strangest turns of events in this city’s history, last week the pro-cycling faction on city council joined forces to push through a watered-down version of a bikelane that has cyclists all over the city crying foul.

Want to make your voice heard? Sign the petition here.

This is what it says:

To: Mayor David Miller members of City Council
“Toronto Cyclist Deserve Better!”
The Cyclists of Toronto Demand Safe Passage and Respect!

The Transportation Association of Canada recommends a width of 2,0m for marked bike lanes on major urban roads. The minimum acceptable width is 1,5m. That is the national standard.

On May 19th, City Council voted in favour of a ‘reduced width’ bike lane on a 1.6 km section of Royal York Road. How it will be marked is not yet decided. A majority of councillors felt that 1,25m was sufficient, and that the “margin of safety” for cyclists was not significantly different between a 1,5m and 1,25m bike lane.

This decision sets a precedent that puts at risk all future proposals for 1,5m bike lanes on major roads, and makes it possible for any local community to demand reduced space for cyclists.

Cyclists deserve better. Cyclists deserve respect. Our lives depend on having safe passage on city roads. We need space to make Toronto a better place to live and breathe.

Therefore, the we request that 1,5m be established as the minimum width for bike lanes on major roads in the City of Toronto.


The Undersigned

Jacob Richler driven from National Post

Tuesday, May 31st, 2005

According to insider reports, Jacob Richler is no longer restaurant critic for the National Post [shurely you mean “Nazional?” –ed]. He has been replaced by “Yorkville Blonde” (as Zerbisias puts it) Sara Waxman.

Readers of the ALLDERBLOB will no doubt wish to recall some of Jacob Richler’s anti-urban screeds from his stint at the Post. We all wish him well in Houston or Las Vegas, or whichever insterstate highway he has decamped to.

As a reminder of some of his past transgressions against taste and decency, here is a letter to the editor of the Naz. Post that I wrote last fall:

To the Editor:

re: “We’re on the wrong track,” by Jacob Richler Nov. 24 04

Jacob Richler, you made a promise, and we’re going to hold you to it.

You write: “I cannot imagine local traffic getting any worse, and if it does, I’m out of here.”

And we’re holding you to it because what you call “Worse” is what we who oppose the Californication of Toronto call “Better:” more bike lanes that create “meandering two lane affairs” out of four-lane commuter runs; more tramline mainstreet development; more of the wonderful congestion that says “Let’s slow down, let’s really live on this street.”

And if you don’t like it, then you can have your Los Angeles, your Houston, your freeway utopia.

Please. Get out of here. You and the folks who think like you are part of the problem. There are some nice restaurants in San Diego, and you can get to them by freeway. Go there.

The rest of us will stay in Toronto, where we will work to build a slower city, not a faster one. A place where juices simmer and flavours mingle, and folks on bikes don’t have to hear disingenuous lip-service from daddy’s coattail-riding hacks who hate that which gets “in the way” without wondering if what’s in the way is perhaps really just the place to be, now, in the moment.

Jacob Richler, wasn’t it you who once said on these pages that the car is the best invention of the 20th century? I’m sorry if I got that wrong–I’m a sporadic National Post reader–but I do recall another piece of yours where you whine “It’s cyclists’ hatred of cars that’s so troubling.” Yet here you are today, bashing the streetcar. You’re really in the wrong city, old man. Take your fogeyism somewhere the battle’s already been won.

Go, go, go I tells you. Life on the off-ramp beckons!

substandard cycling facilities PLUS wide empty street PLUS weak-willed politicians EQUALS recipe for disaster

Monday, May 30th, 2005

A kid was killed riding his bicycle in Toronto last week.

The newspapers reported it happened when the boy, age 11, crossed an intersection along a busy four-lane road at the far west end of the city, and was hit by a “Turtle Island” garbage truck under contract to the city.

The fact is, the child was riding on the sidewalk and the driver of the garbage truck, turning onto the residential street, struck him when the cyclist crossed in front of his right-turning truck.

It’s possible nothing could have been done to prevent this crash and its awful consequence.

However one wonders, when one looks at Toronto’s Bicycle Master Plan, what the powers that be were thinking of in some of their decisions. One sees along Horner Avenue for example an orange dashed line, which identifies it as a “connector” route. This means, according to the Plan, a “suggested link between off-road paths and other bikeways…. These links may entail travel on busy, major roads through commercial or industrial areas.”

About three years ago on Horner Ave, some three blocks east of the site of last week’s collision, another child was killed by the fast-moving traffic.

Clearly this street is a problem. It needs more than an orange dashed line on a map. It needs a proper bike lane. If it means taking out a lane of car traffic in each direction, perhaps people can live with that.


This brings up another question.

What good is a Bicycle Master Plan, approved unanimously by city council just a few years ago, if it is gutted and compromised at every turn by even its staunchest allies?

The latest such example is the case of Royal York Road, where a short stretch of bikelane (1.6 km) was needed to join two previously built pieces north and south, to provide a safe margin for bicycles all the way from Bloor Street to Lake Ontario.

When push came to shove however, the local councillor, a former architect named Peter Milquetoast, caved in to pressure from the ratepayers group and prevented the construction of the proper bikelanes. You can read about the fiasco here, at Martin Koob’s fine Biketoronto website. Only at the last minute, in a full city council vote, was a “glorious compromise” reached. The result was a decision to paint stripes at the road edge to provide 3.3 meter car lanes each way, plus 1.25 meter “bicycle lanes.”

The quotations are necessary: a bicycle lane by definition is 1.5 meters to 2.o meters in width. The 1.5 meter width allows cyclists to pass each other safely, to keep a safe distance from potentially deadly flying car doors, and to negotiate other road hazards without fearing encroachment from passing cars.

On the other hand, a 3.3 meter car lane allows for cars to drive at rates of speed that exceed the 50 km per hour mandated on most city of Toronto roads. It encourages through truck traffic and will do nothing to “calm” a street. It strikes the ALLDERBLOB as strange that the ratepayers of the sleepy burg along Royal York would accept a wide traffic lane at the expense of safer passage for cyclists, but that is what they did.

What is more, they did it with the full compliance and cooperation of some of the most “pro-bicycle” members of council. Olivia Chow and Paula Fletcher, Adam Giambrone and Glen DeBaermaker, all worked to ensure passage of the “compromised” bicycle lanes. The mayor, who this morning proclamed this “Bike Week” in Toronto, cast his lot among them.

Some have asked what it means to “compromise” when the other side gives nothing. On Royal York, a bikelane will be painted that is 17% narrower than the minimum standard, while the car lane, at 3.3 meters in width, is straight out of the California Highway Design Manual.

Compromise? What compromise?

It’s come to the attention of the ALLDERBLOB that many people are dismayed at the city’s insufficient concern for the safety of cyclists in Toronto. In fact, there is an online petition and anyone concerned about the plethora of car advertising should also be concerned enough to go sign the petition. It calls for the city to take seriously the plight of cyclists in Toronto. As of this post, it’s been up some 12 hours, and already gleaned over 120 signatures.

General Motors dubbed “junk” by second rating agency; ALLDERBLOB responds with the usual: “Ban Car Advertisements!”

Wednesday, May 25th, 2005

Headline in today’s Toronto Star: “Second debt rater labels GM’s debt as junk: Fitch follows Standard & Poor’s on credit downgrade: Plummeting sport-utility vehicle sales take the blame

The article is in the business section, page E4.

GM’s response to the news is in the front section, page A11: a page-and-a-quarter full-colour advertisement suggesting if you act fast they’ll give you 20 cents off per litre for one year or 2500 litres, whichever comes first. It’s accompanied by a photograph of a parking lot (mmm, delicious) teaming with Chevy cars and trucks, above a small print disclaimer. I read it carefully enough. Conspicuously absent is any mention of gas mileage ratings.

What can I say? Is it possible they’re feeling a pinch? The good news is it’s the first time in recent memory page A5 of the paper’s not been colonized by the giant company for their full page car-porn.

Nothing personal, but we can’t be friends

Thursday, May 19th, 2005

By the time you read this, chances are good you will have had the opportunity here to read Gord Perks’s May 19 2005 column in Toronto’s “eye weekly.”

So you will know the title of today’s lob is not original (the Allderblob still awaits brain callous formation).

Gord Perks’s column is not addressed to you, gentle reader, any more than this lob is.

Unless you are Sunoco’s VP of Health Environment and Safety, Carolyn L. Green. In that case Gord Perks wants you to know you are evil. Or unless you are Gord Perks himself, in which case the Allderblob wishes you to search “hypocrite” in your online dictionary.

Oh, Perks is more gentle than that, but his point is clear. In a pull-out quote he states: “The plain fact is, there’s no such thing as a good oil refinery.”

Here’s my pull-out quote:

The fact is, there’s no such thing as an environmentalist who earns his salary from automobile advertising.

“They make gasoline, for chrissakes,” writes Perks (only he spells it “chrissake,” a fraudulent usage which I have corrected).

I’ve never met Perks. From his picture, I’d guess he’s a very nice person. The column he wrote to introduce Carolyn L. Green fairly gushes witn enthusiasm for enlightening us about the evils of car dependency.

I’m sure he’s great with children and kind to animals. he’d probably be a real ray of sunshine as a neighbour. I bet, too, that he’s smart and hard-working. You don’t get to fill the shoes of Bob Hunter at eye magazine by just having a friendly disposition.

And so on (brain callous, where are you?)

Here we have to finish with Perks. The sad irony is, while Perks’s salary is paid by GM, he still thinks his column can effect, as he puts it, ” real change.”

GM? But I thought you said he writes for eye magazine?

Thing is, eye is a publication of Metroland Printing, a wholly owned subsidiary of Torstar publications, publisher of the Toronto Star, most of whose advertising income derives from the automobile industry.

Real change is coming, of course. Whether, as Perks describes, it’s genocide caused by climate change, or mass upheaval caused if we “end the production of gasoline and kick all the workers out of jobs and tell everyone who lives in car-dependent suburbs they have to move because there’s no gasoline anymore” [whew! Someone needs an editor!]. Or possibly Perks’s “third way:” “We contain sprawl, and invest in public transit. We send school kids door-to-door begging people to get up an hour earlier and walk to the GO station instead of driving to work.”

Perks says all the right things, even if he’s long-winded. Something haunts me about him though.

It is Jeff Gray’s Globe and Mail column of some weeks back, where Perks acknowledged his wife is a member of the Canadian Automobile Association.

Andrew Spicer, a blogger I came across by googling Jeff Gray’s column, writes about it here. One of the snips he takes from the globe column (which unfortunately you will need to purchase if you want to read in full) is as follows:

The Toronto Environmental Association’s Gord Perks, whose wife is a CAA member, says the group is almost always lobbying against the things he fights for. “They pop up everywhere you can imagine, as opponents to promoting cycling, promoting pedestrianism, promoting better public transit,” Mr. Perks said.

“They always wrap it in the guise of what they call ‘balanced’ transportation, but you never see them show up at city council and ask for more money for public transit.”

He said the CAA has long been much more than a tow-truck service and is now “the principal advocate in Ontario for building roads, building highways, and ignoring the social and environmental costs of that kind of transportation system.”

If I were Perks, I would have a hard time writing with my left hand while my right was signing a check for CAA membership. But that’s my problem.

Something else bothers me about Perks.

The fact is, while he spouts the right stuff about ending car dependency and discouraging sprawl, he writes for eye weekly. His paycheque comes from the killing fields of Iraq, Nigeria, and the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge.

Am I overstating my case?

I don’t really think so. Eye weekly this week has four full page car ads in its first 19 pages. On page 2 the ad reads “COOL LOOKS/ HOT DEALS” and offers 0% financing and even “better” deals in its “STUDENT PROGRAM.” On page 9 the ad reads “Life’s more fun behind the wheel” and features a picture of a computer mousepad worn down in the classic shape of a stickshift pattern. Page 17 features the slogan “Rent cars by the hour.” And finally, the ad opposite Perks’s column reads: “HAVING YOUR OWN CAR MAKES YOU SEXIER” with a photograph of a Charles Atlas “before” picture, the classic 98-pound weakling. Then it continues: “OKAY, MORE INDEPENDENT,” accompanied by a photograph of a shiny red penis.

I’m sorry, did I say penis? I meant car.

Let’s see. Cars look cool? They’re cheap? Life’s more fun with a car? A car will make you sexier? More independent?

These are all classic Gospel of the Car Ad items. To be dealt with in later posts though. Not here.

Zerbisias thinks automobile advertising will set us free

Wednesday, May 18th, 2005

Antonia Zerbisias of the Toronto Star has made another apology for the automobile advertising that carries her site. Now it’s the claim that advertising will set us (read bloggers) free.

If by “free” she means free to say what she likes about the folks who pay for her lunch, I suspect she is sadly mistaken. The twin trucks that appear over her smiling face on were briefly replaced after her blobbing of yesterday. Instead she was sponsored by an ad for Brutish Airways. I’m sorry, did I say “Brutish?” Well you know what I mean.

It may be a silly joke, but at least the Allderblob is free to make it.

Zerbisias is not.

Maybe that’s not what she means by free, though.

apology not accepted

Tuesday, May 17th, 2005

I love it when well-meaning folks explain why it is they need a car.

The other day in the Toronto Globe and Mail, for example, Jeff Gray printed in his regular column some reader feedback on “why I need an SUV.” The one Gray liked the best was “because it’s my right to own one. To hell with the environment. That’s someone else’s problem.” There were other excuses, but at base, they all amount to the above.

And not too long ago, Roy McGregor in the same paper wrote in his column apologetically about how nice it is to go for a long drive in the fresh spring air; that it’s the only way to really appreciate nature or something.

My favourite of all time is the guy I know who helped organize the city of Toronto’s CarFree day a couple years back. At the time he was driving a fusty old SUV, “because I need to tote my kid’s hockey equipment around.” This is the guy who wants to tell other people to not drive their cars?

Speaking of CarFree day, here’s another example: the guy who’s been working (with the Sierra Club) on the Toronto Carfree day this year, Mike Noble, is a member of the Canadian Automobile Association (according to Jeff Gray again).

The latest example of people making excuses for having cars is Antonia Zerbisias, in her new “blog.” I put the word in quotes because it’s my impression that the nature of blogging is that one is free to express oneself, but in her case, as she acknowledges, she’s still a writer for the Toronto Star. Her pieces are edited, “if only minimally,” and as she puts it “the suits are watching nervously.”

This, for her, explains why she needs a car.

Or, more specifically, two trucks: they appear in the banner advertisement above her head on page one. As she puts it, “But as it says at the bottom of this page, the Star has the copyright. I am but a wage slave and therefore must put up with those trucks above my head.”

Yeah, right.

I’ll be interested to see if Zerbisias is ever able to write objectively about car culture in her blog.

PS: attached below is a letter to the editor of NOW magazine that pertains to this discussion:

NOW magazine

February 7, 2005

To the Editor:

Re: “Car-free crash” by Mike Smith (Feb. 3-9, 2005)

Smith’s analogy of the car driver’s split personality was expressed
most forcefully by the Australian street reclaiming “king” David
Engicht, who rolled his throne through Kensington Market and a city
hall presentation back in 1999. As I recall, Engwicht saw a potential
“road hog” in everyone, coupled just as surely with a potential
car-hater. His theory was this split is as old as the split between
our nomadic, hunting ancestor and our agrarian, seed-hoarding one.

Smith does a good job identifying the locus of this split in
councillor Jane Pitfield, and even the Canadian Automobile Association
(CAA) (you have to love their concern that a car free event could
“increase pollution.” Is it a coincidence this line finds itself in
Councillor Case Ootes’s book of lies about bike lanes?).

But the split I want to talk about is the double-life of Sierra Club’s
Michael Noble and Toronto Environmental Alliance’s Gord Perks.

Noble, the Sierra Club car free day coordinator, was fingered in Jeff
Gray’s “Dr Gridlock” column (Globe and Mail, Jan 31 2005), as a CAA
member. In the same column, Perks ‘fessed up about his wife’s

Could it be that membership in such a rabidly pro-car group as the CAA
compromises, to say the least, a person’s attempt to fight the
hegemony of car culture? How can you be pro-car-free one day when the
next you’re writing a cheque for your CAA membership? How can you deny
it when CAA spokesperson Faye Lyons claims she’s speaking for you? You
just paid her, after all.

I’m not calling for an inquisition, but CAA members with a conscience
need to find a less noxious group to guarantee them cheap hotels and
towing services.

“Off the Rack” falls to cutting room floor

Sunday, May 15th, 2005

I love the sound of coincidence in the morning.

Last entry, I pointed out the irony of a writer in the Toronto Star implying bias on the part of the Economist magazine because it covered the news in a way that would please its main advertiser.

Samuel Becket put it best: “All life long, the same questions, the same answers.” The question we come back to again and again as we look at the commercial media is “who’s paying for this story?”

In the case of the Economist, it was Halliburton, and Alfred Holden of the Star noted how, along with the two page Halliburton ad was an interview with Halliburton CEO David Lesar.

In the case of the Star, it’s the automobile industry in general, and General Motors in particular. My response to Holden was to “Take a look at yourself.” I put the question to him both on these pages and in the form of a letter to the editor of the Star, cc’d to Holden. I received no response to either letter.

But this week, “Off the Rack,” Holden’s regular Sunday feature, has been yanked from its spot in the business pages (you can find it in the “Buzz” section, with the signature of Malene Arpe).

And elsewhere in the paper, we get “The End of the Dream,” by Chris Young, which offers itself as a lament on our lost dreams of a technofix dream car and winds into a panegyric on hydrogen fuel cell technology.

Ah yes. This has to be more in keeping with the ethos of GM and Ford, who were lovingly “car”essed (Hamish Wilson, sit down!) in the article, than Holden’s clear-eyed assessment of “journalistic objectivity” vis-a-vis the petroleum industry.

And it’s GM and Ford, after all, who pay for the news.

At least for now.

Oil: How to avoid the next shock (Economist magazine)

Tuesday, May 10th, 2005

Tongues are wagging about the most recent issue of The Economist, an objective (read “right wing”) news source out of England. The cover is a lurid image of an oil slick, much as one sees on any road surface in the developed (read “car-dominated”) world after a rain fall. It reads: “Oil: How to avoid the next shock.”

It’s not that I read the Economist, don’t get me wrong. But Sunday’s Toronto Star refered to this story in their weekly “Off the Rack” section, which is in their business pages. The Star piece was penned by one Alfred Holden, who is assistant financial editor there and also a columnist at the Annex Gleaner (he writes about architecture and urban design from a fairly enlightened perspective; I think he has even confessed to riding a bicycle in his column). I think it’s fair to say Canadians like the Economist as an alternative to Time and Newsweek, if for no other reason than because it pays attention to us once in a while–most recently when it called our Prime Minister “Mr Dithers.”

But someone should talk to Mr. Holden. He’s bursting the bubble of journalistic objectivity, not least the notion as puffed up at his own newspaper.

He writes: “Oil won’t run out, The Economist confidently predicts, because shortages boost prices, thus efficiency and exploration. The magic scenario must delight David Lesar, CEO of Halliburton, juggernaut service provider to the U.S. military and oil industry, whose firm’s two-page paid ad graces the magazine’s 14-page special report on oil (which also quotes Lesar).”

Could Mr. Holden actually be implying that them as purchases the advertising sways the coverage?

Hmm, about that full-page General Motors ad on page five–could we have a word?

Toronto Islands: a love story

Saturday, May 7th, 2005

I love the Toronto Islands.

I love the fact that while it’s a public park, people live there, in little houses on little “streets,” without huge fences and without any “no trespassing” signs (that I’ve noticed). I love the fact that in a canoe, which you can rent from a club on Queen’s Quay, you can paddle your way across the Western Gap (a shipping channel) skirting the buoy-marked no-go zone under the island airport landing strips, and in a half-hour (more or less) find yourself in the still backwaters and lagoons of the island proper, with its bird sanctuary, its long narrow channels, and its places to beach your boat and walk around. I love the fact that you can leave your boat there for a while without fear that someone will steal it.

I love the ferries, too, three of them, that transport people and goods and bicycles back and forth between Toronto’s waterfront and Ward’s, Centre or Hanlan’s ferry docks. For the princely sum of six dollars round trip, it’s possible to scoot over to paradise, ride around for an hour or two, find something to eat in a nice boite (or pack a picnic), loll on a beach (nude if you prefer), ride a miniature train, feed a swan, or play volleyball. You can stroll the toy-town streets of the residential community, and, if you’re lucky enough to have a friend living over there, pay someone a call. Between the little streets on Ward’s Island and the slightly wider streets on Algonquin Island, some 800 people reside in the car-free park.

But the Islands are in the news lately.

The people who live there would probably prefer otherwise.

First of all, there’s the bit about the Island Airport, which comprises some 80 hectares (200 acres) of former residential and commercial land at the western-most end of the island chain. It’s the closest bit to downtown, with the aforementioned Western Gap and five-minute ferry-crossing at the bottom of Bathurst Street. Of course, everyone knows something of the struggle to link a road directly across the Western Gap. It’s part of the vital history of the Islands, with bridges, tunnels and more bridges planned (and even launched) from the start of the motoring age. The latest incarnation had a would-be airline entrepreneur scheming with federal appointees at the Toronto Port Authority to build a $22 million (projected cost) bridge, a scheme that led straight to downfall for the former mayor and his cronies in 2003. The bridge never had the necessary government permits and until four days before the election of the new city council didn’t have a signed contract, but when the new council voted to stop it the Port Authority, the fledgling airline, and the construction company all participated in threatening lawsuits amounting to half a billion dollars. The latest news is the federal government is paying off the Port Authority with $35 million and a request that they shut up about bridges “forever.”

Some have questioned how $22 million could have been touted as the cost of building the bridge, when a few months later $35 million is being paid to not build it. But it’s likely the money won’t be wasted, because the original schemers are still around, and now they have money greasing their pocketbooks. It’s unlikely we’ve heard the last of their lot.

But this comes in the wake of another mad-eyed scheme, aired in April, to “investigate” making a bid for a 2015 World’s Fair. The proposal, which garnered lukewarm support from the city politicians, would see the airport razed and rebuilt with pavilions, the Western Gap filled and a new ship channel dug to the south, and an underwater tube to run a train back and forth to a secondary fairground at the mouth of the Don River. The razing of the island airport, source of so much grief to the island residents (and others along the waterfront), is the one beacon of hope in the proposal.

Now this week, the most recent insult. Something called “Wakestock,” a four-day festival of surf-board-towing powerboats, pop music, and alcohol and drug consumption, has been foisted on the island community by the Toronto parks administration. Politicians, from the mayor down to the city councillor responsible for the ward, claim to have been blind-sided. The 40,000 fans of the festival, who trashed the small town of Wasaga Beach at last year’s Wakefest and led the mayor to banish it, will be descending on the Toronto islands this summer instead. And the island residents are being being called the worst of insults, NIMBYs, for their frustrated cries about this gift to them from the unelected bureaucrats in the parks department.

The interesting thing about the island residential community is that while everyone acts as if they resent and envy it, no one makes the obvious leap to say “Why not build more of it?”

While there is a 500-name waiting list of families who pay a yearly fee to be considered, should the opportunity arise, to buy one of the 362 coveted homes on the island, no developer considers contacting the names on that list. I mean, where is the developer with the vision to contact those 500 families and ask if among them might be people who would like to live in a similar community to be built elsewhere? That this developer fails to materialize despite the fact that the list is “capped” (a yearly lottery is held for the chance to take one of the spaces on it that opens up when people lose hope and drop out) seems utterly without logic. Doesn’t this situation cry out about a pent-up demand for a similar community to the Toronto islands?

And of what would this “similar community” comprise?

The model is simple, really. First, there is the grid pattern. There are two types. One, the Ward’s island model, is a grid of approximately 40’ x 50’ lots, laid out in long rectangular blocks of some 20 houses per street. House size is limited to 1200 square feet, often quite a bit smaller. The other, the Algonquin island type, has 50’ x 100’ lots, with a similar block pattern, and proportionately larger houses (up to 2400 square feet). Houses are free-standing, usually frame in structure, one or two storeys in height, occasionally with belvederes or widow’s walks at roof level.

But the key element is not the architecture or the grid pattern, but the narrowness of the “streets” and the fact that they are entirely without cars. In fact, there is no reason considerably larger houses, in the realm of 4-5,000 square feet, could not be built (given large enough lots). There is no reason there couldn’t be apartment buildings, shops and offices.

Here we have evidence of a perfectly viable carfree community right under our noses, and nobody makes a move to try and duplicate it.

Several years ago, the Toronto Society of Architects held a juried public design competition to develop the theme of something called the Fung Report. This report analyzed the entire waterfront of Toronto for opportunities and projects. The competition generated its share of schemes to replace the Gardiner expressway, to develop a naturalized mouth of the Don River, and to place “gateways” and markers at significant points along the waterfront. The competition awarded some prizes and some honorable mentions, and melted away into the night.

I entered this competition too, and while my project won no awards, it did garner specific mention by the chief juror, architect Rodolphe el-Khoury. And John Barber, the Globe and Mail newspaper columnist, picked up the idea of my scheme and broadcasted it in his column as a “why not.”

What I did was to look at the Fung Report for what it was pretending not to see. For while it proposed an “emerald necklace” of greenspaces and new civic programmes to ring the harbour, it ignored the lump of coal that is the Toronto island airport. On all the maps of the site, there it was, glaring at any who looked at it, an untouchable blight.

I merely asked the obvious question: what will happen when the government carries through on its promise to build a rapid transit link to Pearson Airport, and the island airport dries up and goes bankrupt? What should happen to the acres and acres of superhardened concrete runways, and to the flat hinterland of seagull-fertilized grass that lies between? What about that waiting list for carfree housing? Why not redevelop the airport along the model of Ward’s and Algonquin?

I took the proposal one step further, including in my drawings new “main streets” of four- to six-storey buildings, with retail at grade and apartments above, lining the former runways. These new avenues, in my proposal, have trolley-buses or trams that serve as the only motorized transportation permitted. These trolley lines would extend to the Ward’s and Algonquin communities, bringing them the opportunity to use the existing ferry at the Western Gap, especially in winter when crossing the Harbour can be slow, treacherous and sometimes impossible because of ice.

Today, we have a different situation than at the time of my proposal. For starters, Bay street is having the notion of “Peak Oil” shoved down its throat. As today’s news tells us, General Motors and Ford have been demoted to “junk bond” status in the U.S. (not least because of the falling demand for the gas-slurping “portable furnaces” the two companies promote so heavily).

For another thing, the airport has been kicked in the head by the city, the province, and the federal government. The only support it has is from a gang in towns like Ajax and Newmarket, far from downtown Toronto, who write letters to the editor every now and then that refer to the islanders as “squatters” and elitists who should be thanking their lucky stars for the airplanes that circle their homes and belch pollutants into their backyards. With the 2015 World’s Fair proposal comes a new smackdown to the airport.

Meanwhile, the province is making moves to limit sprawl-type development in the farm fields at Toronto’s margins. People are moving into the downtown in droves. And that 500-name waiting list for the islands has not shrunken any.

The time is riper than ever to consider an alternative future for the island airport site. Should it be an extension of the existing park, as many call for? Should it be an extension of Harbourfront, with condo towers and underground parking lots, wide windy streets and cars everywhere? Or is there something between these two extremes, as I propose: the superhardend concrete runways remaining as palimpsests for new main streets, small houses on small lots in the hinterland, with the possibility of larger houses and larger lots at critical locations, and the whole thing accomplished without cars?

Remember, before you answer, that old Toronto island community rallying cry: “Parks and People Belong Together!”