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Public consultation on sidewalk cafes draws unprecedented enthusiasm

The preliminary results of the latest public consultation on the subject of sidewalk cafes makes it look as though we in Toronto may be on the verge of fully accepting our urbanity.

“We’ve heard from pretty much everybody that patios make streets vibrant and are an important part of our culture,” says Chris Ronson, the City of Toronto’s project manager in charge of outdoor cafe design guidelines.

In addition, the City of Toronto heard that people want them to reduce what they see as “over-regulation” of patio operators, and create more flexibility for them. “We’ve been suggesting that more cafe types are a good idea, that they can be closer to the curbside, or on a curb lane, occupying parking spots on the road. We’ve had really positive response to that.”

There have been some complaints, mostly about certain patios leaving too little sidewalk room for crowds, or people with various mobility problems, to get comfortably past. Ronson pointed out examples on the Danforth that leave as little as 1.1 metres between patio and road, when even residential sidewalks average between 1.5 and 1.7 metres in width. The city standard for commercial strips is 2.1 metres, which is roughly the amount of space required for two wheelchairs to pass each other.

The consultation, a joint project between the transportation department, which occupies itself with design, and Municipal Licensing and Standards, which handles behavioural guidelines, is also floating the idea of extending the closing time for patios.

Looks like Toronto's growing into the big city it's become, after all. 

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Chris Ronson
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