From the middle of August to mid-September, two car lanes out of four are closed on Yonge Street from Queen to Gerrard for the new Celebrate Yonge festival. Instead, there are a slew of spaces and activities oriented to pedestrians. I dropped by the festival last weekend.
There was outdoor seating and picnic tables. Restaurants along Yonge were able to use the extra car lane space as patios.
Fancy a game of chess outside Zanzibar? Ha ha, I do love oversized chess pieces.
There was also a planter competition. The planters were partly used as barriers from the street.
Marvelous Parks Canada area.
I love the concept of public space in the downtown core. It was awesome just standing on the road, knowing that cars usually belonged there. I am not sure if this festival is intended to be a test for closing lanes on Yonge St. regularly or even on a permanent basis. If so, I have some notes or hopes for the future.
Firstly, it wasn’t entirely pleasant to sit so close to the cars. Yonge St. is a main road and full of concrete. Initially, I didn’t understand why they would close off Yonge St. in the first place. Then, I realized that for such a major thoroughfare in Toronto, it was good to have wider spaces for pedestrians as well. I think the key in the future will be vegetation to buffer the cars. Already, the planters helped. A change in paving would be helpful as well to demarcate the pedestrian and car areas.
Second, I wasn’t too comfortable sitting in those Muskoka chairs. I might have been sitting them incorrectly (not exactly a cottage girl) or maybe I am too short for them. I felt like I was falling out of the chair especially since the car lanes curve downwards into the gutter.
My other problem with the event was determining public spaces versus private space in terms of restaurant patios. I though it was great that restaurants could have patios with people who added to the street scene. But part of me was not so keen on the fact that people would have to pay to have access to the patios by eating at the restaurant. On the other hand, there were some stretches of the closed car lanes where there really wasn’t much to see, whereas you could really see life on the patios. I think overall there was a balance between “private” and “public” space during the festival, but it was frustrating walking down a whole block of more private areas.
Finally, I am interested in traffic studies that should be coming out to see how the festival impacted car travel times.
On the topic of festivals, I revisited Buskerfest after walking down Yonge. Mad hops from the Chicago Ultimate Tumblers!