TAKING IT TO THE STREETS

In Arts & Life /

By Cliff Lee

I hate this place. What’s there to like? There’s nothing likable about the lack of green space or the crowded sidewalks. I also don’t enjoy cars nearly running me over every time I make a move for class.

This concrete jungle we call Ryerson University is hardly a campus at all and this drives me straight home to Kensington Market after class. But there’s still hope for Ryerson to become a more inviting hangout.

See that orange and black sign in the middle of the road by the book store? It declares ‘Road Closed’ as construction sites dot our campus, but I say close them permanently. Ryerson should reclaim the streets – my neighbourhood did.

For seven consecutive weeks this summer, ‘Road Closed’ signs adorned the streets of Kensington Market for Pedestrian Sundays. Cars were kicked out and people took to the asphalt for a refreshing block party.

The 30-piece samba band attracted as big a crowd as the ragtag punk rockers around the corner. Couples tango danced on the cracks of the road. And at the edge of the Market, a life-sized chess game occupied the minds of players and onlookers.

I listened to a jazz musician playing piano by the curb. We could do anything-the streets were ours. The only catch to Pedestrian Sundays is that it was – as the name implies – only on Sundays. Kensington Market’s collection of fruit stands, vintage clothing shops and residents is one of its main attractions.

But this very diversity makes it near impossible to close Market streets permanently – there are just too many points of view. Ryerson has it easier than Kensington Market when it comes to a permanent pedestrian solution.

We don’t have businesses and residents to appease, only a student community that is searching for more space.

We’ve seen how great our campus can be with Gould Street closed. It hasn’t happened this year because of construction of the Student Campus Centre. But in previous years, there were daylong Week of Welcome parties on Ryerson’s main drag.

The Oakham House patio stretched halfway to the opposite sidewalk so students could enjoy a beer under the September sun. Tables lined the curbside where campus groups promoted themselves and DJs spun tunes.

All the while, feet, not tires, roamed the road. The roar of car engines and the fog of exhaust create a divide between sidewalks. Closing off pedestrian-heavy streets can bridge that divide and connect our campus.

Be it in Kensington or in front of Oakham House, reclaiming the streets creates a sense of community – something Ryerson could use more of. A proposal was submitted to City Hall earlier this year to have our little corner of campus cordoned off.

Unfortunately, City Councillor Kyle Rae says it won’t even be considered until construction in the area ends in late 2005.

In the meantime, I’m going home.

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