By Nicole Siena
Walking to class down Gould Street used to be a task all on its own, between swerving through slow walkers on the sidewalk, trying to dodge moving vehicles, and waiting at cross walks.
But as of Aug. 23, things got a little easier at Ryerson. After more than a decade of pressure from the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) and Toronto city counsellors, Gould Street is finally closed.
From now on, cars are only permitted north on Bond Street and east on Gould Street.
“The street has become one way,” said RSU president Toby Whitfield. “For the rest of the year we are going to push to demonstrate how much potential the street has, and in fact, we’re going to push to have the closure all the way down to Church Street.”
A day after the street was closed furniture was placed on the road including traffic-blocking planters, tables, chairs and appropriately coloured blue and gold umbrellas.
According to Elyse Parker, director of Public Realm Section for Toronto’s Transportation Services, “before [the furniture] was even properly placed, people were using them. It was an instant success.”
The closure is part of a pilot project that will last until Sept. 30, 2011. After the year is over, a decision will be made concerning the future of the street.
Linda Grayson, Vice-President Administation and Finance, anticipates the closure will be very successful.
Gould Street closing is a part of a collection of 52 actions to implement a 2009 Toronto walking strategy, designed to promote and support pedestrians.
“We decided we would highlight six actions that we would treat as priorities, two of which were Ryerson’s closing of Gould Street, the other was the University of Toronto’s Wilcocks Street,” said Parker.
“It’s important that you have a lot of pedestrian use,” said Parker.
“You have to look for places that are extremely active — ones with a lot of people. It’s happening in two of the biggest universities in Toronto, where learning thrives and where everyone is thinking about new ideas.”
The total cost of materials on both locations is less than $100,000, paid by the City of Toronto.
Ryerson is paying for the plants that fill the urns, as well as the upkeep.
During the first week of school, the space is going to be used almost every day.
Events include a Gould Street party, a beer garden, a shisha lounge and live entertainment.
“People know that the street closing will have a huge impact on our community, and people are looking forward to hosting events and having activities on the street,” Whitfield said.
There are other big plans for the space, but, “you’re going to have to wait,” said Grayson.
“There are some things that will just have to be a secret.”