Fighting sidewalks in Cliffside

Residents on a two-block stretch of Midland Avenue are saying ‘no thanks’ to city plans for a sidewalk.

“I’ve lived here for 51 years, and we haven’t had any problems,” said Margaret Goss, who raised three kids on the street and now has grandkids who visit her house, one of the 13 affected homes at Midland’s south end.

“I really don’t want to start cleaning sidewalks at 85 years old,” she added, laughing.

Goss and all her neighbours have petitioned the city to drop plans for a west-side sidewalk between Fishleigh and Romana Drives, something staff planned to install after putting in new water mains along Midland south of Kingston Road.

Midland Avenue is classed by the city as a “collector” road, meaning a connecting road that typically sees 2,500 to 8,000 vehicles per day. City policy calls for all such roads to get sidewalks.

But residents say the south end of Midland gets nowhere near that much traffic.

While dog walkers, tennis players and parents with kids do walk one block east to visit Scarborough Bluffs Park, Goss said, pedestrian safety has never been an issue.

Dana McCabe agrees.

“During the week, it’s like a dead zone,” said McCabe, a 26-year Midland Avenue resident who led the petition.

“No one comes down here.”

McCabe will make her case at an Oct. 7 meeting of the city’s public works committee. She and other residents want the foot of Midland reclassified as a low-traffic “local” road.

Local city councillor Gary Crawford supports the move, but he is also asking staff to fast-track plans for a sidewalk north of Romana Drive, toward Kingston Road, where the road has a steep slope and blind turn.

“I fully support the construction of sidewalks – I just want to see them built where it makes sense,” said Crawford, adding that under the current schedule, the section won’t get a sidewalk before 2019.

Responding to the residents’ petition, Fiona Chapman, the city’s manager of pedestrian projects, wrote a report listing several reasons why staff continue to recommend the west-side sidewalk.

Besides promoting pedestrian safety in general, Chapman said that since 2013, city policy has called for at least one sidewalk even on “local” roads.

Chapman also noted that Midland Avenue is part of the Waterfront Trail, has a seniors’ residence and housing co-ops, and that the efficiency of installing the sidewalk now, after the water main, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

As for the stretch north of Romana, Chapman said staff hope to fast-track plans for a new sidewalk there so that two years from now, Midland has a continuous sidewalk from Kingston Road to the end of the street at Fishleigh.

Across Birch Cliff, Cliffside and Cliffcrest, many residential streets near the Bluffs were built without any sidewalks. It took eight years of study and debate, but last year Chine Drive got its first sidewalk, built on the existing roadway, to serve students of Chine Drive Public School.

More new sidewalks were built near Cliffside Public School after a five-year-old girl was killed and two other children injured by a garbage truck in 2013.

Councillor Crawford said he will continue to push for sidewalks in areas where safety is a concern. Besides the sloping part of Midland, he said another big priority is to build a safer path for the many beach goers who have to scramble along the shoulder of Brimley Road to get to Bluffers Park.

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