A slice of Google pie

We went downtown on the bus, to remind ourselves that the future is far, far away, down bumpy roads. It’s open season on cyclists in Toronto, or we might have ridden our bikes.

Google’s Sidewalk Labs announced a $50,000,000 pilot project in downtown Toronto, to explore and experiment with ideas for building neighbourhoods “from the internet up”. You know … smart stuff, innovative stuff.

Today was the first of a series of public displays in the triangular intersection bounded by Lakeshore Boulevard Parliament Street and Small Street … at the eastern end of Queen’s Quay.

Understandably keen to avoid being taken for an Ugly American invader, Sidewalk CEO Dan Doctoroff entertained us with an opening statement that the company’s approach was “remarkably humble”. Not just humble, remarkably humble. He meant that the public could have a say, and nothing is set in concrete, so to speak.

If my tone sounds skeptical, I’m just having a bit of fun. In fact, I hope some good ideas about humane urban development do come out of the project. The small team of innovators seems motivated, energetic and enthusiastic. The attending public was generally young, interested and involved.


Most creative idea: The turned S, that turns invisible.

11 thoughts on “A slice of Google pie

  1. A small but telling detail reveals Sidewalk Lab’s relationship with the public. The “tickets” issued for the event were fake.

    When we presented ours, the door person said they were unnecessary, that they just just a way of counting heads and collecting data. OK, you fooled me. Now I don’t trust you.

    They sent an email asking me to turn in my “tickets” if I wasn’t going to use them, because 300 people were on the waiting list. No, they weren’t.

  2. Because a bunch of cyclists collided with cars does not increase the chances of that happening to you. In fact, it might even decrease it. By the way, how many of those collisions where the fault of the cyclist. Just wondering. I see them blowing red lights and using their phones all the time.

    • Oh, we’ll continue to ride our bikes … but as much as possible on dedicated cycle paths. It doesn’t matter who is at fault. Pedestrians, cyclists and drivers are all becoming worse every year in Toronto, but the squishiest ones are always the losers.

  3. I know i’m way out of the city, yet problems occurred years ago using trails around Elkford, BC.
    They gave me a governor general award for getting people to communicate their needs to sort things out. A park got made, and David Suzuki hand wrote a note to me.
    Humour, patience and story telling seemed to be the key.

  4. I’m sympathetic to Joni’s premise of better communication. But rhetoric like ‘open season’ is not doing anybody any good. This issue can only be addressed if we don’t demonize the other side. The hard truth is that Toronto, the second largest city in North America (by area) has a virtually useless mass transit system. That’s not going to change in our lifetimes. Traffic is not going away anytime soon. I suggest a combination of education and legislation.

    There is phrase that racing drivers use: There are no accidents, only crashes (collisions).

    Drivers: A mandatory classroom course in the rights of, and laws that pertain to, cyclists before driving licenses can be renewed every five years.

    Cyclists: License the bikes (not the riders). Owners take similar course as above pre licensing. Have real consequences for cyclists who flout the highway traffic act or have no licenses plates.

    Pedestrians: Make it illegal to be holding a cell phone while crossing a street. Bring back Elmer the Safety Elephant and teach people how to cross the road. The number pf pedestrians who step off the curb without looking left is frightening.

    Everybody take some responsibility. Assume nothing except that all drivers, cyclists and pedestrians might be drunk. Act accordingly.

    BTW, The Toronto Star says four cyclists have been killed so far this year. That’s only 8 a year. We have thee million people. Pretty good odds. Pay attention to what you are doing and increase those dramatically.

    Congratulations to Joni for her award.

    • In fairness to Joni, it was me who used the “open season” phrase … in semi-jest and to slip in an aside alluding to the recent spate of bicycle fatalities.

  5. I know who used it. Sounded a little predatory to me. I still think four is not an outrageous number. Doesn’t rise to the level of spate. But that’s just me…

    Speaking of predatory, Abby is having a good week with two mice, one bird and a chippy so far. And that’s just what I know of. No cyclists yet…

  6. Sorry for the late comment Bill, but I only read on Saturdays.

    I say toll EVERYTHING. 427, 401, Gardiner, QEW and ditch the H.O.V. lanes (which are really L.O.V. lanes anyways). In to the core, or out, will cost you more! Money is the only thing that changes driving behaviour in my opinion. Kind of like speeding and I admittedly do it, but only at a rate I can afford. Jokes aside, a person pondering a frivolous trip to the mall (in the middle of the day) to check out the rare purple sea-monkey that was re-tweeted and went viral (or however that all works) may think twice if the cost of the drive is 4 times the price of the non-existent pet.

    I agree with Brian also – more testing and a higher frequency of it. A license to operate a motor vehicle is a privilege, not a right. You should have to work at keeping that privilege by proving you are not mentally blind. That fancy card should be a little more than what is shown at the Beer Store.

    As far as Google World Toronto is concerned, I’m all for it! I’d rather those robotic vacuum cleaners all corralled in a defined pedestrian area than driving on city roads any day of the week. Bump and go all you like. I can attest to the fact that vacuum cleaners are truly awful drivers and I’m confident the cyclists would agree. And for Brian, wholeheartedly vice versa.

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