Meet Toronto's New, Pedestrian-Loving City Planner

It could have been pretty bad news for Toronto: our city planner, Gary Wright, retired right in the middle of the Ford administration. Plenty of people were worried that we'd end up with a bicycle- and pedestrian-hating car lover as a replacement. Some of the most promising candidates were quickly scared off by our current disaster of a Mayor. One took the same job, but in Calgary, telling The Atlantic, "It's always best to be in a room where the smartest guy in the room is the leader.... I couldn't see that happening down in Toronto." Another admitted Ford's views were a consideration for him, too: "a city planner has to ask themselves, can they function properly in a city if they have a fundamentally different perspective on cities than the city mayor?"

But now that the replacement has been announced, it looks like maybe it's not going to be so bad after all. Toronto's new chief planner is Jennifer Keesmaat. She lives here, studied at Western and York — where she says she learned about "the political processes that shape our urban environments" — and has done all sorts of impressive-sounding urban planning type stuff since then.

Best of all, it seems she's not exactly anti-pedestrian. In fact, she gave a TEDx talk on the subject just a couple of months ago, arguing in favour of a return to having kids walk to school more often. In it, she says some pretty awesome things. Like, "Walking to school is a simple, hopeful, powerful act." And, "In one generation we've completely shifted from being a society where children walk to school to being a society where children are driven to school. We shifted it in one generation — and guess what: we can, in fact, shift it back." 

Here's her full presentation:


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