I Am a Pedestrian: Part 5
Walking around a city
I Am a Pedestrian is the result of a 159-kilometre walk around Toronto. The book consists of 159 observations gleaned from a 42-hour adventure at the perimeter. I Am a Pedestrian is a record of underexplored places, stories of people encountered and lost histories rediscovered at Toronto’s current city limits.
Before the onset of the novel coronavirus, I promoted I Am a Pedestrian in public libraries and other venues with a talk titled, The Time Travelling Pedestrian. With the aid of historical photographs, maps, and group discussion, the presentation revealed how Toronto has grown from a lonely French outpost in 1750 to today's bustling metropolis.
In addition to walking current city limits established in 1998, I mapped out and walked the 1750, 1793, 1834 and 1954 limits. Below is an excerpt from the book.
City Limits 1954: What’s the Story?
I am a habitual trespasser.
Following the annexation of several surrounding communities, Toronto’s geography grows substantially. The provincial government passes the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto Act. Metropolitan Toronto is born.
The population reaches one million. A subway line opens. The tallest building is thirty-four storeys. Families migrate to the suburbs.
Seeking fellow walkers, I placed an ad in Star Classifieds. No takers. A personal invitation to the mayor, declined. Walk begins early, beside the lake at R.C. Harris Filtration Plant on Victoria Park. The limits stair-step north and west then south through residential, retail and industrial zones.
The line of limit bisects private property, requiring me to:
• Scale fences
• Wander through buildings
• Traipse through garages
• Trespass into construction sites
• Cross a cemetery
• Get chased from a golf course
As a result I am:
• Bitten twice by dogs
• Tripped up on a flight of stairs
• Struck (bumped, actually) by a minivan
• Scolded for meandering into a marching band procession
• Misted with liquefied offal outside a slaughterhouse
An inexplicable discovery: The 1954 limits almost exactly bisect the current geographic centre of the city, at Wanless Crescent in north Toronto.
A favourite discovery: A monument at Hoggs Hollow recognizing the contribution over the centuries of surveyors responsible for mapping Ontario on foot.
For a while I walk alongside a burly redheaded parking enforcement officer. Officer Jenison estimated he walks eight to ten thousand steps a shift. He knows because his wife bought him a pedometer. Officer Jenison pauses to ticket an illegally parked delivery van. I keep going.
Walking 1954 limits takes sixteen gruelling hours.
I Am a Pedestrian is available through this website.
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