Wed. Jan 26th, 2022

An absurdist urban spectacle occurs weekly on my street in Toronto.

It is the visit from a landscaping company on contract to a nearby apartment building. I know they have arrived with the loud wailing of their leaf blower. Usually two of them, supervised by the boss who barks orders and instructs his employees in the right technique, kicks a dust storm up in the process and often blows leaves into adjacent properties.

The technique is the absurd part. They blow leaves and other debris off the apartment building’s patio and sidewalk and into the middle of the street, as if they expect city workers to come and collect the leaves they have left for them.

However, the city rarely comes as this is Toronto, a city with low taxes and low service. My residential street, like many in Toronto, only sees the very occasional street sweeper, so the leaves either blow back on the apartment property, on other properties or get crushed down to some sort of composted pulp that becomes like another layer of asphalt. Some of that layer from last fall is still there.

It’s like digging a hole just to fill it again. Absurd.

If only they sucked instead of just blowing: to gather the leaves rather than pushing them around. Or even better, use a rake and put the waste in a compost bag. These are radical proposals, I know.

Despite the fact that the city regularly makes announcements about reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it is ridiculous how extremely dirty and inefficient the two-stroke leaf blower engines are. These could and should be banned solely for climatic reasons. There are also many advocates who say that it is better to leave leaves on the lawn, or to mow and spread them, than to remove them.

While electric leaf blowers pollute less, they are still loud and cluttered, blowing particles of all kinds into the air. Fines should also be imposed for blowing leaves on the street rather than collecting them in bags. As it is now, one person’s problem becomes everyone’s problem. Many of these leaves end up reaching the catch basins where they gather and block the water from running from the streets. If you think none of this is your problem, wait until your basement is flooded.

Bless all the catch basin that kicks the leaves off the grates with their shoes, or use a stick or rake to make the water run when they see that it is clogged. In many ways, the city of Toronto is dependent on this kind of do-it-yourself work because if civilians did not do this, we would have more problems with flooding throughout the city.

I remember walking around Paris and seeing the army of cleaners appearing on every street, every day, sweeping and tearing up rubbish, garbage, leaves, dog scares and everything else up from the busy sidewalks and their gutters. Sometimes they even had running water to flush down the sidewalks if they were particularly dirty.

Paris is beautiful Paris is not without considerable effort. Toronto is Toronto with much less effort. It was one of those moments where I felt far, far away from home: In Toronto, the maintenance of the public space has been cut down over the years, an easy cost saving that doesn’t matter until, of course, it builds up and matters. .

Toronto, however, is a city with low service, only for some. In parts of Etobicoke and Scarborough, or a wealthy enclave like Baby Point, the city budgets nearly $ 2 million each November for mechanical leaf collection, so homeowners (or their hired landscape gardeners) can just push their leaves to the curb where they will be picked up, instead of putting them in bags that they buy themselves and putting them out at the agreed pick-up times that the rest of the city does.

If you see a clogged drain, take a stick and clean it out. You do not get paid, but it is satisfying to see the water flow and you may have spared your neighbors some trouble.

As the snow begins to fly, the do-it-yourself civilian workers help us all by returning to the fishing basins and clearing snow and ice out during a meltdown so the water has a place to go.

But that is not how it should be, and relying on the goodwill of citizens is inconsistent.

After a two-year pilot project, this winter will be the first time that snow is cleared from all sidewalks in the city center, just as sidewalks in more suburban parts of the city have always been cleared. It required incredible political pressure from citizens and some city council members to achieve this, and now the sidewalks should theoretically be just as clear across the city.

Let’s see how it goes, but keep an eye out for these traps, even after the leaves stop falling because it’s DIY season in town.

We get what we vote for in this city, but perhaps we do not deserve the civilians who take action.

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