Toronto man creates "Social Distance Machine" to show sidewalks are too narrow

Apr 13 2020, 12:39 pm

Toronto has ramped up physical distancing measures to ensure residents maintain two metres apart in public squares and green spaces, but keeping that required distance can be particularly challenging on sidewalks.

And a Toronto resident proved the case with an innovative experiment.

Daniel Rotsztain, a Toronto-based artist, writer, and cartographer made a video showing him walking through the city’s downtown streets while wearing what he calls a Social Distance Machine, which ensures he stays at least two metres from others.

In the video, Rotsztain can be seen walking down Yonge Street and through densely populated Kensington Market, unable to walk on the sidewalks with the contraption.

He can only be seen to comfortably walk the recommended two metres on the road.

The experiment led to Rotsztain calling on the City of Toronto and Mayor John Tory to close major streets, like Yonge Street, to cars, in order for residents to have a safe distance from others when walking.

“Toronto needs more space for pedestrians to stay safe,” text in the video reads. “The City needs to close streets like Yonge to cars so we can keep our 2 m distance.”

“Made a Social Distance Machine to show why @cityoftoronto needs to close major streets like Yonge during COVID-19. Our sidewalks are too narrow to keep a safe distance,” he wrote on Twitter.

While the video shows Rotsztain’s comedic journey through the city with the machine, it importantly demonstrates that Toronto’s infrastructure does not allow for proper physical distancing.

But he isn’t the only Toronto resident to voice concern.

City council Kristyn Wong-Tam commented on the video, saying that keeping two metres apart in downtown Toronto is not possible.

“Keeping a minimum distance of two-metres on narrow sidewalks is impossible as shown here and why people #TakeTheStreet,” a post read on her social media. 

On March 22, Canadian urban planner Jennifer Keesmaat also demonstrated how Yonge Street is not viable for proper physical distancing.

“Thirty thousand people live in 0.7 sq km along Yonge Street,” the former mayoral candidate wrote on Twitter. “Five [years] ago we identified an unsafe inefficiency: the majority move on a narrow crowded sidewalk, with most public space reserved for cars. For #PhysicalDistancing, we must close the street to cars, allowing people to walk safely.” 

Daily Hive has reached out to the City of Toronto for comment.