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Police released this security camera image of a man wanted in connection with the theft of a poppy donation box on Rememberance Day 107. TORONTO POLICE

Police searching for alleged poppy box thief

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Nov 14th, 2017

Toronto police have released security camera images of a man wanted in connection with the theft of a poppy donation box in North York.

Police say the theft occurred at a retail establishment in the Keele Street and Sheppard Avenue West area on Rememberance Day, Nov. 11 at around 7:30 a.m.

A man entered the store, took a poppy donation box from the counter and fled on foot. He was last seen heading northwest.

Police are asking anyone with information to contact them or Crime Stoppers.

Arrivederci Italy: Azzurri lose World Cup playoff to Sweden

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Nov 14th, 2017

Italy's Ciro Immobile, foreground, and Italy's Andrea Belotti, seated left, react to their team's elimination in the World Cup qualifying play-off second leg soccer match between Italy and Sweden, at the Milan San Siro stadium, Italy, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Players from both teams slumped to the ground. The Swedes in exhausted ecstasy, the Italians in losers’ agony.

On a starry night in Milan, four-time champion Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in six decades. Sweden advanced for the first time since 2006.

Despite three quarters of possession, Italy was stymied by a goalless draw in the second leg of their playoff on Monday and Sweden prevailed 1-0 on aggregate.

“It’s a black moment for our game,” Italy midfielder Daniele De Rossi said. “Unfortunately there will be a lot of time to analyze it. The only thing I can say is that we showed few ideas and not much in the way of tactics.”

The Sweden players ran over to celebrate with the travelling fans, a sea of joyful yellow at San Siro. The Italians looked on in shock and disbelief or put their head in their hands as though it were too painful to watch.

Many of them were in tears, especially captain and goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, who played his last international after 20 years between the posts for the Azzurri.

“We all need to look within and find a way to bounce back,” defender Giorgio Chiellini said. “We need to get back to the level we deserve to be at.”

This will be only the second World Cup missed by Italy. The first was in 1958. The last major competitions Italy failed to qualify for were the 1984 and 1992 European Championships.

It could have been worse for Italy, as Sweden was denied what looked like two clear-cut penalties for handballs, first by Matteo Darmian and then Andrea Barzagli.

Italy had a penalty appeal of its own waved off by referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz when Marco Parolo was tripped from behind by Ludwig Augsustinsson.

But the Azzurri struggled to carve out clear chances against a solid Sweden side, and of their six shots on target, only one really tested goalkeeper Robin Olsen.

It would be easy to lay the blame squarely on Gian Piero Ventura. The Italy coach will naturally take the lion’s share but the Azzurri’s problems run much deeper.

“I want to apologize to the Italian people for the result,” Ventura said. “Not for the commitment, and the desire and everything else but for the result.”

The rot started long before Ventura took charge.

After winning the World Cup in 2006 for a fourth time, Italy went out at the group stage of the next two editions. It fared somewhat better at the European Championship, reaching the final in 2012 and going out in the quarterfinals in 2008 and 2016.

However, Antonio Conte’s Italy side overachieved in France last year, when it surprisingly beat Spain in the round of 16 before losing on penalties to world champion Germany.

For a long time, Italy has lacked a creative force, successors to Andrea Pirlo and Francesco Totti of the 2006 side who could change a match with one moment of magic.

Mario Balotelli was the star of Euro 2012 but fell out of favour after Italy’s woeful showing at the last World Cup.

The lack of stars in the Italy team is reflected in the Italian league.

Juventus has been a force to be reckoned with in recent years in Europe, where it has reached two out of the past three Champions League finals. But while its defence forms the backbone of the Italy team, its midfield and attack are made up mainly of foreign players.

The Brazilian-born Jorginho was finally handed his competitive debut by Ventura, and the midfielder impressed with some deft passing. Jorginho created Italy’s best opportunities with two throughballs for Ciro Immobile, who hit the netting from a tight angle from one. Immobile beat Olsen with another but Andreas Granqvist got back for a decisive goal-line clearance.

Alessandro Florenzi was also back following a year out after twice tearing a knee ligament, and the midfielder forced Olsen into his only real save, while a cross of his was also deflected onto the crossbar in the second half.

Meanwhile, the highly rated Lorenzo Insigne surprisingly played only 15 minutes of the playoff, and out of position.

Those three players are 26 or under and, along with forwards Immobile and Andrea Belotti, could form the spine of a rejuvenated Italy side for several years to come.

Italy will have to go forward without several of its most experienced players. De Rossi also announced he was retiring after the playoff, as did defender Andrea Barzagli.

Remarkably, the 0-0 result was the sixth straight in the playoffs, since Sweden’s ultimately decisive goal at home against Italy on Friday.

Drivers adjust to changes on King Street, congestion concerns raised

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Nov 14th, 2017


Drivers continue to adjust to the changes, a day after a year-long pilot project that prioritizes streetcars on King Street went into effect.

All traffic on King Street between Jarvis and Bathurst streets is only allowed to travel a single block before being forced to turn right – no left turns and no through traffic is allowed. City-licensed taxis are exempt, but only between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. As for cyclists, there’s space for them in the curb lane, but there are no plans for a dedicated bike lane along King Street.

See a map of how the pilot project works

The TTC said more than 65,000 people use the King streetcar during the week, but the rocket slows down to a crawl due to traffic congestion. Some might even say it’s faster to get off and walk. The pilot project aims to keep that stretch of road virtually car-free, allowing streetcars to move unhindered.

On Monday, which was the first weekday commute since the project launched on Sunday, several drivers continued to drive through King, unaware of the changes.

Some TTC riders were also confused, as streetcar stops have been moved between Bathurst and Jarvis.

To ensure that people are aware of the new rules, Toronto police were out educating drivers on Sunday and making them aware of the changes.

CityNews spoke to both drivers and streetcar riders on King Street and opinions are clearly divided.

One driver said the new rules are an inconvenience to drivers who frequent the area.

“It will probably make it a little more difficult for people like us that drive on this street all the time, so that’s not the most convenient thing,” she said.

On the other hand, those who use the streetcars are a little more enthused about the changes and what they could mean for their weekly commute.

Streetcar rider Chris Drew said he’s excited the city is taking steps to address the frustrating gridlock on the street.

“We have to try something right? The current situation is failing so let’s try something and see how this works, and it’s all about moving a lot of people,” he said.

However while it may get streetcars moving, the ripple effect of diverting traffic away from King Street cannot be ignored. All those vehicles have to go somewhere, raising concerns that neighbouring streets will see increased traffic, causing backups and delays.

Small business owner Elena Lepori doesn’t see the logic behind the new rules and said they’ll cause serious problems for those who live and work on King Street.

“It would make me do a lot of detours. I don’t think that’s very practical. De-congesting a street by congesting another one…I don’t understand,” she said.

However, Const. Clint Stibbe said police will be keeping a close eye on the situation in the area and analyzing the changes in traffic patterns.

“We will be monitoring the changes in the environment in the sense that individuals that are now backing up side streets … or whatever the case may be. The officers are going to make adjustments depending on what they’re seeing, and they’re going to advise us on anything they’ve identified that may be an ongoing problem,” he said.

Police expect that it will take some time for drivers to get used to the changes and are allowing for a week-long grace period before cracking down on violators.

During the first week of implementation, drivers will not be penalized, but instead they’ll be given warnings and provided with pamphlets explaining the new rules.

Thereafter, rule breakers could face a $110 fine and two demerit points, based on the officer’s discretion.


Striking Ontario college faculty set to vote on contract offer

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Nov 14th, 2017

Students gather outside the Ontario Legislature in Toronto on Wednesday November 1, 2017, as they protest against the ongoing strike by Ontario college faculty members. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Voting begins Tuesday and runs through Thursday for faculty members at Ontario’s colleges who must decide whether to accept the latest contract offer or continue a strike that’s now into its fifth week.

Some 12,000 college professors, instructors, counsellors and librarians have been off the job since Oct. 15, leaving about half a million students out of class.

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union – which represents the striking faculty – says the offer contains serious concessions that were not agreed to.

The council representing the 24 colleges says if the contract offer is accepted, students could be back in the classroom as early as next Tuesday.

Talks between the College Employer Council and the union broke down last week, with the council asking the Ontario Labour Relations Board to schedule a vote on its offer.

Rejected TTC passenger blocks path of bus that was too crowded to board

CityNews | posted Monday, Nov 13th, 2017


After waiting for the bus for up to 30 minutes in the cold, and then being told it was too crowded to board, one Toronto woman took her impromptu protest straight to the street on Friday night.

A video, shot by a TTC commuter who was on an affected bus, shows the woman walking north on Lansdowne Avenue in the right-hand lane. Behind her, according to the video description, are two buses, each crowded with about 100 passengers.

The lead bus slowly follows the woman. Whenever it tries to move to the left-hand lane to pass her, she moves to the middle of the road, blocking the bus’s path.

In the video, the bus driver can be heard on the phone with the TTC, describing the situation.

“I’ve got a disgruntled customer who is walking down the middle of the road holding up traffic, not letting me pass,” the driver says. “As I try to change lanes, she’s walking in front of me.”

“I’ve got an absolutely packed bus, I had to leave her on the sidewalk because I had no room for her. I’ve got another bus behind me, and we’re just sort of creeping along.”

The bus driver had asked the woman and a handful of other passengers to wait for another bus so that his view of the road wouldn’t be impacted, writes poster Andreas Wesley in the video’s description.

In the background of the video, a number of passengers can be heard complaining about the woman. “What you have to put up with” says one customer.

The woman waves at stopped traffic as she walks up the road, passing other stops where surprised commuters are waiting to board.

The bus makes it two blocks north of Lansdowne Station, to Wallace Avenue. The poster tells CityNews the bus stopped there to swap drivers and then continued without issue. The TTC is investigating.

More to come

Bloor bike lanes heralded but Toronto lags behind other Canadian centres

CityNews | posted Monday, Nov 13th, 2017

Cyclists ride on the designated Bloor Street bike lanes in Toronto on Thursday, October 12, 2017. When a stretch of separated bicycle lanes along a major thoroughfare in Toronto was recently made permanent, cyclists rejoiced and local politicians heralded the move as a major step forward for Canada's most populous city. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

When a stretch of separated bicycle lanes along a major thoroughfare in Toronto was recently made permanent, cyclists rejoiced and local politicians heralded the move as a major step forward for Canada’s most populous city.

But for all the attention garnered by the lanes on a 2.4 kilometre stretch of buzzing Bloor Street West, urban planners and advocates say Toronto still has a piecemeal approach to bike infrastructure that has left it lagging behind urban centres like Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.

Bike lanes, they note, while pitting motorists against cyclists in some quarters, are expanding as the cities they’re built in cater to what appears to be a rising number of residents who want to travel on two wheels.

“What we’re seeing is a revolution, a transformation, in thinking around urban biking,” said Brent Toderian, a former chief planner for Vancouver and the president of the Council of Canadian Urbanism.

“This is about cities being better for everyone: healthier, more sustainable, much more cost effective, and just able to move more people in less space … Urban biking, like transit, is critically important for cities to work better for everyone, including drivers.”

In Toronto, after the advantages and disadvantages of the Bloor project were studied at length, city council voted 36-6 to keep the separated lanes that had been installed under a pilot project last summer.

The city now has approximately 590 kilometres of on-road bike lanes, about 37 kilometres of which are protected from car traffic.

But, despite a decade-long plan approved last year to create a bike-lane network, the majority of lanes are currently disconnected from other stretches, leaving cyclists and motorists contending for space on busy roads.

“Toronto has struggled to put in place, and then keep, individual bike lanes,” Toderian said, describing the city’s pattern on bike lanes as taking two steps forward and one step back. “It can be draining when the battle to get individual bike lanes in is so huge, and we know what we need is a complete network.”

Meanwhile, Montreal — internationally recognized as one of the most cycle-friendly cities in North America — has about 570 kilometres of on-road or roadside bike lanes, of which nearly 90 kilometres are protected or separated from car lanes.

And newly elected Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante has pledged to build a new 140 kilometre “Bicycle Express Network” of protected lanes along seven major streets in the next four years.

Toronto needs to work harder on its protected lanes, said Jared Kolb, executive director of Cycle T.O., which advocated for the Bloor bike lanes. But political divisions in a city that has a dense urban core as well as car-heavy outlying areas have hampered progress on the matter, he contended.

“There’s no question that our political system has held us back from being able to build the kind of network of protected bike lanes that I think people who live downtown … recognize as a priority,” he said.

One city councillor who opposed the Bloor bike lanes said he did so because they took up space on the road, caused delays of two to four minutes per car journey and did not result in as many new cyclists hitting the road as he would have hoped.

“Cycling is a great way to get around the city … It’s just not for everyone all the time,” said Coun. Stephen Holyday, who represents the ward of Etobicoke Centre, just west of the city core. “We have to think about the needs of everybody and how we divide up the road in a fair manner.”

Adding bike lanes to a major street decreases drivers’ options for getting in and out of the city, he said.

“If there are ever incidents on roads, like a closure or an accident, it becomes critical that there are (route) choices, and as we take those away it makes the city less livable for the people I represent.”

Having long stretches of protected bike lanes, however, is important to encourage more cyclists to get on the road and bike more frequently, one advocate said.

“If you can only get halfway there on what you consider to be adequate, convenient, safe infrastructure, you’re not going to take your bike,” said Judi Varga-Toth, executive director of the cyclist advocacy group Canada Bikes, who said it’s essential bike lanes be protected from traffic.

“Painting a line on the road is not equivalent to infrastructure,” she said. “People can drive over that line, they can weave into that (lane), they can park on it … If there is no physical separation you’re still not ensuring a safe ride for people.”

A number of cities do appear to be taking note — Calgary and Edmonton have in the past two years built grids of mostly protected bike lanes in their downtowns.

Calgary built a 6.5 kilometre network of bike lanes along downtown roads as part of a 2015 pilot project and made them permanent last December. Inspired by Calgary’s pilot, Edmonton began installing its own 7.8 kilometre network of protected bike lanes this summer.

“We felt … we’d see maximum benefit by doing a network so people could get in and around downtown (by bike),” said Daniel Vriend, general supervisor of systems planning for the City of Edmonton. “We focused on movable infrastructure, recognizing that … we probably wouldn’t get everything right, but we were going to put it in and tweak it as we go.”

81-year-old woman lone fatality in Ajax fire

CityNews | posted Monday, Nov 13th, 2017

Office of the Fire Marshal on the scene of a fatal fire in Ajax (Stephen Dagg / CityNews)

The Ontario Fire Marshal’s office is investigating a fatal fire in Ajax that claimed the life of an elderly woman.

Fire crews were called to a home on Abraham Court, just west of Rossland and Audley roads around 1:30 a.m. Sunday morning.

Police say the fire started at the rear of the home.

An 81-year-old woman was pronounced dead at the scene.

It’s unclear at this time what may have sparked the fire.

TTC takes steps to better serve commuters dealing with mental health concerns

CityNews | posted Monday, Nov 13th, 2017


While most TTC riders are all too familiar with a frustrating commute, for those dealing with mental health issues, riding the rocket can sometimes mean compounded feelings of anxiety and stress.

The TTC is now taking steps to better serve that group by providing mental health awareness training to some of their staff. To that end, workshops are being held in collaboration with Progress Place, a community based mental health recovery centre.

“We do hear stories from our members that come in and might have had some frustration on the TTC,” says Criss Habal, Executive Director of Progress Place.

“People don’t always understand if someone is asking questions, or trying to figure out where they are, or if they are having anxiety or maybe talking to themselves trying to figure it out,” she says.

Progress Place has helped train more than 120 TTC staff members including special constables, enforcement officers, wheel-trans operators and even customer services representatives who staff their call centre.

“We get calls from people who are highly anxious, struggling with the crowds, or having trouble finding their way,” says Kirsten Walker, a Change Management Consultant with the TTC’s wheel-trans program.

She says the training is especially relevant now that the program eligibility has changed to include riders with cognitive, mental health, and sensory disabilities.

“It’s giving people on the other side of  the phone the tools to be able to calm them down, understand their questions, or concerns and help them the right way,” she says.

The workshops use real life scenarios and offer stories from Progress Place members who share their experiences dealing with distress on the TTC. The training also gives staff tangible tips on how to react to common situations, like an angry or aggressive rider.

“You can say, ‘I’m really interested in hearing what you have to say, but it’s hard when you’re raising your voice,’” says Habal. “As you notice, I’m not saying, ‘stop yelling’. The first thing is trying to empathize.”

Habal says with so many different types of people passing through the TTC every day, she believes the training could help save a life.

“Sometimes they are very sad and depressed, they might contemplate suicide… that’s an area we want to make sure people have as much support and training as possible.”

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