Toronto is finally closing streets to make more space for pedestrians and cyclists
Toronto Mayor John Tory announced today that the city is working on a new plan to quickly create more space for pedestrians and cyclists amid the ongoing pandemic.
The news follows continuous criticism of the city for not closing streets to cars and for the new CurbTO program, which many have said does little to actually address the issue of the lack of space for proper social distancing.
"Right now, we are seeing car traffic and pedestrian traffic at an all-time low, while bike traffic has stayed about the same. We know that will change in the coming weeks and months," Tory said during the city's daily press briefing Wednesday afternoon.
"We will need more road space for walking. We will need calm streets. We will need more bike infrastructure."
Tory said the new program, which is currently being developed by both Toronto Transit Services and Toronto Public Health, is called ActiveTO and will result in the creation of close to 50 km of quiet streets.
"ActiveTO, as we're calling the plan, is about making sure that people have space to get outside, have space to get around, while respecting physical distancing," he said.
"The ActiveTO plan will create more quiet streets. These will be local routes with traffic-calming measures implemented very quickly as to enable local car traffic only and open up more space for cyclists and pedestrians."
Tory said the streets will be chosen in areas where there is a lack of park space or where the routes are close to large parks in order to help alleviate congestion within them.
He also said transportation and public health staff are recommending closing some major roads near major trails, parks, or recreational attractions where crowding has occurred on weekends and holidays.
These will be complete, short-term closures to all car traffic, mostly on weekends.
Torontonians need to be able to use our roads, sidewalks, and outdoor spaces for exercise and recreation, while maintaining physical distance. For that to happen, we need to ensure our streets are accessible and safe for all road users.— Joe Cressy (@joe_cressy) May 6, 2020
The Mayor also said the city will be accelerating construction of the 10-year bike plan, and some temporary bike lanes will also be added to give residents who are wary of riding the TTC for the forseeable future an alternative option.
"We are doing this so you can get outside and stay active as we continue our efforts to fight COVID-19," said Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa during today's briefing.
She said the World Health Organization has urged people to consider walking and cycling as primary modes of transportation throughout the pandemic wherever feasible, as they allow for physical distancing, can reduce the risk of chronic diseases and improve mental health.
Running, walking & biking are all great ways to stay active & travel around during #COVID19, and have many benefits for our physical & mental health. COVID-19 does not spread easily when passing someone quickly on a sidewalk, walking trail or bike path. pic.twitter.com/j1Kd15GQun— Toronto Public Health (@TOPublicHealth) May 6, 2020
"When you are out running or walking about, please step aside or pass others quickly and courteously," she said. "We know that mobility is key to recovery. This is why, as our process begins, we need to keep Toronto moving."
While available details of the new plan are minimal, Tory said more information — including specific roads — will be released in the coming days.
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