Popular route excluded from Toronto's plan to close streets for pedestrians and cyclists
The City of Toronto's successful program that aims to provide ample space for pedestrians and cyclists to get outside and exercise safely during the warm summer months is returning this year, but the most popular closure of all likely won't be included.
The ActiveTO program was initially introduced in May of 2020 as a way to address physical distancing needs amid the pandemic, and it saw major roads closed to cars for 25 consecutive weekends from May through October to give residents enough space to walk and bike.
A new report from city staff recommends bringing the program back this summer with a few changes, including the exclusion of last summer's most popular closure — which attracted roughly 18,000 cyclists each weekend — on Lake Shore Boulevard West.
#CityofTO report on ActiveTO recommends return of Major Weekend Road Closures and new complete street pilot project along midtown Yonge Street. News release: https://t.co/JQa9Ko6IR4 pic.twitter.com/qA4oQGIVl3— City of Toronto (@cityoftoronto) March 16, 2021
"The report notes that the Lake Shore Boulevard West Major Road Closures were highly used by people walking, running and cycling in 2020, but also resulted in motor vehicle traffic delay, particularly on the Gardiner Expressway and The Queensway," reads a news release from the city.
"Major construction is underway at the intersection of King-Queen-Queensway-Roncesvalles (KQQR) and The Queensway from Parkside Drive to Roncesvalles Avenue which is scheduled to continue until August 2022."
Throughout this construction, the KQQR intersection will be closed with the exception of limited east-west access, and the next closest east-west major roadways in this vicinity are Lake Shore Boulevard West to the south and Bloor Street West to the north.
As a result, staff say the recurring weekend closures of Lake Shore Boulevard West likely cannot be accommodated in 2021 and 2022.
Still, staff recommend continuing the road closures on Lake Shore Boulevard East and Bayview Avenue from spring to fall, and all current ActiveTO temporary bike lanes are also recommended to continue this year.
According to the city, a survey of ActvieTO participants last year found that 92 per cent of respondents wanted the closures to continue during and after COVID-19, while 75 per cent of people reported being more active and nearly all agreed that the space felt safe, comfortable and helped them maintain physical distancing.
In addition to maintaining all of the bike lanes introduced through ActiveTO last year, staff are also recommending that the temporary cycling network program be expanded along midtown Yonge Street, between Bloor and Davisville, as part of a complete street pilot project — similar to the Danforth pilot last summer.
This recommendation is subject to further review, however, as the potential impact to surface transit operations must be considered as part of the detailed design process.
An extension of the ActiveTO Bayview Cycling Corridor, installed in 2020 from Rosedale Valley Road to River Street, is also being recommended, and this extension would run south from River Street to Mill Street on a temporary basis in order to provide a detour route during the 2021 Lower Don Trail Construction Closure.
Today, a City of Toronto staff report on ActiveTO recommends the return of Major Weekend Road Closures as well as a complete street pilot project along a section of Yonge Street to support the local economy and CaféTO with an expansion of the temporary ActiveTO cycling network.— City of Toronto (@cityoftoronto) March 16, 2021
The Quiet Streets program, also introduced last year to slow and reduce traffic flow, is not being recommended for 2021, however, and staff are instead suggesting an enhanced focus on Vision Zero road safety measures such as traffic calming, speed humps, speed limit reductions and other proven and effective tools on local neighbourhood roads.
The staff report is set to go before the Infrastructure and Environment Committee on Tuesday, March 23.
"This report shows that ActiveTO was a tremendous success in 2020 and City staff are confident that we can build upon that success this year," said Mayor John Tory in a statement.
"While planning work is continuing around the 2021 program, I think this report shows we are doing everything we can as a City government to support more active transportation options."
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