road closures toronto

People in Toronto are not taking the latest news about city street closures very well

While many celebrated the periodic closure of select Toronto roadways to vehicle traffic during lockdown, the city's car-centric culture is showing, with a recent decision to cull the closures to fewer routes due to traffic complaints.

Mayor John Tory this week reported that he's gotten tons of complaints about the ActiveTO program, which kicked off over the the pandemic to get cyclists and pedestrians outside and active when they would otherwise be pretty trapped indoors with little of the usual activities available to them.

There was a general push for the initiative to be extended past the end of the worst of the pandemic, and it was, with closures of parts of streets like Bayview Ave., River St. and the Meadoway as recently as this past weekend.

But, the weekend shutdown of arteries such as Lake Shore Blvd. have had drivers up in arms about gridlock getting into, out of and around the city, and while thousands of residents have taken to walking or biking the routes, ActiveTO has meant double or triple the time spent in traffic for those driving on the Gardiner and other nearby roads.

So, City Council this week accepted a new staff recommendation to reassess the iniative and cut down the list of streets it impacts, a decision that has received its own share of uproar.

The city stated on June 15 that ActiveTO on Lake Shore in particular will now be treated as a special event only, based around other events taking place in the city and anticipated traffic levels.

"As Toronto businesses, workplaces and major street events have now reopened and many activities have resumed, it's important to re-evaluate ActiveTO and other programs that were initiated during COVID-19 and adjust them to the changing needs of residents, businesses and visitors to Toronto," wrote the chair of the city's Infrastructure and Evironment Committee in a press release that notes the sizable increase in traffic post-lockdown and the delays the Lake Shore closure has caused thus far this season.

In May, travel times increased to at least double their usual time on the Gardiner due to the fact that the route was closed.

While some are happy that the street will be open more often for cars during peak summer activity levels in the city, it seems even more are disappointed with the decision and what it signifies in terms of a lack of interest in climate change, in encouraging non-car transportation and infrastructure, and better uses of public space.

People are also concerned about pedestrian and cyclist safety, which the city has tried to address with its Vision Zero campaign to end deaths on Toronto streets.

The move has definitely stirred up the age-old drivers vs. cyclists/non-drivers tensions, bringing about a flurry of conversation and debate on Twitter.

City Councillors have also been fervently debating the topic at meetings.

ActiveTO closures will take place again this weekend on Bayview Ave. from Rosedale Valley Rd. to Lawren Harris Square, River Street between Bayview and Spruce St., and The Meadoway from Brimley Rd. to Scarborough Golf Club Rd. from 7 a.m. on June 18 to 7 p.m. on June 19.

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