Even more of Toronto's streets will be closed for pedestrians and cyclists this summer

Despite the pandemic, summer 2020 in Toronto was one of the more amazing ones in recent memory thanks to new initiatives that expanded the patios of local businesses and made more room for pedestrians and cyclists to enjoy the outdoors.

Through CafeTO, the city allowed bars and restaurants to easily build out their patio space onto sidewalks and into curbside lanes to help them serve more of the public, and more safely.

And through that program's counterpart, ActiveTO, a ton of additional  bike lanes were built around the city, while major thoroughfares like Lake Shore Boulevard and Yonge Street were closed to cars on select days so residents could walk, cycle, and otherwise meander outside with more space to socially distance.

Both programs enlivened the city and helped us all make the most of the warmer months after the health crisis damaged not only spirits, but local businesses who had been forced to close for weeks.

And, both will be returning for summer 2021, even bigger and better than before.

John Tory said in a media briefing on Wednesday that improved patios through CafeTO will be opening as soon as May, and that he wants ActiveTO to likewise be scaled up to more parts of the city come spring, with added "corridors," including in places like Scarborough and North York.

Construction schedules are being taken into consideration in the current planning for the road closures, but things are due to be finalized in the next few weeks.

Though there were some complaints from drivers, the road closures and parklets were generally seen as a huge success, with tens of thousands of people taking advantage of the empty roadways each weekend to exercise while traffic was light anyways.

More than 9,000 metres of new outdoor dining space was added over 2020's patio season, as well as a whopping 40km of cycling lanes, providing undeniable benefit to residents who had been sequestering in their homes during the first few months of COVID-19.

Though the gradual worldwide rollout of the vaccine will hopefully mean far lower case counts and thus lighter (or, fingers crossed, no) lockdown once the weather starts to heat up, the return of larger patios and better infrastructure for non-driving residents will definitely help make our few months of summer even brighter.

Lead photo by

Richard Eriksson

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