City of Toronto report on ActiveTO recommends return of Major Weekend Road Closures and new complete street pilot project along midtown Yonge Street

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.

The report will be considered by the Infrastructure and Environment Committee on Tuesday, March 23 and identifies key findings and outcomes from the ActiveTO program in 2020 that support the recommendations.

ActiveTO was introduced in May 2020 as a quick-start COVID-19 response program. It was designed to provide more space for people to practice physical distancing while outside, support the overall well-being of residents and to quickly connect and expand Toronto’s cycling network by installing safe, separated temporary bike routes that mirror major transit lines.

As detailed in the report, City staff are recommending that Major Weekend Road Closures return in 2021. The dates and locations of closures would be determined in the coming months, subject to the coordination of construction impacts, input from local councillors, and the future resumption of large-scale special events. Last year, weekend road closures typically occurred on parts of Lake Shore Boulevard and Bayview Avenue, and took place on 25 consecutive weekends from May through October. A portion of downtown Yonge Street was also closed for two Sundays in September as part of the program.

Major Weekend Road Closures provided more space for thousands of people to be physically active along Toronto’s busiest and most popular trails.

A survey of people who attended the ActiveTO weekend road closures found:

  • Ninety-two per cent of those surveyed wanted the closures to continue, during and after COVID-19.
  • Seventy-five per cent of people reported being more active, and nearly all agreed that the space felt safe and comfortable and was helping them maintain physical distancing.
  • More than one quarter of those surveyed reported the closures helped them start or re-start riding a bike.
  • New cyclists, and those returning to cycling, included more women and more people identifying as Black, Indigenous or a Person of Colour compared with long-time cyclists.
Looking ahead to 2021, staff recommend continuing the ActiveTO Major Road Closures program on Lake Shore Boulevard East and Bayview Avenue from spring 2021 to fall 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. 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.  During this construction, the KQQR intersection will be closed with exception of limited east-west access through the intersection via either King Street West or Queen Street West, 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 believe that recurring weekend closures of Lake Shore Boulevard West likely cannot be accommodated in 2021 and 2022.  Data on summer traffic volumes in the vicinity of this construction will be monitored to further inform if closures of Lake Shore Boulevard West can be accommodated for the ActiveTO program.

The report contains initial data counts and shows overall increases in cycling volumes where ActiveTO temporary bike lanes were installed in 2020 as well as minimal changes to vehicle travel times on those same routes. All current ActiveTO temporary bike lanes are recommended to continue this year. City staff have been directed to return to City Council in late fall 2021 with a final report on the potential future of the temporary ActiveTO Cycling Network.

The report also includes a recommendation for the ActiveTO temporary cycling network program to be expanded along midtown Yonge Street, between Bloor Street and Davisville Avenue as part of a complete street pilot project subject to further review of the potential impact to surface transit operations as part of the detailed design process. The ActiveTO cycling network contributed to the city’s largest on-street cycling network expansion in one year, and staff are recommending this new route be added. If approved, staff would continue to seek local input through consultation with stakeholders along the route and plan a complete streets approach including room for ActiveTO bike lanes, CaféTO locations, loading and parking options, road safety improvements and public realm enhancements.

An extension of the ActiveTO Bayview Cycling Corridor, installed in 2020 from Rosedale Valley Road to River Street, is also being recommended. 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.

City staff do not recommend the return of the Quiet Streets program in 2021 in its current form. While the report describes both successes and limitations of the program, City staff are recommending enhanced focus on Vision Zero road safety measures and improvements such as traffic calming, speed humps, speed limit reductions and other proven and effective tools on local neighbourhood roads.

The full ActiveTO report is available at http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=2021.IE20.12.

More about ActiveTO at www.toronto.ca/home/covid-19/covid-19-protect-yourself-others/covid-19-reduce-virus-spread/covid-19-activeto/

Quotes:

"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. 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."

- Mayor John Tory

“ActiveTO supports greater active transportation in the city of Toronto. More residents are able to get outside and ride their bikes on safer roadways and the environment also benefits from a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. I look forward to learning more about the 2021 ActiveTO program at Committee next week.”

- Councillor Jennifer McKelvie (Scarborough-Rouge Park), Chair of the Infrastructure & Environment Committee

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