ActiveTO poised to return in 2021, may include bike lanes and patios on Yonge Street

·3 min read
Cyclists ride along a closed section of Lake Shore Boulevard last summer. The city plans similar closures this year, though not on a popular stretch of Lake Shore Boulevard West. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Cyclists ride along a closed section of Lake Shore Boulevard last summer. The city plans similar closures this year, though not on a popular stretch of Lake Shore Boulevard West. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Toronto is recommending the return of its ActiveTO program in 2021, which could include the addition of temporary bike lanes and curb lane patios on a major portion of Yonge Street.

ActiveTO was created in the spring of 2020 to promote modes of active transportation such as cycling, running and walking during the early stages of the pandemic.

A report recommending the renewal of the program this spring goes to the city's Infrastructure and Environment Committee on Tuesday, March 23.

The city is recommending that the program become a permanent fixture even after the pandemic ends.

"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 Toronto Mayor John Tory in a statement.

"I think this report shows we are doing everything we can as a city government to support more active transportation options."

According to the city, people who took part in the weekend road closures were overwhelmingly supportive of the initiative, with 92 per cent saying they wanted the closures to continue beyond COVID-19.

The staff report also found minimal evidence for increased vehicle traffic delays due to the program, with some exceptions on the Gardiner Expressway and The Queensway.

Yonge Street redesign to follow Danforth Avenue model

The proposed changes on Yonge Street would be installed between Bloor Street and Davisville Avenue.

The redesign of the street would be considered a pilot project with a tentative end date of Apr. 30, 2022.

The report suggests temporary changes to Yonge Street that would mirror the redesign of Danforth Avenue undertaken last year.
The report suggests temporary changes to Yonge Street that would mirror the redesign of Danforth Avenue undertaken last year.(Toronto)

The proposed changes would mirror the approach taken on Danforth Avenue last summer, where new bike lanes and patios were installed using temporary blockades and paint.

The report says the changes on Yonge Street could likely be implemented this year, though city staff have not provided a target date.

Toronto city council approved a plan to add bike lanes to a larger stretch of Yonge Street last fall. That decision called for the bike lanes to be installed sometime during the second quarter of the year.

City to consider additional tweaks

The version of ActiveTO proposed for 2021 includes several changes compared to the initial program introduced last year, which had three primary components: weekend road closures, the creation of "Quiet Streets" neighbourhood zones, and the expansion of the city's cycling network.

While some major weekend road closures are slated to continue, the closures will likely not include a section of Lake Shore Boulevard West that proved to be among the more popular ActiveTO destinations last summer.

City staff say construction projects taking place in the west end of the city would likely cause significant traffic delays if Lake Shore Boulevard East were closed to motor vehicles in either 2021 or 2022.

The weekend road closures on portions of Bayview Avenue and Lake Shore Boulevard East are planned to continue.

The report also recommends the cancellation of the Quiet Streets program, which saw the installation of traffic calming measures such as signage and barricades in 30 locations around the city.

The report instead recommends "refocusing" on other measures such as reducing speed limits and automated speed enforcement.