Downtown Yonge - Change is Coming (Update)

The City is rebuilding downtown Yonge Street


Cycle Toronto has been advocating for bike lanes on Yonge Street for many years and now we have the opportunity to see a bold, car-free vision for downtown Yonge St. The City has been studying four potential options for the reconstruction of Yonge from Queen to College. We need your help to ensure cycling safety and well-designed shared space between people walking, rolling, and biking is a priority in the plans on Yonge to help fill large gaps in the City’s cycling network.


What changes are being proposed for downtown Yonge Street?

The City of Toronto is considering four alternatives to the current configuration of Yonge between Queen and College. Where driving lanes are present there is no dedicated space for people riding bikes:

  1. Two driving lanes on the entire stretch. 
  2. Car-free from Dundas Sq. to Elm St. One or two driving lanes elsewhere.
  3. Car-free from Queen St. to Gerrard St. Two driving lanes north of Gerrard. (Cycle Toronto preferred option)
  4. Car-free from Dundas Sq. to Edward St. Delivery vehicles during the day from Edward St. to Gerrard St. One or two driving lanes elsewhere.

What does Cycle Toronto support?

Alternative 3 is the by far the best option proposed. It has the longest car-free portion of Yonge, stretching south of Queen to Gerrard. Even though we support protected bike lanes on Yonge, we think this bold pedestrian-first vision would be great for the city, as long as people on bikes are welcomed, and there is a safe transition for people on bikes outside the car-free area. 

Wherever motor vehicles are present and there aren’t significant driving restrictions, such as those on King St, separated bike lanes are needed. True inclusivity extends beyond people on bikes to people on skateboards, rollerblades, scooters, or other mobility devices that all need safe spaces to travel, and both car-free areas and bike lanes can accomplish that.

Why University Avenue is not a reasonable cycling alternative to Yonge Street 

For cycling connections, The City has proposed that people bike over a half-kilometre out of their way to an (as of yet) unplanned University Ave. bike lane. No hypothetical bike lane on a parallel street, including University, provides the continuous connection that Yonge does. For a long-term vision of safe cycling infrastructure on Yonge, Alternative 3 is the best start.

Here are our top five reasons that Yonge Street is an ideal cycling route:

  1. Yonge provides a continuous connection between downtown and midtown, and is the only central street that connects Lake Ontario to Steeles Avenue from end to end
  2. Yonge has important destinations: shopping and retail like the Eaton Centre and hundreds of local businesses, Ryerson University, employment centres, and thousands of condo units
  3. Yonge is densely populated. From 1996-2016 there was a 73% increase in population and 43% increase in employment with growth expected to continue. Cycling provides an efficient alternative to driving or getting on an already congested subway line for distances that are too far to walk
  4. Yonge has a subway line and no streetcar tracks, which provide more flexible road space than many other main streets and makes safer conditions for people cycling
  5. Yonge has already has already been identified for protected bike lanes or cycle tracks in the City of Toronto approved Cycling Network Plan

What can you do?

  • Fill out the City’s survey now. Tell them you want a car-free Yonge, and to safely accommodate people biking in the areas north and south of the car-free area proposed. Forcing people on bikes to divert to University in order to be safe is not practical and fails to consider a connected cycling network as outlined in the City-approved bike plan. Step 4 of the survey goes through the City’s preferred alternative, not the one that Cycle Toronto supports.
  • Show up to the public meeting. Tell the City in-person that you want Alternative 3. People on bikes have a place on Yonge St, and need to be protected when they ride on our city’s most iconic street. 

​Date: Thursday, November 21, 2019
Time: Drop-in anytime from 4 to 8 p.m.
Location: Central YMCA Auditorium, 20 Grosvenor St. (south of Wellesley St. W.)

No city has made great public spaces by prioritizing car traffic over people. We need a bold vision to make downtown Yonge the vibrant epicentre it deserves to be, not a watered-down version where driving remains the priority.

For more info, check out the full 28-page staff report.

We always appreciate any other support we can get:

Header photo by Ryan.

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