Yesterday, the City released its agenda for the Infrastructure and Environment Committee (IEC). It shows what we can expect from both temporary ActiveTO projects and permanent cycling projects proposed for this year.
Read on about what's proposed and what we recommend for:
- ActiveTO on Yonge Street & Bayview Avenue - adopt the plan and work toward expansion
- Major Road Openings - save Lake Shore Boulevard W and expand beyond the core
- 2021 permanent Cycling Infrastructure - make improvements but focus on growing the network
The City has brought forward a report on ActiveTO Lessons Learned and Next Steps.
Midtown Yonge Street
Following an enormous advocacy effort by Cycle Toronto and its partners, we are happy to see a proposal for a temporary ActiveTO + CaféTO “Complete Street” transformation of Yonge Street. A recent comparison between Yonge Street, Mount Pleasant Avenue, and Avenue Road found that Yonge was overwhelmingly the best fit for this kind of transformation in terms of business benefits, lowest impact on traffic volume, potential for cafe & patio space, on-street parking space, and improved safety for all road users. Yonge also provides important transit connections and the bike lane proposed would provide a safe alternative to shuttle buses during subway closures. Many local organizations and residents have been asking for this project to extend along Midtown Yonge from Bloor Street up to Lawrence Avenue, however the current proposed activation only extends from Bloor to Davisville Avenue.
Inspired by last year’s transformation of Danforth Avenue, this exciting project along Yonge will support local businesses and residents as they try to recover from the pandemic by providing a safe way to make local trips while connecting Midtown and Downtown. Cycle Toronto is committed to seeing this project installed from Bloor to Davisville this summer, and will work with stakeholders to extend the project further north through Midtown to more equitably support people living along the entire corridor.
Lower Bayview Avenue
The southern portion of the Lower Don Trail will be closed for most of 2021 for upgrades. We support the City’s recommendation to create a detour for people walking and cycling by extending the temporary ActiveTO multi-use path along Bayview Avenue from Rosedale Valley Road all the way to Mill Street. Providing safe construction detours for people using active transportation is a practice Cycle Toronto has long called for and we are thrilled to see this being taken seriously.
Upgrading and Extending the 2020 ActiveTO Cycling projects
Most of the 2020 ActiveTO projects saw massive increases in people cycling, especially where the bike lanes connected with existing infrastructure. Research out of the University of Toronto shows the positive impact ActiveTO bike lanes had on access to jobs, food, and more.
We’d like to see the 2020 projects further improved and extended. Routes like Bloor E, Huntingwood Drive, and Wilmington Avenue should be upgraded with physical protection so that people of all ages and abilities can feel safe cycling along these routes. Danforth is already so successful that the City recommends similar transformations on Yonge - now is also the time to extend the Complete Street on Danforth east of Dawes Road.
Major Road Openings 2021
The City is choosing to prioritize the weekend travel time of drivers on the Gardiner Expressway over the tens of thousands of Torontonians that will continue to flock to the waterfront looking for the space to support their physical and mental health through active transportation this summer.
In 2020, the ActiveTO weekend major road openings for active transportation brought joy and freedom to tens of thousands of Torontonians. Cycle Toronto has been calling for the program to be reintroduced and expanded more equitably across the city.
While Lake Shore Boulevard E and Bayview are set to return, the City is not recommending bringing back the most popular ActiveTO route, Lake Shore W, due to travel times on the Gardiner Expressway. The report doesn’t indicate whether new routes in other parts of the city will be implemented.
This recommendation is contrary to the City’s data and policy goals. The ActiveTO weekend program is immensely popular. A recent report commissioned by the City surveyed found that of ActiveTO participants surveyed:
- 29% of cyclists using the weekend road closures were new to cycling or had cycled in the past and re-started this year
- 75% reported that they were more active as a result of the road closures
- 92% wanted the program to continue during and after the COVID-19 pandemic
Image source: Mayor John Tory
On average, upwards of 22,000 people were walking and cycling along the Lake Shore W route on summer weekends in 2020. That is an extraordinary number of people who embraced active transportation to enjoy our waterfront.
City Council has already identified that “improved cycling infrastructure, expansion of bike share, and weekend recreational street closures” are all crucial aspects of Toronto’s recovery and rebuild from the pandemic. Yet, the City is choosing to prioritize the weekend travel time of drivers on the Gardiner Expressway over the tens of thousands of Torontonians that will continue to flock to the waterfront looking for the space to support their physical and mental health through active transportation this summer.
Beyond the waterfront, we have already written about how we would like to see Major Road Openings implemented across the city, particularly in areas with poor access to greenspace and outside of the core. While the City is considering other locations around Toronto on a trial basis in collaboration with the local Councillors, there are no specific locations mentioned other than the Ex grounds (as an alternative to Lake Shore W), and no commitment that this program will be expanded to other parts of the city.
Quiet Streets, the temporary traffic calming measures instituted last year, received mixed feedback. The City has not recommended the return of Quiet Streets in 2021, but instead proposes pursuing permanent measures going forward. Cycle Toronto supports traffic calming through permanent measures and redesign of the streets to include cycling infrastructure.
How can you help support ActiveTO?
We need your voice to make these things happen. Click the button below to send a quick email to City Council before they vote on these proposals — then read on below for more cycling projects coming soon!
2021 Permanent Projects
The City’s Cycling Network Plan has three priorities: Grow, Renew, and Connect the cycling network. In 2020, we saw a fairly typical year for permanent cycling projects, with mostly “renew” projects (bike lane upgrades) with the exception of extending the Bloor bike lanes west from Shaw to Runnymede Ave. Now in 2021, the first batch of cycling projects is also mostly “renew” projects, with only about 2 km of new, permanent bike lanes proposed. These projects are useful local connections, but not enough for the City to meet its active transportation, climate, and road safety goals.
We’re pleased to see some cycling projects proposed outside the core: a protected bike lane proposed on Cummer Avenue and the proposed bike lane upgrades on Birmingham Street and Thorncliffe Park Drive. The City has also focused on upgrading key cycling routes in the core, such as the Davenport Road and Harbord Street bike lanes. The bike lanes on Gladstone Avenue will provide a useful neighbourhood connector, and improvements to Danforth Avenue will make the uncomfortable crossing of the on-ramp west of Broadview Avenue much more accessible for all ages and abilities.
While the proposed projects are important neighbourhood connections, it’s what we’d expect to see in just one part of a robust permanent cycling infrastructure roll-out for the year. This is not a suitable rate of progress for a city that has embraced active transportation as it did in 2020. There are still vast areas of Scarborough and Etobicoke with no bike lanes at all, let alone a connected cycling network to provide mobility choices, or a Complete Streets style transformation that would bring economic vibrancy and vitality to business and residents alike.
Last year’s growth in the cycling network, coupled with ActiveTO temporary bike lanes and weekend Major Road Openings allowed people to return to cycling or try it for the first time. Now, with that new appreciation, the cycling network needs to continue to grow to match Torontonians’ needs for active transportation.
2020 set the standard of how much cycling infrastructure the City can achieve in a single year. We need to ensure that 2020 is not an anomaly while also prioritizing community consultation and updating best practices in design.
Cycle Toronto wants to see:
- An extension of Destination Danforth to Victoria Park Avenue and a motion to make it permanent in 2021
- Implementation of ActiveTO along the Overlea Boulevard bridge in 2021 in line with strong community support to address crowding, safety, and other local priorities
- Yonge and Bayview ActiveTO projects adopted with further consultation north of Eglinton Avenue on Yonge for a similar activation
- The Lake Shore W road opening to continue in 2021 and new routes introduced outside the downtown core
- At least one ActiveTO style Complete Street project in Scarborough, North York and Etobicoke for each year going forward with consultation and input from community stakeholders
- A commitment to align the rate of permanent infrastructure implementation each year with the City’s road safety, environmental, and health goals
To see things move forward at the pace of 2020, Cycle Toronto will focus our attention in two areas:
- The Near Term Implementation Plan
- The 2022 budget.
We want the City to plan for a more ambitious set of projects, and they must have the resources in not only their capital budget, but their operational budget and staffing levels as well. Stay tuned for campaign announcements from us and how you can get involved.
Cycling network expansion should not just be a priority during a pandemic. It is crucial for the recovery of our city, the safety of its residents, and the vibrancy of its communities.
We can’t stop now
We need to keep the momentum going. If you’re not yet a member, considering joining or contributing a monthly donation to Cycle Toronto. Donors and members are crucial to our success. Your support helps us advocate to expand and keep ActiveTO. Even $5 a month helps us work through the pandemic toward a safer, healthier and more vibrant cycling city for all.
Thank you for your support and advocacy.
The Cycle Toronto staff team
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|SUBJECT:||IE20.12 - Bring Back and Expand ActiveTO!|
Dear Members of the Infrastructure and Environment Committee,
ActiveTO brought forward incredible changes with the major road openings and I urge you to continue that success in 2021. Last year, the City of Toronto proved that it can be bold; we saw patios brought forward with CafeTO and new bike lanes installed with ActiveTO. It’s no surprise that Destination Danforth was such a success when it combined the best of both worlds of pandemic responses; roadside patio space so that residents could patronize local shops and bike lanes to help them get there.
I am writing to you to ask that you continue the incredible success of 2020 into 2021:
The pandemic will continue into the summer of 2021 and we will continue to need to provide space for people to get outside, whether they are walking, cycling, and rolling.
I urge you to continue the work that was started last year and capture that energy to bring it forward this year so that residents can continue to find safe ways to exercise and commute while also practicing physical distancing.
Thank you for your time.