ActiveTO: Closing Streets, Opening Bike Lanes & What’s Next
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ActiveTO to rebalance Toronto’s streets and create more space for people biking
On Wednesday, May 6th, the City of Toronto announced ActiveTO, a plan to provide space for active transportation on Toronto’s streets now, as we recover from COVID-19, and beyond.
Cycle Toronto has been advocating for safe space for active transportation as part of the COVID-19 response and recovery for nearly two months. The results are clear: many of the strategies we called for in our open letter to the Office of Recovery and Rebuild and in one-on-one discussions with City Councillors are the focus points of ActiveTO.
What is ActiveTO?
While the details are still forthcoming of specific roads and areas, ActiveTO focuses on three approaches:
1. Quiet Streets
50 km of local roads will be proposed as designated ‘quiet streets’ along which traffic calming and local-access measures will be implemented to reduce car traffic. These streets will initially focus around areas with minimal parkland, or places next to parks that are packed, because we all could use some room to breathe.
2. Major street closures
Several major streets alongside popular trails will have recurring short-term closures to car traffic to alleviate congestion for people cycling, rolling, running, or walking. It’s likely these will be on weekends or public holidays during busy periods.
City of Toronto Official Plan: Local Parkland Provision map
Many neighbourhoods in Toronto don’t have enough outdoor space for their residents and we know access to open space is essential for our health and wellbeing. Reallocating road space won’t solve our parkland deficit, but it will make it easier for people to physically distance while they bike and walk around their communities and shop local to support neighbourhood businesses.
Quiet streets and major street closures should be an important first step to rapidly addressing those problems.
3. Accelerate the Cycling Network Plan
Most importantly, the City has committed to delivering their 2020 cycling infrastructure projects and accelerating and expanding the rollout of the Cycling Network Plan. This means that major corridors across Toronto could see temporary bike lanes installed soon to alleviate pressure on buses and subways and those lanes made permanent.
We know that progress has historically been slow building out cycling infrastructure, but we are now witnessing the results of weeks, months, and years of cycling advocacy: City staff, City Councillors, Toronto Public Health, and now Mayor Tory are all calling for rapidly built, safe, and permanent cycling infrastructure.
Our work is not done - what comes next?
We will push for ActiveTO to be rolled out quickly, expanded rapidly, and made permanent. We will need many more kilometres of quiet streets, and more street closures next to popular destinations as our response to the pandemic shifts and summer weather arrives. We will need temporary bike lanes so that permanent, protected lanes can be built as part of the acceleration.
We will continue to fight for permanent, protected bike lanes along major transit lines. Our campaigns around Bloor, Danforth, Yonge, and Eglinton will continue to be priorities. These projects are well-positioned to relieve stress on our transit system, keep our city moving, connect communities, and support the economic recovery of local businesses.
These are not just downtown core issues; citywide, streets need traffic calming, trails need more space, and cycling infrastructure needs protection. We will continue to push for improvements in every corner of the city. ActiveTO must be implemented throughout Toronto, and we will work with City Councillors to ensure there is equitable access to safe active transportation infrastructure for everyone.
Last week, City Council finally acknowledged the importance of making space for physical distancing, and on Wednesday, we got our first glimmer of good news. But we can’t stop now; we need to keep pushing to make sure that ActiveTO rolls out quickly, expands rapidly, and provides effective solutions to support active transportation across our city. We need to ensure that Toronto’s streets do not return to the status quo when the pandemic is over.
We need your help to make this happen
Thank you to everyone that recently wrote to the City, but we can't stop now; we still need your support. Please, write to your City Councillor and the Mayor (firstname.lastname@example.org) to encourage the current direction while making it clear that ActiveTO needs to be a priority that is delivered quickly, expanded rapidly, and made permanent.
Become a Cycle Toronto member and encourage your friends, family, and neighbours to join Cycle Toronto. We are on the verge of achieving great things for everyone in our city, and the more voices we have, the more the City listens. Help us boost our membership and usher in a brighter, more active future for Toronto!
Thank you for your continued support,
The way we advocate has changed a lot during COVID-19. We’ve moved quickly to adapt and transform our advocacy, but at the end of the day, we are still advocating for you: our members. As we’ve shifted our operations online, many of our usual fundraising events have been cancelled. If you value the work we do, please consider becoming a member or making a donation. Even $10 helps us have a strong voice at City Hall as well as supporting educational outreach, running cycling events, workshops and more.
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