City Council Update: ActiveTO and Lake Shore West of the future will not be the same
While ActiveTO was created as a pandemic response, we know that something magical happened that will last far beyond the pandemic — something that was measurable (anywhere from 20,000-36,000 people per day using active travel on our waterfront!), and immeasurable at the same time. It brought families out to enjoy our beaches and boardwalks, our parks and our streets, and our beautiful Great Lake. It gave us the opportunity to imagine more for the future of what our western waterfront could be. We can now prove that if we take this local road that operates like a highway and make it into a safe and welcoming environment, people will come in droves. We could add businesses, restaurants, patios, places for families and friends to come together, and it would be an undoubted success. What we can no longer imagine, however, is treating our waterfront like a driving thoroughfare to other destinations instead of the true destination it could be itself.
The future of ActiveTO on Lake Shore Boulevard W was one of the key issues at City Council yesterday. Here’s what happened:
- ActiveTO will continue on a special event basis. We asked for predictable, regular programming announced with advanced notice, however it does not seem likely to go forward in 2022 with the exception of one or two days if they can be accommodated.
- Despite broad support for the program in principle, we learned that the City has over 250 major events in the Lake Shore W area planned this year already (compared to just one in the two previous years), making it difficult to make ActiveTO road closures happen without inhibiting access to these events.
- Transportation Services has committed to determining a schedule for ActiveTO and announcing future dates well in advance.
- We will continue to advocate for a plan to integrate ActiveTO events into future years as well as bringing back Open Streets events to downtown Yonge Street, Bloor Street, Danforth Avenue and other corridors outside the downtown core.
- Bayview Avenue ActiveTO openings are set to continue on a more regular basis throughout the year.
- We were able to introduce the concept of Lake Shore W as a road that is dangerous by design and in need of changes to City Council for the first time.
- We worked with local councillors on a motion to accelerate quick-start interventions to improve cycling and pedestrian safety on Lake Shore W as part of the upcoming Western Waterfront Master Plan. This received almost unanimous support (22-1).
- While Cycle Toronto pushed for a pilot to reallocate space now, City staff advised against partial closures this year due to safety, access, and capacity constraints. We will seek opportunities to accelerate this work for the next term of Council in 2023.
- We will continue to be a vocal stakeholder on the Western Waterfront Master Plan Update, ensuring that Lake Shore W becomes a Complete Street that includes dedicated space for people walking, wheeling, cycling, and using transit. Yesterday, it was acknowledged that we need to redesign Lake Shore W if we ever want to see real change. The discussion at Council provided a forum to have the needs of Torontonians who want safe access to their waterfront considered and not just defaulted to drivers who want a fast route through it. As a result of this dialogue, improving the road safety of Lake Shore W is now a priority project that can’t wait ten years to be realized.
While there was some progress made, what we need from you as someone who wrote to share your positive experiences of ActiveTO is to keep hope alive and help us continue this work. Advocacy is a long game, and our city’s greatest inequities and challenges show us that culture change is not won overnight. Without meaningful steps that move us away from car dependency, traffic congestion isn’t going anywhere, with or without ActiveTO. We cannot have City Council prioritize the movement of vehicles over the movement of the people. We need to invest in our public spaces and provide realistic, convenient, sustainable alternatives to driving, or we will never solve traffic congestion in this city. And we will keep up that fight, with your support.
One day, we’ll look back on ActiveTO and remember when we all slowed down, got outside with our loved ones, and enjoyed the freedom to walk and wheel with our kids, our parents, our friends, and our fellow residents, and feel that joy of the open road. We can have it again, and with the long game in mind and a plan for the future, we will.
Please join or renew your membership with Cycle Toronto this month. Your support is crucial to representing cycling at City Hall and as we head into the Municipal Election this fall. We’re also offering a special Membership + Bike Month T-shirt bundle this June - if you’re not already a Cycle Toronto member, or need to renew your membership, grab a Bike Month 2022 t-shirt and a membership together to save.
P.S.- Check out Cycle Toronto in the media on Lake Shore West:
- City council accepts staff recommendation to limit ActiveTO closures on Lake Shore Boulevard West - CP24
- Future of ActiveTO debated at Toronto City Council - Global News
- The Future of ActiveTO Debated - City News
- ActiveTO to continue on Lake Shore West as Toronto mulls limiting closures amid challenges - The Globe and Mail