Pedestrians and cyclists took over parts of several Toronto streets this weekend for a second time as part of an initiative to encourage physical activity amid restrictions around COVID-19.
The apparent popularity of the effort has one advocacy group calling for more permanent bicycle infrastructure.
On Saturday, the Nollert-Li family went for a ride along Lakeshore Boulevard East, which was closed to vehicles eastbound in the section along Woodbine Beach.
“I think it gives us a safe spot to bike,” said Beverly Nollert, who was joined by her two daughters and partner.
“You know, it is difficult with trying to maintain physical distance on some of the side streets where we live.”
The city’s ActiveTO initiative — which aims to allow residents to exercise outdoors with space to physically distance — closed vast sections of major Toronto streets including Lakeshore Boulevard East, Lakeshore Boulevard West and Bayview Avenue.
Steve Gilmore and his family peddled along Bayview Boulevard for their ride.
“This has been great because you have four lanes to basically ride and spread out,” Gilmore said. “I mean, we’re not close to anybody right now.”
As the city opens up roads and more amenities in parks, Mayor John Tory told Global News one challenge is finding the right balance between promoting outdoor activity and keeping people safe.
“Crowd scenes are the hardest thing for us to deal with because that just is about human behaviour and personal responsibility,” Tory said. “I think if we create enough space, then it is up to people and their own personal responsibility after that to prevent the crowd scenes.”
Kevin Rupasinghe, the campaigns manager for Cycle Toronto, said closed sections like Lakeshore Boulevard East should be expanded.
As people shift away from public transit during the pandemic, he said ActiveTO demonstrates bicycles can be a good alternative, but that more infrastructure is needed.
“This is really important for the economic prosperity of Toronto because we all have to get moving, so this is about supporting all of our mobility in the coming months,” he said.
For ActiveTO, Tory said the city plans to continually look for improvements.
“We can take each weekend as it comes and assess how things have gone,” he said.
“How crowded is it? Are there places where we need to do more? Are there places where people don’t come out because it’s just not the right place to do it?”
Street closures are scheduled to end at 11 p.m. on Sunday, repeating each weekend until further notice.