The whole idea of ActiveTO when it was first introduced was to give people space and to encourage exercise.
But now some say it’s become a major problem for drivers in the city — and Toronto city councillor Michael Ford wants to look at putting an end to the program.
“We have to do away with shutting down major arteries of the city,” says councillor Ford, who posted on social media this week about the idea.
“We’re starting to see quite a congestion build on arterial roads.”
ActiveTO started at the beginning of the pandemic — as a way to give residents more space to spread out when we were supposed to stay apart.
But Ford says as the world is slowly opening up — roadways are getting busy.
“City data is showing us that traffic is increasing, three times the regular amount on adjacent routes,” says Ford. “I think that tells us something.”
The idea was carried over into this year, shutting down major roadways, such as Lakeshore Boulevard West, and in The Beaches as well.
But now after more than a year of it in place — some are torn on what to do.
Driver Mario Venerus says it’s time to go.
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“I think they should have just left everything alone in the past,” he says. “Stop this nonsense.”
“Horrible, just horrible,” says Ester, a Toronto resident. “You have to wait four or five lights for this? It’s not worth it for me.”
But not everyone on council feels the same as Ford. Councillor Joe Cressy posted a rebuttal on social media.
“Alternate Take, make it permanent and expand it,” he says.
“The pandemic has exposed the importance of accessible public space. Our task is not to simply beat it, but to build a new and better city afterwards.”
That is something Kevin Rupasinghe, who is with bike advocacy group Cycle Toronto, agrees with.
“I think calls to cancel the program are premature and misguided,” says Rupasinghe. “We should really be continuing to monitor and adjust this. The pandemic is not over and people are still looking to get out.”
Cycle Toronto has been pushing to make it permanent as well and have garnered nearly 5,000 pledges in support of the idea.
“I think we’ve seen it’s a popular program, lots of people continue to use it. Certainly cancelling should not be considered at this time,” Rupasinghe said.
In a statement, Mayor John Tory says he is supportive of keeping the program but recognizes we must watch closely.
“I am committed to making sure ActiveTO continues in the future while also recognizing we must carefully analyze the extensive traffic data we are collecting and make sure we have a plan which acknowledges the realities of a big city and busy weekends with lots of events.”
Councillor Ford says he sees the positives of the initiative, but says something needs to change.
“If there are secondary roads that we can confidently close off. I’m okay with that.”