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City councillor Michael Ford wants to take another look at ActiveTO

Click to play video: 'Toronto city councillor says we should take another look at Active TO' Toronto city councillor says we should take another look at Active TO
As the world continues to open up, Counc. Mike Ford says we need to do away with closing major arteries in the city for Active TO. But as Frazer Snowdon finds out, there are still several people in support of the initiative – Aug 1, 2021

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.

Read more: ActiveTO weekend schedule released for July, Lake Shore West closure distance varied

“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.

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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.

Click to play video: '25 km of new cycle infrastructure proposed in Toronto as part of ActiveTO initiative' 25 km of new cycle infrastructure proposed in Toronto as part of ActiveTO initiative
25 km of new cycle infrastructure proposed in Toronto as part of ActiveTO initiative – May 25, 2020

But now after more than a year of it in place — some are torn on what to do.

“The traffic back up is nuts,” says resident Kevin Lecour. “It’s great for us [using it], but for the majority of the people, it’s a huge headache,” he says.
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Driver Mario Venerus says it’s time to go.

“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.”

Read more: ActiveTO to return summer 2021 including Lake Shore Boulevard West route

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.”

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus outbreak: Toronto mayor says thousands are taking advantage of ActiveTO initiative' Coronavirus outbreak: Toronto mayor says thousands are taking advantage of ActiveTO initiative
Coronavirus outbreak: Toronto mayor says thousands are taking advantage of ActiveTO initiative – May 23, 2020

Cycle Toronto has been pushing to make it permanent as well and have garnered nearly 5,000 pledges in support of the idea.

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“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.”

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