ActiveTO achieved more in weeks than years of city hall debate

Toronto program should guide planning in the future but needs input from local residents

Karen Stintz is a former city councillor, elected in 2003, and was a chair of the TTC. She lives in Ward 8.

When governments temporarily shuttered schools and businesses and ordered people to stay home, the unintended consequence was the overflow of people in neighbourhood parks, public spaces and on sidewalks.

At one point, the mayor contemplated making sidewalks directional so that people would move in the same direction on the sidewalk as the flow of car and bicycle traffic.

As it became more clear that the existing parks and public spaces were insufficient to absorb the masses of people that wanted to be outside, the city created the ActiveTO program. The goal of the program was to create pedestrian-friendly streets and more opportunities for cyclists.

The ActiveTO program was aggressive and achieved more in weeks than previous councils had achieved in years. Major streets were closed on the weekends to alleviate pressure on the existing bike and trail paths.

There has also been an unprecedented expansion of the bike network throughout the city.

It is likely that these initiatives will continue long after the pandemic threat diminishes because the closed streets were well used by pedestrians and cyclists. However, there is one part of the program with an uncertain future.

Without local consultation, the city decided to create Quiet Streets. Of course there is nothing wrong with quiet streets. Everyone wants to live on a quiet street. However, the designated Quiet Streets weren’t exclusively on cul-de-sacs or local neighbourhood streets. The approximately 60 streets dubbed “quiet” were often minor arterial roads or bus routes.

Duplex and Jedburgh Avenue, just west of Yonge Street and north of Eglinton Avenue were designated as Quiet Streets for local traffic.

Prior to the pandemic, these streets carried 10,000 cars a day. In order to slow down traffic, the city installed concrete barriers every six blocks or so down the middle of the road. In between the concrete barriers are orange pylons.

Sometimes the pylons are in the middle of the street, sometimes they are adjacent to the curb and block entry into the lane, and sometimes they are crushed and moved to the side of the road. It can create quite a roadblock, especially when cars are parked close to the intersection where the cones or concrete barrier are blocking access.

The city will need to consider the future of this part of the program because if people start returning to work and choose driving over cycling or transit, Duplex and Jedburgh will once again be major carriers of vehicular traffic. Without question, the concrete barriers will be a major impediment to snow clearing.

The city conducted a public opinion poll about Quiet Streets. The poll was random and sent to residents across the city who may or may not be that familiar with the actual streets that have been impacted.

If the city wants to continue the ActiveTO and Quiet Streets program next spring and summer, hopefully it will include input from the local residents.

Article exclusive to STREETS OF TORONTO