Lake Shore Boulevard West may well become a pedestrian paradise again this year after all.
The weekend car ban from the waterfront thoroughfare in 2020 was the most popular aspect of the city’s ActiveTO program. But in a report released last week, city staff said the closure likely could not be repeated this year due to major road works underway on Roncevaux Avenue that will slow east-west traffic on the roads. Queen and King streets, which run parallel to Lake Shore.
However, at an infrastructure and environment committee meeting on Tuesday, councilors approved a motion from President Jennifer McKelvie asking staff to find ways to include “partial or full closures” of Lake Shore West. “Certain weekends”.
The motion also asked staff to explore other potential ActiveTO sites, including near Exhibition Place, and to consider creating an “improved” version of the local Quiet Streets traffic calming program, which staff had recommended not to return in 2021 after some residents judged him. ineffective.
McKelvie (Ward 25, Scarborough-Rouge Park) said it was clear that opening Lake Shore West and other main streets to pedestrians, runners and cyclists last year had been “an incredible success” .
She said she “hoped” staff could find a way to include Lake Shore West again this year, while also acknowledging “the very important work that needs to be done” at the Roncesvalles-King-Queen intersection.
The city closed main streets for 25 consecutive weekends between May and October last year as part of ActiveTO, which aimed to give residents a way out while remaining physically distant during the first days of the pandemic.
The closures included sections of Lake Shore Boulevard East, Bayview Avenue, River Street and sometimes Yonge Street.
But the four-mile, car-free zone in the eastbound Lake Shore West lanes between Windermere and Stadium Roads was by far the most used. According to the report, 18,000 cyclists and 4,000 pedestrians took advantage of it every weekend last summer.
Further ActiveTO road closures continue this year, but the proposed omission by Lake Shore West staff has sparked criticism that the city is placing drivers’ desire to avoid traffic jams on the welfare of concerned residents. to spend time outdoors while working under COVID-19 restrictions.
McKelvie’s motion has yet to go to council next month for approval, but Transportation Director General Barbara Gray told the committee her staff were willing to include some form of closure on Lake Shore West this year. She suggested testing options for this early in the season to see what works best.
“We are happy to try it,” she said. “We just needed to point out that there would be impacts (on traffic).”
Construction at Roncesvalles-King-Queen is expected to last until August 2022 and includes the replacement of the water main, streetcar track work and the removal of an eastbound right-turn channel which it says city, will make the intersection safer for pedestrians.
Committee member and Ward 11 Councilor Mike Layton suggested that traffic impacts could be mitigated by opening the lake shore to pedestrians and cyclists only on certain weekends, or limiting the closure to fewer lanes than in 2020.
“Let’s try to see what can be done here. It was so important last year, ”he said.
In addition to evaluating options for Lake Shore West, Gray said staff are considering ActiveTO closures outside of downtown on Allen Road and Black Creek Drive, subject to consultation with local councilors.
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