On May 28, 2020 Toronto City Council approved ActiveTO, a suite of programs that support the City’s restart and recovery response to COVID-19, including ActiveTO Major Road Closures and a Complete Street pilot project on Danforth Avenue.
Between May and October 2020, the ActiveTO Major Road Closures provided space for recreational activity to support mental and physical wellbeing while maintaining physical distance during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The City partnered with The Centre for Active Transportation (TCAT) at Clean Air Partnership and Park People to lead public intercept surveys to understand a nuanced perspective and best inform future recommendations on the Major Road Closures and Destination Danforth complete street pilot project.
The Major Road Closures intercept survey was conducted on September 20, 2020 at two locations (Lake Shore Boulevard East and Lake Shore Boulevard West). The goal of the study was to explore the impact of the Major Road Closures on physical activity levels, mental health, and cycling adoption.
Over 350 people completed the survey. Here are the key findings (also included within the City’s ActiveTO – Lessons Learned from 2020 and Next Steps for 2021 report):
- Two thirds of people reported being more active, thanks to the weekend road closures.
- Almost everyone agreed that the added space helped them maintain physical distancing.
- Most people using the weekend road closure came from the immediate neighbourhood.
- Over a quarter (29%) of cyclists using the weekend road closures were new to cycling or had cycled in the past and re-started this year.
- New cyclists and those returning to cycling in 2020 included a greater proportion of women and people identifying as Black, Indigenous or a person of colour (BIPOC). However, overall, cyclists who identify as BIPOC, women, have low income, or are older adults were under-represented.
- There is high support for continuing the closures, both during and after COVID-19.
- For people using them, the closures were mostly issue-free.
Toronto City Council subsequently approved the return of a more flexible and expanded ActiveTO program in 2021.