Walking, cycling rose on stretch Yonge because of ActiveTO, CafeTO pilot, data show

People walking and cycling rose on a stretch of Yonge Street in downtown Toronto after patios were expanded and bike paths were built as part of a pilot project, according to city data released on Monday.

As part of the ActiveTO Midtown Complete Street Pilot, city personnel monitored activity on Yonge Street between Bloor Street and Davisville Avenue between May 2021 and June 2022.

The city created a protected cycle path along the Line 1 metro and allowed restaurants to set up 17 curbside cafes in 2020, 18 in 2021 and 21 this year.

The pilot led to a slight increase in vehicle travel times in the afternoon, the data shows. But the city says the pilot changed the street.

“Yonge Street has been transformed into a complete street by the CafeTO and ActiveTO programs, both of which were created in 2020 as quick-start COVID-19 response programs,” the city says on its website.

“CafeTO has urgently supported hundreds of local restaurants and ActiveTO has connected the city’s bike network like never before.”

According to the city, bicycle volumes on Yonge Street in the pilot increased between 35 and 193 percent.

On the busiest part of the pilot corridor at Macpherson and Rowanwood Avenues, the number of people cycling between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. rose from 600 to 1,760, the data shows.

According to the city, pedestrian volume on Yonge Street in the pilot area increased by 68 percent to 126 percent over time.

The city attributed the increase in part to seasonal changes in pedestrian activity and shifts due to the pandemic.

Slight increase in vehicle travel times, data shows

However, vehicle travel times increased by 1.5 minutes in the afternoon period compared to travel times before the pandemic. Changes in vehicle travel times during the peak hours of am and pm were generally less than a minute, plus or minus, the city said.

Also, vehicle volumes on Yonge Street in the pilot area have changed by plus or minus 10 percent between May 2021 and June 2022.

“Before and during the pilot, consultations were held with local companies, four Business Improvement Areas, various neighborhood associations and local residents,” the municipality reported in a press release on Monday.

“Further feedback will be gathered before a recommendation is made on whether or not to make the pilot permanent next year.”

Toronto City Council approved the pilot in April 2021 as part of its pandemic recovery strategy. In April 2022, the council approved the extension of the pilot on a temporary basis to allow for more monitoring, consultation and evaluation.

The city’s transportation services division is expected to report to the city’s Infrastructure and Environment Commission and City Council by January 2023 with more data, analysis and recommendations for the pilot.

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