Toronto launches ActiveTO as city encourages residents to get outside while keeping their distance
TORONTO -- The City of Toronto has unveiled its plan to get residents outside as the warmer weather approaches and the number of COVID-19 cases continues to drop.
Speaking at a news conference on Wednesday, Mayor John Tory says he understands that people can’t stay home forever and hopes that this plan will offer a sliver of normalcy as summertime creeps closer.
“Like many cities, we are trying to find ways to protect livelihoods, while also protecting lives and protecting health in a post-COVID world,” Tory said.
“As the summer comes and the city starts up again we know that people will be out and about more, we’ve already seen that this past weekend. This week we have started to shift from encouraging people to stay home as much as possible to encouraging people to keep their distance as much as possible.”
As a result, the city is launching the ActiveTO program which aims to get residents out of their homes while adhering to the restrictions laid out by Toronto health officials.
“Transportation services and Toronto Public Health are working together on a plan to provide more space for pedestrians, cyclists and transit riders to allow for better physical distancing,” Tory said.
“ActiveTO is about making sure that people have space to get outside have space to get around while respecting physical distancing.”
Tory says that the ActiveTO plan will create more quiet streets in the city by using traffic calming measures on predetermined routes to enable local car traffic only while opening up space for pedestrians and cyclists.
Tory says the routes, which have yet to be announced, will include areas where there is a lack of park space or conversely, close to parks as to avoid congestion in those areas.
The plan, which has already been adopted by the cities of Oakland, Portland and San Francisco, aims to have 50 kilometres of quiet streets in its first phase with plans to increase in the days ahead.
Additionally, transportation staff, as well as public health officials, are recommending the closure of some major roads adjacent to trails or recreational attractions where they have seen crowding in the past.
“Our staff are recommending closing off these roads completely rather than a closure of one lane as a matter of safety for pedestrians and cyclists in these areas,” Tory said, adding that the closures will be implemented on a trial basis, with staff monitoring and making adjustments as necessary.
Finally, the city says it will be expanding its bike infrastructure as it expects more and more cyclists to hit the road in the warmer months.
“We will expand and accelerate key parts of the city council’s approved 10-year cycling plan,” Tory said, adding that he is expecting an influx of cyclists as some residents may be hesitant to use public transit after the lockdown has ended.
On Wednesday, the city reported 217 new cases of COVID-19 and 35 related deaths.
Of the 6,019 confirmed cases in the city and 646 probable cases, the city says that 391 of those patients are in hospital, 99 of which are being treated in an intensive care unit.
Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa commented on the numbers at the same news conference while remarking on last week’s decline.
“Last week, we started to see the number of new COVID-19 cases in Toronto slowly decrease,” de Villa said. “This is promising news and it brings me hope.”
De Villa championed Wednesday’s announcement, noting that ActiveTO falls in line with the recommendations laid out by the World Health Organization.
“The World Health Organization has urged, wherever feasible, to consider walking or biking when moving around during the COVID-19 outbreak.”
“These modes of active transportation not only provide physical distancing but can significantly reduce our risk of chronic diseases and improve our mental health.”
De Villa says she understands the importance of mobility in the recovery process and says we need to “keep Toronto moving.”
“We at Toronto public health are working with our colleagues in the city’s transportation services division on a plan to provide more space for pedestrians, cyclists and transit riders so we can move around safely in our city.”