For two Sunday mornings in August, pedestrians will rule some major roadways as the Open Streets pilot program promoting physical activity begins.
On Aug. 17 and Aug. 31, about five-kilometres of Toronto’s downtown core will be closed to all vehicular traffic and will, instead, welcome pedestrians from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
What will be closed:
- Bloor Street between Parliament Street and Spadina Avenue.
- Yonge Street between Bloor and Queen Streets.
- Major intersections will have crossing points where cars can pass through.
“It’s really magical,” said Emily Munroe with Open Streets TO. “I’ve seen these programs all over the world and people are walking and biking and out with their strollers, they are rollerblading.”
Organizers said that other major cities like New York, L.A., Paris and Mexico City have already taken part.
“People love to be able to experience the street in a new way,” she said. “We’ve seen that everywhere we go. As soon as you close a street, people come out in droves, people just like to see it from a new vantage point.”
There might be a lack of parking or access for cars, but organizers are assuring local business that business will get a boost from increased foot traffic.
But some have said that the event will only further bungle the issue of gridlock in the city at a time rife with construction projects.
Mayor Rob Ford has been a very vocal opponent to such closures for festivals and marathons over the years and said he would not support Open Streets TO because he saw no benefits to closing major roads to vehicular traffic.
“People are going to get very upset when they find out the streets are closed just to walk on street we weren’t meant to walk on,” Ford said. “They’re made for cars and buses and bicycles.”
Ford said he wants to know how permits to close the city's two main traffic arteries, even for only a few hours, were approved without a vote at council.
As for the price tag associated with the event, organizers said they will announce some major sponsors in the coming weeks that will cover the police duty paid to ensure safety at the event.