Group pushing city to close major stretch of Bloor for Open Streets festival
Bloor Street is shown in this file photo.
Chris Fox, CP24.com
Published Tuesday, April 8, 2014 4:14PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, April 8, 2014 5:31PM EDT
A proposal to turn a 9.3 kilometre stretch of Bloor Street into a pedestrian mall on select Sundays this summer has resulted in gridlock at city hall, but organizers say they are still hopeful the idea will get a green light.
Open Streets TO is pushing to close Bloor Street to vehicular traffic from Parkside Drive to Logan Avenue on four Sunday mornings in July and August, creating a public festival with fitness classes, musical performances and other activities along the otherwise traffic-clogged artery.
The idea has the backing of several community groups as well as Councillors Ana Bailao and Kristyn Wong-Tam, but it remains to be seen whether it will actually come to fruition as a staff report that was expected last April is yet to be completed, leaving the initiative in a state of limbo.
“We have seen these programs happen much quicker in other cities and it has been a little bit frustrating that we haven’t been able to make things happen faster here,” Organizer Emily Munro of 8-80 Cities told CP24.com on Tuesday, noting that places like Ottawa, New York and Los Angeles run similar events. “Toronto is such a perfect city for this. We have a flat terrain, we have existing transit right underneath the route and we have a grid pattern, which also makes it easier. There are just so many things working in favour of having this program in Toronto that I can’t see any real reason not to do it.”
The province has provided $180,000 in funding to 8-80 Cities for the purpose of spreading the Open Streets concept to other places across Ontario with about $25,000 of that funding available to stage the festival in Toronto and the rest going to Open Streets festivals in Kingston, Thunder Bay and Windsor.
If approved, Munro said Open Streets would provide residents with a number of free and accessible recreational activities and would encourage a wide-range of Torontonians to live a healthier lifestyle, even if is just for a day.
Beyond that, Munro said the event would “help Torontonians connect with each other and experience new and different neighbourhoods” while also helping boost business at stores, coffee shops and restaurants along the route.
“There are just so many different benefits,” she said. “It reduces air pollution, it makes the street quiet and enjoyable and you will just see people smiling and laughing and having a good time everywhere you go.”
Ford says closing Bloor Street would be chaos
While advocates for the idea point out that the traffic impact would be minimal since major intersections along the route would remain open, others at city hall are expressing concern that gridlock could ensue.
“It would be chaos. Bloor is busy as it is and I just can’t support this,” Mayor Rob Ford told reporters on Tuesday. “I need traffic to flow. If people want to do their yoga we have plenty of parks."
The proposal will need the support of city council as a whole if it is to be implemented and Munro told CP24.com that she is hopeful that all the aprovals can be in place for the first planned event on July 27.
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