In a June 6 letter to city councillors, Shapiro acknowledges that closing roads to cars so residents could get outside and exercise was important during the pandemic.
“However, the location of this program in 2022 drastically impacts fans’ ability to access the ballpark on summer weekends, when baseball is a main attraction in the city,” he said, adding that many Blue Jays fans travel from outside the GTA.
Shapiro suggested that cyclists and pedestrians use other routes to get around the city.
The letter elicited sarcasm and disappointment among urbanists and active transportation activists, who noted that the Rogers Centre is only a few minutes’ walk to both the TTC and GO Transit.
“As an organization ostensibly committed to youth sports … and, as a club whose stadium is at a nexus of transit infrastructure, this is very disappointing,” tweeted urban planner Gil Meslin.
City Council is expected to consider, on June 15, a report that looks at the success of ActiveTO, which has become less consistent since pandemic restrictions loosened and traffic volumes picked up.
Mayor John Tory said he wants to see ActiveTO continue “in a balanced way.”
“Lake Shore West is something we have to study very carefully. We have to look at all the facts and the evidence,” he told reporters.
“A letter from the Toronto Blue Jays expressing concern is one piece of evidence,” said the mayor.
Tory said there have also been complaints from residents near Lake Shore Blvd. West about not being able to get in and out of their neighbourhoods during the road closures.
City spokesperson Brad Ross sent a statement saying, “Many of the major annual events are returning to Toronto this summer and fall. These events are expected to draw many road users into and around the city. As such, staff have continued to review ActiveTO on a case-by-case basis as the reopening has been happening.”
He noted that ActiveTO will take place this weekend on Bayview Avenue, from Rosedale Valley Road to Lawren Harris Square; River Street, between Bayview Avenue and Spruce Street; and The Meadoway, from Brimley Road to Scarborough Golf Club Road.
But Lake Shore Blvd. West will also be closed to cars on Saturday between Seventh and Second streets for the Grilled Cheese Challenge festival.
While Toronto doesn’t want to hurt the Rogers Centre, it can’t go backwards on active transportation, said City Councillor Joe Mihevc, who is serving Ward 10 (Spadina-Fort York) since former councillor Joe Cressy took a job at George Brown College because he wasn’t planning to run in this fall’s election.
Mihevc said there is room for negotiation.
“It needs to be mediated and figured out when the games are. There are lots of policy options available to sort this out,” he said, before adding “my bias is ActiveTO.”
Advocates for active transportation (cycling, walking) say much of Toronto’s best cycling infrastructure, including the Martin Goodman Trail, Sherbourne and Wellesley streets, is blocked by the same construction that impedes motorists.
ActiveTO needs to remain “until we have a useful, uninterrupted, unblocked network of safe streets for people to get around the city,” said Jess Spieker of Friends and Families for Safe Streets. She suffered a broken spine and brain injury when a driver hit her on her bike in 2015.
“To take away something that’s so healthy and joyous from residents who live here and pay property taxes here and contribute to the city, to placate people who are driving from outside the city …. This is our home,” she said.
Albert Koehl, a cycling advocate and environmental lawyer, said out-of-town baseball fans should be encouraged to park at a station outside the core and ride the rest of the way on public transit. He noted it is a generation since children could be seen riding their bikes on city streets.
“We want people to visit the city, but we want them to wipe their feet at the door,” he said.
Koehl said Toronto needs to be more assertive in its support of policies, such as ActiveTO, that successfully support the city’s objectives of promoting physical activity, and of reducing car use and greenhouse gas emissions.
Cities all over the world close their streets regularly to allow ordinary people access to safe physical activity outdoors, said Dylan Reid of Walk Toronto.
“Let’s treat ActiveTO as part of our civic life and take it seriously!” said Reid.
Improvised during COVID-19, the program turned out to be successful.
“Have it on the same time every week, every summer like every other city that does this and say (the road) is going to be closed and work around that!” he said.
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