Toronto has approved the installation of 40 kilometres of cycling infrastructure across the city, including a significant portion along Danforth Avenue, in the community I represent as city councillor. With it, we are finally on the right path to main street recovery, now and for years to come.
Expanding cycling infrastructure is the right thing to do to help our local businesses recover from this pandemic, restore consumer confidence, and give people safe alternatives to the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC).
The road to economic recovery runs through main street.
Over the course of the pandemic, I’ve talked to hundreds of businesses, and we know that bringing people back to places like the Danforth will be critical to the city’s recovery. This is about making Danforth a destination.
In truth, Toronto’s main streets were struggling before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. This pilot will see an unprecedented $4 million investment this summer to make the kinds of enhancements we’ve needed for years: for our public realm, for patios, for dedicated parking, and to add the infrastructure we need so that people can safely walk, ride, and roll in our neighbourhood.
Restoring consumer confidence is a big part of what cities need for recovery. Before COVID-19, there were as many as 13,000 pedestrians and 27,000 subway boardings on Danforth every day. With TTC ridership down 85% and the majority of those people no longer visiting the Danforth, we need safe alternatives to the TTC, such as walking and cycling, to bring people back to this vibrant community.
Starting to reopen incrementally and with local trips is the right approach.
We all know that many of our mom and pop shops have experienced devastating impacts over the last few months. Almost half of small businesses across Canada have seen their revenue drop by over 70%. Estimates vary, but tens of thousands of small businesses are expected to close due to COVID-19, and more than a million Canadians have been laid off from the restaurant and hospitality sector.
A government response alone can’t fix this. We have to go all-in as a community, and whoever can contribute will need to do so. We all have a role in keeping doors open and jobs retained in our community, and communities across Canada.
This proposal is city-building at its best. We are taking an existing project – the Danforth Avenue Planning Study initiated last year – and adapting it quickly and effectively to meet our current needs. We’re taking an integrated approach by working across our Economic Development, Transportation Services, City Planning, and Public Health departments, to break down silos.
Accelerating a project in this way is the kind of responsive and agile government people expect. This is about taking action and getting things done. We must move the city forward and advance our priorities like economic recovery, infrastructure investment, and providing space for safer streets.
Now, more than ever, we are all being asked to think and act differently to support the greater good. This project is no exception. It is one step on the path of big, important steps to keep us, and our main streets, healthy and safe. This situation is a prime example of where the risk of doing too little is greater than the risk of doing too much.
Investing in active transportation infrastructure is about creating a healthy recovery, not just from the virus, but for our long term physical and mental health, and the health of our environment.
Brad Bradford is the Toronto City Councillor for Ward 19 – Beaches-East York.