Bikers, joggers, and cyclists hoping to fly down the middle of Lake Shore Boulevard West this summer will only have limited opportunities to do so. The City of Toronto announced on Wednesday that at the recommendation of City staff, ActiveTO road closures on major streets like Lake Shore Boulevard West will be treated as "limited special events."

These special events, the City says, will be planned and advertised in advance, rather than operate as a regular recurring weekend event as has been seen in previous summers.

“We have made huge progress reopening Toronto and that progress is going to continue," said Mayor John Tory. "City staff are working to accommodate and balance, as much as possible, all the major events across the city that are now back. ActiveTO was a great pandemic program and City staff will work to make sure the program continues where and when it is possible.”

The change comes as City staff detailed in a report the increased traffic that is occurring in these areas when the streets are closed for ActiveTO. After observing the two ActiveTO road closures that already took place in May, staff noted that weekend travel times citywide are 8-10% longer than last summer, and approximately 20% longer than in the summer of 2020.

Travelling eastbound on the Gardiner Expressway from Highway 427 to York Street, for example, takes an average of 21 minutes on weekend days with no closures. But on Monday, May 23, when there was an ActiveTO closure, that same route took 39 minutes.

"Toronto businesses, workplaces and major street events have now re-opened and residents are returning to pre-COVID-19 pandemic activities and travel patterns," the report reads. "As a result of resuming these activities, the ActiveTO Major Road Closures on LSBW are in conflict with the access needs for establishments in the neighbourhood and scheduled events."

In a release, the City noted that Lake Shore Boulevard West is set to host a large number of events, with 10 already taking place so far in 2022 and 250 planned for the vicinity this year, many of which will take place on summer weekends.

But hope for any ActiveTO closures is not lost, as City Council directed staff to consider coordinating closures with other event organizers. Staff has also been asked to look into "quick start actions" that would improve pedestrian and cycling amenities.

ActiveTO road closures were introduced in the summer of 2020 as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, providing outdoor recreational space where Torontonians could maintain physical distance. According to the staff report, closures on Lake Shore Boulevard West alone saw up to 36,000 people daily using the roadway to cycle, and thousands more of daily pedestrians. Two years later, the closures remain popular, with 17,000 cyclists and 4,000 pedestrians using the roadway, Martin Goodman Trail, and nearby boardwalk during the Victoria Day closure -- more than four times the number of cyclists and 25% more pedestrians than were seen, on average, during the two previous days of the long weekend.