The City of Toronto is unveiling new designs for Avenue Road at an open house event on Oct. 18 at Timothy Eaton Memorial Church, 230 St. Clair Ave. W., signalling progress in addressing the longstanding issues.
The new plan aims to transform Avenue Road into a more pedestrian-friendly, people-friendly environment, prioritizing safety, comfort, and connectivity. Avenue Road, a prominent thoroughfare in midtown Toronto, has long been a source of concern for local residents and community associations.
The six-lane stretch, particularly south of St. Clair Avenue, has raised ongoing alarms due to safety issues for vulnerable road users. It has seen multiple accidents over the years, leading to calls for substantial improvements and changes.
“As you’re aware, we’ve been campaigning for several years to initiate change that would make Avenue Road safe for all road users,” said Brock Howes, of the Avenue Road Safety Coalition (ARSC). “While tweaks may be necessary, the city’s proposal shows they have been listening and is a huge step in the right direction.”
Howes got involved with the coalition after he was hit at an intersection along Avenue Road while riding his bicyle. Brock Howes was cycling along Cottingham Avenue in the summer when the incident occurred. Cottingham is a small two-lane residential street that runs east-west and ends at Avenue Road.
ARSC’s Arlene Desjardins, in a prior interview, emphasized the severity of the issue, noting that the intersection at Avenue and Davenport has one of the highest collision rates within 53 Division. However, the pace of change has been disappointingly slow, even as concerns have mounted over the years.
The root of Avenue Road’s problems lies in its history. The road was expanded to its current six-lane configuration over six decades ago, and since then, it has been associated with high-speed traffic. As vehicles descend from St. Clair Avenue into the downtown core, speeds increase significantly, posing heightened risks for pedestrians and cyclists.
Tragically, this history includes fatalities, such as the unfortunate loss of a teenage cyclist named Miguel Escanan in 2021.
Advocates have consistently stressed the need for a transformative approach to Avenue Road. They envision a revamped Avenue Road with four lanes, broader sidewalks, and protected bike lanes physically separated from vehicular traffic. These changes aim not only to enhance safety but also to improve overall comfort and accessibility for all users.
ARSC has been a persistent advocate for change, pushing for improvements for at least six years. These efforts are underpinned by sobering data showing that a significant 85 percent of vehicles on Avenue Road travel at or above the posted speed limit, highlighting the urgent need for intervention.
“We are excited that near term improvements are so close, making pedestrians and cyclists safer while keeping traffic flow very reasonable,” Howes said. “The city estimates travel times on Avenue will be increased by “approximately 1 min” during peak travel times, and much less so at other times.”
Avenue Road is at a pivotal moment, with the unveiling of new designs representing a positive step forward. It is a clear sign that the city is taking residents’ concerns to heart and is moving toward creating a safer, more inclusive, and people-focused Avenue Road for the future.