Huge Esplanade revitalization project will alter movement patterns

Kayla Higgins

Summary of proposed upgrades on The Esplanade. Photo: Courtesy of City of Toronto

Two of Toronto’s most historic streets may soon be getting a major renovation — if everything being proposed for the area is approved.

Mill Street and The Esplanade, established alongside Toronto’s waterfront over 170 years ago, will have bi-directional bicycle tracks on one side of the road.

The City aims to promote usage of public cycling on the road, instead of the pedestrian promenade. Linking The Esplanade with Mill Street via the north side of Parliament Square Park, the protected bike lane would connect existing bikeways on Bayview Avenue, Cherry Street, Lower Sherbourne and Yonge Street.

At a virtual public meeting in February, the city said project goals are to improve safety for everyone, to make walking, cycling and taking transit more attractive, and to maintain access to local and citywide destinations.

Adam Popper, a Project Manager in the city’s Transportation Services Division, said changes to intersections would include renewed pavement markings, prohibited vehicle turns, and signal timing to separate vulnerable road users from vehicles.”

From 2015 to 2019 there were 342 collisions on The Esplanade and Mill Street, 10 percent of them involving walking or cycling. Three led to serious injury or death.

David Crombie Park, beside The Esplanade on the west side of Sherbourne, is also facing a substantial revitalization. According to the city’s website, the park’s promenade “is imprinted with cultural and historic references that reflect the diversity of the community” and would be prioritized for pedestrians.

TTC bus routes serving thousands of passengers daily would adapt to fit the changing landscape. From Fort York-Esplanade to Parliament, the design would restrict traffic to certain blocks while preserving bus access, “reducing non-local motor vehicle traffic and congestion that slows the bus.”

One major concern addressed during the virtual meeting was the city’s plan to reduce parking on The Esplanade and Mill Street from 523 spaces to 60, with 10 spaces on The Esplanade and 50 on Mill Street.

The proposal is “not all about lifestyle. Some of it is about getting to work, getting out of the neighbourhood, or parking in the neighbourhood,” said Judith Campbell, longtime Toronto resident and member of the Longboat Avenue Residents Association.

Consisting of over 140 households, the community group is located in the St. Lawrence Neighbourhood and encompasses Longboat Avenue, Princess Street, Portneuf Crescent, Aitken Place and Douville Crescent.

“We can be circling for a couple hours trying to find a parking spot in our own neighbourhood. I hope [the project] reflects the big vision of the city, but acknowledges some of the very real day-to-day challenges that it imposes.”

Campbell underlined complications in traffic patterns, saying the changes could confuse pedestrians, cyclists and drivers. “You can go here, you can’t go there, transit is happening here, cyclists ride here – it’s very, very complicated.” 

Implementation is to begin this year and extend towards the end of 2023. The new bikeway and associated changes along The Esplanade and Mill Street between Lower Sherbourne and Bayview will kick off the project.

1 Comment

I’d like to contribute editorially to The Bridge. I’m former editor-publisher of The Bulletin local community tabloid and Bruce Bell was my “find.” We published monthly for 16 years and circulation was mailed to 60,000.
Phone me at 416-368-3071.
I look forward to meeting you.

Frank Touby