Billed as Canada's largest free recreation program, Open Streets TO is returning to Downtown Toronto this Sunday, August 19th, with a second date to follow in September. Like previous years, the free recreation program will open up two of Toronto's busiest thoroughfares to pedestrians and cyclists, who will be treated to extensive programming in a car-free environment described as "paved parks." 

Stretches of both Bloor and Yonge Streets will be closed to vehicle traffic for several hours as programmed events geared towards pedestrians and cyclists line the two routes. From 10 AM to 2 PM this Sunday and again on September 16th, people will replace cars on Bloor Street from the Christie Pits to Sherbourne Street, and Yonge Street between Bloor and Queen Streets. 

Open Streets TO, Toronto, Yonge, Bloor, paved park, pop-up2018 Open Streets TO route, image via openstreetsto.org

"Open Streets is about getting out, being active and connecting people in the city without the barriers and stresses created by vehicle traffic," reads a statement from David Simor of Open Streets TO. "We are ecstatic to be back for our fifth year, offering Torontonians a chance to experience our beloved city in ways they never could before. We are excited to appeal to participants young and old and to bring together Toronto's diverse neighbourhoods in a celebration of physical activity and unity."

We covered a previous Open Streets event a few years ago, which drew a reader comment stating that "Just closing down a paved through street doesn't create [an] atmosphere that is conducive to strolling." Addressing this perceived problem, this year's program will lay 5,000 square feet of sod just east of the Yonge and Bloor intersection, "parkifying" one of the city's premier intersections in a symbolic gesture. Open Streets TO and the City of Toronto's Parks, Forestry and Recreation division will work together to create this pop-up park, set to include free unstructured play areas, Muskoka chairs, park benches, two-metre tall trees, flower pots, tents, and official park signage.

This year's programming will be Open Streets TO's most extensive in its 5-year run. Local businesses and community organizations will be hosting free classes and Activity Hubs along the two routes, stressing the unique cultural offerings of each area along the way. No outside vendors are permitted on the routes, making it easier for each neighbourhood to show off its individual character.

"Iconic cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Paris, and Mexico City all promote a variety of the Open Streets concept," stated Ward 27 Councillor, Kristyn Wong-Tam. "I am proud that Toronto put itself on this map of great cities in 2014 by creating our own distinct program and am looking forward to this summer's exciting program."

Open Streets TO, Toronto, Yonge, Bloor, paved park, pop-upDowntown Yonge activity hub during the 2015 event, image by Marcus Mitanis

A handful of sponsors are supporting this year's program, with CentreCourt leading sponsorship. CentreCourt VP of Development, Mitch Gascoyne, stated that "Open Streets is all about building vibrant, healthy and inclusive communities", continuing to say that the company is "excited to be part of the Open Streets magic."

You can learn more about Open Streets TO, and even get involved by visiting their site. Want to get in on the discussion? Let us know what you think using the comments section provided below.