• July 24, 2014 7:06 AM

Open Streets Toronto to launch city's largest free recreation program

2014 Pilot Program will use existing public assets - Toronto's iconic streets - to promote the importance of physical activity, social connectivity and accessibility

TORONTO, July 24, 2014 /CNW/ - Open Streets TO is proud to announce that the Open Streets Pilot Program, a world-class recreation event unlike any other in Canada, will take place between 8:00 am and 12:00 pm on Sunday, August 17 and Sunday, August 31, 2014. The 5.0 kilometre route will comprise Bloor Street (between Spadina and Parliament) and Yonge Street (between Bloor and Queen), connecting some of Toronto's most diverse neighbourhoods. Crossing points will be included at numerous major intersections, where cars will be permitted to pass through as normal.

"We are excited to bring the Open Streets program to Canada's largest city," said Gil Penalosa, Executive Director, 8-80 Cities, and a catalyst for the international Open Streets movement. "We would like to thank the numerous City of Toronto stakeholders for their support in making this a reality and we would like to invite every citizen in Toronto to participate in this free recreational program."

Open Streets are programs that open a city's streets to people and close them to cars. People traffic replaces car traffic, and the streets become "paved parks" where people of all ages, abilities, and social, economic, and ethnic backgrounds can come out and improve their health.

"Iconic cities such as New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Paris and Mexico City, all promote a variety of the Open Streets concept," said Toronto City Councillor, Kristyn Wong-Tam. "I am proud that Toronto will stand amongst these great cities by creating our own distinct program by highlighting the city's most dynamic neighbourhoods."

In addition to these open streets, parks and public spaces along the route, or "hubs", will be programmed with activities put on by members of the surrounding community, providing a window into what each neighbourhood has to offer.

"We are ecstatic that Open Streets is happening this year," said Linda Brett, President of the Bloor East Neighbourhood Association. "We believe that a unifying program like this will help bring together what has become, at times, a fractured city. We believe that Open Streets can become the 'Nuit Blanche' for physical activity."

Local businesses are encouraged to get involved and to take advantage of this unique opportunity. All purchases made by Open Streets participants will be made at established businesses along the route. Merchants in other Open Streets cities, such as Los Angeles, have not only seen an increase in business during and after the events, but have also been grateful for the opportunity to reach out to new customers from other parts of their city.

"Open Streets is in keeping with the work that we are doing on an ongoing basis to create vibrant and unique experiences in Downtown Yonge. We are especially committed to bringing together both the wider community and the public realm in new and creative ways – and Open Streets does exactly that," said Mark Garner, Executive Director, Downtown Yonge BIA.

Ryerson University will be partnering with Open Streets to ensure that there is a research element to the event, designed to learn from, and improve upon, the Pilot Program. Topics such as "Social Inclusion and Diversity", "Youth Engagement" and the "Importance of Physical Activity" will be studied to ensure that Open Streets program development can be tailored to address Toronto's pressing needs.

For more information about the event, visit:  www.openstreetsto.org

SOURCE Open Streets Toronto

For further information: Media Contacts: Emily Munroe, 416.829.4069, emily@openstreetsto.org; Alyssa Bird, 416.220.0158, alyssa@openstreetsto.org