Blackfriars Bridge reopens to vehicular traffic

A sign indicates the reopening of Blackfriars Bridge to vehicular traffic. Photo courtesy of the City of London.

It’s a sight not seen since the early days of the pandemic: cars, pickup trucks, and SUVs zipping across Blackfriars Bridge.

As of Friday, the historic wrought-iron bridge is open to eastbound vehicular traffic.

Vehicles have not been allowed on the structure since April 2020, when the city opted to bar them as a way of creating more physical distancing space between pedestrians and cyclists during the pandemic. As the planned reopening date drew near, London’s cycling community rallied against it, urging municipal politicians to keep cars off. A petition was even launched on Change.org that garnered over 1,200 signatures. It led city council to reevaluate the issue with Ward 12 Councillor Elizabeth Peloza putting forward a motion to leave Blackfriars for cyclists and pedestrians.

However, Ward 13 Councillor John Fyfe-Millar suggested instead vehicles be permitted to use the bridge while the city awaits a long-term usage study. His motion passed eight to five on November 16.

The usage study will include traffic analysis, public engagement, and will weigh a variety of other factors such as climate change, transportation equity, community impacts, and visitor experiences. It is due back to council in 2023. At that time, politicians will reevaluate the decision to allow vehicular traffic on the bridge.

Blackfriars Bridge is one of the oldest and rarest bridges in Canada. It was built in 1875 and was designated as a Heritage Structure in April 1992. It appears on both the Ontario Heritage Bridge list and the Canadian Register of Historic Places. In November 2017 it was removed from its perch above the Thames River for an $8 million restorative overhaul. It was put back and officially reopened in December 2018. Finishing touches were completed nearly a year later.

Ahead of Friday’s reopening to vehicular traffic, the city erected signs to alert users, who have become accustomed to the car free space, to the change.

“Everyone who uses the bridge is reminded to be mindful of this change,” the city said in a statement.