Cycling in Toronto, Summer 2011

As an avid cyclist in Toronto, I have to say that this has been one of the more difficult summers I can imagine in terms of getting around the city. Summer is the season for construction, that is never an issue, Torontonians have the old joke ‘Toronto has two seasons, winter and construction’ which is a total dad-joke but also completely true. I thought I’d map out the multiple complexities of getting from the Junction to my regular office areas, to show how cyclists who attempt to fo

Here is an example of my daily commute.

    Annette Bike Lane

I start by heading east on Annette St around High Park. It’s a nice little strip of bike lane that gets you safely across the dreaded corner of Dundas West and Annette that used to give me a heart attack, but I now navigate with ease. My major contention with this bike lane is that there are tons of churches ON Annette St that completely disregard the lane and park, PARK, all hours of the day, whenever. Ugh.

    West Toronto Rail Path

I join this delightful cruise down a tiny portion of the way just east of Dundas West and north of Dupont, it ends at Dundas West just west of Lansdowne and then I continue my journey. The railpath is the loveliest of the bike trails/multi-use walks throuh the city, it is rather short and hopefully recent go/cn development will continue that path down to King and Strachan, if I live here that long (or even LIVE that long!) So it’s a good ride, but doesn’t even get me to the downtown-west end.

From there I have two options, depending on the construction du jour. (This is like a Choose Your Own Adventure btw, but on bike.)

    Dundas West

The most straightforward of routes for me to take is just left off of the bike path for a straight zip across Dundas, but as most Torontonians know, this summer it’s been dug up since late spring from Bathurst to Lansdowne, construction also blocking off Ossington and other side streets making it a tiny sliver of traffic (sometimes not even two way) that is full of drivers who DESPITE THE MASSIVE WARNINGS, drive down it and ride the horn behind me as I sweat to keep my lane. I avoid this route at all costs.

    College St

This route has some difficulties. First and foremost, to get to College I need to take a left into traffic to get on Dundas, and then another left a mere few hundred metres to cross TWO merging lanes to College. I must admit, I usually walk or coast my bike on the sidewalk on the southside, then enter the side-street and take a much safer left. Then it’s mostly smooth sailing until Little Italy when cars, cyclists and pedestrians lose their minds and put their lives at risk on a daily basis. Then between Bathurst and University, be prepared for cabbies and cars to consistently zip in front of you with no warning to pick up fares IN THE BIKE LANE or park. Be extra cautious.

From there it depends on which work I’m going to.

    University

A seemingly straight zip down can be dangerous depending on the number of business-people and cabs and delivery trucks. A keen eye at all times as people pull amazing u-turns and stunts on this 6 lane high-way with divider. Usually not as big a problem as other major north/south routes but highly busy.

or

    Jarvis

This bike lane has really improved my commute since it’s creation. I used to take up a whole lane when this was a 5-lane mini-highway because the speed of the cars was phenomenal. It gets a bit claustrophobic when it peters out south of Queen however, so I usually take a left onto Queen and then head down Sherbournes crotch-ripping pothole bike-lane for my last few mere blocks.

I’m recording this for posterity and to explain for non-cyclists just how much of my day is spent calculating the odds of injury and least risk. In a car you’re more likely to only think about speed, speed, speed and potential for grid-lock, on a bike you’re thinking about getting across the city efficiently but also as safely as possible. With the potential removal of bike lanes on Annette, the few that are left on Dupont and the entirety of Jarvis, the decisions we make are going to be harder and more dangerous.

The city needs an active bike plan that addresses us as valued members of the city. We are students, employees, bosses, managers, parents, children, tax-payers and citizens, I think a bike plan that allows SHARED ROAD SPACE shouldn’t be that difficult to arrange, cars are just pieces of metal with people in it, many drivers also cycle and vice versa, why are we allowing ideology to control the way we use our roads?

Thanks for reading, please share and comment. I want to hear more voices.

Image 1: West Toronto Rail Path Website
Image 2: Newsodrome – Tino Reis

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