This is the seventh installment in dandyhorse’s new dandyCommute series, which will continue with more stories and photos of your favourite utilitarian cycling routes through 2013. Send us your super commute story today and win bike swag.
dandyCommute #7: Lowther to Lappin (approximately 4.5 kilometres)
Story and photos by Sarah Greene
As a freelance writer, I don’t really have a commute – unless you count biking to the library or coffee shop.
Recently I was asked to dog sit in the west end, just down the street from where I used to live on Wallace Avenue. (I lived between Symington and Campbell, across from Yasi’s Place, which doesn’t exist anymore – sadly).
This is a commute that I am very familiar with, because while I was living there, I used to visit my boyfriend here in the Annex, and because we were both living north of Bloor and south of Dupont, I cobbled together a slower but as direct a route as possible across the Annex, past Christie Pitts and to my west-end apartment.
Yes, Bloor is faster; so is Dupont. But I prefer to bike on side streets if I’m not going somewhere right on Bloor or Dupont. Google Maps says this trip takes 15 minutes, but it takes me more like 20 or let's say, 22. Either I’m slow, or it’s that never-changing light at Spadina.
Here’s how I roll:
I start near Taddle Creek Park, then head west on Lowther (signed on-street route 16), passing St. George and almost always getting stuck waiting for that light to change at Spadina. This slow-changing light appears to be an invitation for cyclists and pedestrians to break the law, as a good percentage of people lose patience with this intersection and cross before the light has changed. I would really like to see cyclist and pedestrian-triggered lights that work here, especially for those quieter off hours in the evenings.
Once I make it through the light, I bike around the traffic circle at Gwendolyn MacEwen Park (above), jog up Brunswick and hang a left on Barton. Barton takes me past St. Alban’s Square (some cyclists go through) and over to Bathurst, then past Bateman’s and Karma Co-Op.
I take Euclid or Manning to Follis, squiggle over to Clinton and take that up to Yarmouth, where I turn left and cross Christie.
It took me a long time to adopt this part of my route, because I used to be in the habit of biking the wrong way up Shaw (I stopped doing this eventually after getting honked at by a police officer for doing so).
I’m glad I found Yarmouth, because it has become one of my favourite parts of the ride. It is also the only street I know of in town that has an elephant sculpture on it:
Yarmouth takes me to Hub on Shaw, where I'm then able to bike south (in the correct direction!) to meet the beginning of Hallam.
Oh, Hallam. I didn’t know about this street before I lived in the west end, but it’s a humble looking bike route with sharrows that you can take from Shaw over to Dufferin, passing pretty-looking Dovercourt Park, and Dovercourt and Hallam (home to the Recorder Centre – a store devoted to all things recorder).
The most stressful part of this trip, and the part that I would most like to see improved, is the navigating of and crossing of Dufferin to connect to the last leg of the suggested bike route on Lappin.
Hallam spits you out across from Bastone Home Hardware, and just down the street from the Galleria Mall. This is always a high traffic area. If you want to go south, you must bike a number of blocks on Dufferin before you can legally turn right onto Wallace, and if you want to carry on westward on the suggested signed sharrow route, you need to jog up Dufferin and make a left onto Lappin.
If it is really busy, I cross with the pedestrians and walk/bike on the sidewalk to Lappin before proceeding west. (Yes, it is illegal to ride on the sidewalk and also dangerous, I know.) If I’m feeling brave, and traffic allows, I move into the left lane on Dufferin and make the left with traffic. Making a left from the right lane is nearly impossible here because of car traffic.
I don’t like biking on the sidewalk and I don’t like being forced to dismount and walk and then get back on my bike. I’d like to see a cyclist right-of-way for left turns here, in both directions, to facilitate the use of the recommended bike routes in place. A robust bike box with an advanced green for cyclists would be dreamy.
A note on Wallace: it is (in my opinion) a charming street with tons of schools and great parks and corner stores, but it is also a car thoroughfare with a railway crossing, and interactions between drivers and cyclists here are often tense. It’s a diverse and rapidly changing neighbourhood, with lots of young families, artists and queer-positive households moving in (not to mention new tech/gaming companies and fancy coffee shops) – but I find it fascinating if not a bit worrisome when I visit here and witness the interactions between the increasing number of cyclists in the 'hood (the West Toronto Railpath is just down the street) and the impatient, frustrated drivers trying to get through.
Here are Saeren and Mojave, the dogs I was hanging out with at Wallace-Emerson Park (by the Galleria). There’s a newly redone BMX and skateboard park there, and I found this bike tire in a tree and had to take a photo of it.
I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I sometimes pack a ridiculous amount of stuff on my bike. Here’s what I biked home from dog-sitting with the other day:
My route home is similar, but when I’m jogging south on Dufferin to meet Hallam, it actually makes sense sometimes to dismount and wait for the pedestrian light, or wait on the right side of the street at the light. After Hallam, I take Garnet Ave East to Christie, pass the fantastic (if pricy) Fiesta Farms, and take Barton and Lowther Home.
It isn’t part of my new, streamlined route, but taking Barton across Christie Pitts at sunset, especially if there is a baseball game going on, is a free slice of heaven in Toronto.
Here’s a picture of my cat, Papousha (below).
I was also cat-sitting in the Annex, but contrary to what our dandy winter cycling poster (PDF) would suggest, kitties don’t like to go for a ride to the park. Gratuitous kitty photo.
dandyhorse web editor Sarah Greene bikes for transportation, relaxation, and sometimes inspiration. A native Torontonian, one of her first published pieces of prose was a letter to the editor at NOW Magazine in support of the then-new Dundas East bike lanes. These days, her work can be found in NOW Magazine, Quill & Quire, This Magazine, Broken Pencil, The Coast, Words & Music, and, of course, dandyhorse.
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Related on the dandyBlog: see other stories by Sarah Greene here.
This story is part of a new series about commuting by bike to work.
Related on the dandyBLOG:
The last story from our dandyCommute series here
The first story from our dandyCommute series here
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