Cyclist Detour for Toronto’s Waterfront – Spadina to York

We love seeing this sign. A detour for cyclists during construction. Thanks Waterfront Toronto!

Cyclists Detour - Downtown Waterfront

Story and photos by Jun Nogami, Kathleen Banville and John Baker

Three dandies took a ride on the new "Cyclist Detour" that has been organized by Waterfront Toronto during their Queens Quay redevelopment. It is all part of a larger redevelopment project which involves all three levels of government and a swath of waterfront real estate.

Still, the central portion of Queens Quay is very busy -- even during construction. A cyclists detour was suggested during a Queens Quay working group meeting. This suggestion was critical because it was noted that cyclists would ride on the sidewalk on Queens Quay if the road was impassable and that would create dangerous situations for everyone (not to mention bad vibes!).

Turns out that there was a preexisting path conveniently located nearby, running alongside Lakeshore under the Gardiner. Built as part of the original Waterfront Trail around 1983-4, it was decommissioned in the late eighties as the area was being developed, because Queens Quay was the preferred route for the trail. During the Queens Quay construction, cyclists are being directed to use this older part of the Waterfront Trail, and there will also be winter maintenance on the path (thanks to Christina Bouchard at the City Of Toronto for this info).

Clay McFayden, a member of the Queens Quay working group, says, "the detour for Queens Quay West is actually the old Martin Goodman Trail route; back in the 80s it was considered even better than what was before."

He continues, "The old MGT actually crossed at Bay St. Since the last part of the trail near Bay Street has been blocked by construction, the detour route had to go around that part of the old MGT (west of Bay) -- that's why the detour goes through the park at the York ramp to Queens Quay."

Jun Nogami:

It was interesting to discover a paved pathway that has been here the whole time, and yet it does not appear on the Toronto Cycling Map. I'm going to use this in the future to bypass Queens Quay between Spadina and York, at least until the whole project is done.

Here is the start of the bypass at Lower Spadina, headed east just south of Lakeshore Blvd.

Faded lines on the pavement in this first section show that this was once part of the Martin Goodman Trail.

Here is the crossing at Rees St.

Beyond Rees, the pathway separates into a sidewalk and a paved path.

Here, the sign indicates that we should ride on the sidewalk. I realize that the paved path is in poor repair, but this is still bad practice.

The crossing at Lower Simcoe. Here is the first real problem with the bypass: the sign encourages you to ride straight across, whereas in reality, you should dismount and walk across at the crosswalk just a few steps to the north.

Just on the other side of York St, you are directed onto a wide walkway.

This walkway cuts across the York St. on ramp. Although there should be some road markings here for pedestrian safety, I was happy to see that drivers are watchful at this crossing point.

York St. on ramp

This is the end of the path. Beyond here, you are supposed to cross to the south side, and then to walk your bike along the sidewalk until Bay.

In principle, westbound bike traffic can mix it up with cars on Queens Quay, but given the look of the cars here, along with all of the construction related congestion, I elected to bike back along the same pathway, and I felt much safer.

I can also see that it would be useful for families who drive and park and then take bikes out to the Island. You can get to the path from the north side of any of the large parking lots on the north side of Queens Quay, and ride out to the foot of York St. without mixing it up with car traffic.

Of course, when the whole Queens Quay Revitalization is done, it will be terrific, but that is a couple of years away.

Jun Nogami works at U of T. His blog about "Biking in the Big City" is here. Find other stories on the dandyBLOG by Jun Nogami here.


Kathleen Banville:

Queens Quay is a part of the Waterfront Trail, a provincial route connecting Niagara Falls all the way to the border of Quebec. Considering the heavy use of cyclist traffic, it has never been a great place for bikes. Now the city of Toronto is reconstructing the waterfront to include better amenities for pedestrians and cyclists.

Over the next two years there will be many transit and traffic interruptions but hopefully we'll come out on the other side with a better waterfront for Toronto.

Now that eastbound traffic is blocked on Queens Quay, drivers have to find another way across the waterfront. Luckily for cyclists, there's an alternative bike route that runs alongside Lakeshore.

After making the awkward connection at Spadina, I found the detour route fun to take. My main concerns are for people who might get confused and ride on Lake Shore instead of on the bike path.

Riding along under the industrial Gardiner expressway provides a different view of Toronto, despite the worry of falling pieces. I found there was more than enough signage on the route and even a number of maps along the way to explain how the detour works. Overall I'm very glad that consideration was given to maintaining the bike route during construction, and hope that this will happen more often along construction routes in Toronto.

It's basically a strip of asphalt between Queens Quay and Lakeshore just for cyclists to use while the revitalization is being done!

Kathleen Banville works at Urbane Cyclist. See other dandy articles by Banville here.


John Baker:

As far as riding the pathway, it wasn't too exciting. It's basically the sidewalk that runs along the road and there is a bunch of construction. You are buried under the highway so it's got that cold concrete kind of vibe (cold as in the feeling, but it suits the weather ha ha) and the cars are driving by. It's shared with pedestrians but because it was cold there weren't many folks walking.

The romanticized perspective would be that it is reminiscent of a European bike line; traffic on either side, yes, but an area for pedestrians and cyclists to travel without a worry of dodging cars and other variables whilst commuting. If Toronto were to incorporate something like that, it would be awesome, although I guess the scenery would still be ugly. But given the presence of high-speed roads surrounding the area, it's better than any alternative. But full bike lanes on Queens Quay (with maybe some smooth and fresh concrete!) would do the trick too.

John Baker is a new dandy contributor who recently wrote a comparative review of Premium Rush vs. Line Of Sight and spoke with Nadir Olivet about the filming of the Guatemalan portion of Line Of Sight.


Kathleen Banville leads us up to the Queens Quay cyclists' detour, and through it, in her photographs below:


"During construction, a detour bike route (see map) will enable cyclists to bypass most of the construction area. The detour bike route is an asphalt trail located in the boulevard area on the south side of Lake Shore Blvd W between Lower Spadina Ave and York St. Cyclists may use this route for either eastbound or westbound travel. Westbound cyclists may ride alongside vehicular traffic through the construction zone on Queens Quay but are encouraged to use the detour route when possible." - Waterfront Toronto

dandyhorse would like to see detours and temporary bike racks installed at every and all construction sites all over town, at the developers expense. Detours for cyclists (and pedestrians) are more common in cities like Vancouver, New York and Montreal. In Montreal you will sometimes have a fully separated detour – with cement “jersey” bollards separating cyclists from traffic.

Creating a cyclist detour was one of dandy publisher Tammy Thorne’s recommendations during her time on the Waterfront Toronto committee for Queens Quay revitalization. At Clay McFayden's request, Waterfront Toronto will improve the bike detour signage at Lower Simcoe to make it clearer that cyclists are to use the pedestrian crosswalk there.


Here is some new signage at Lower Simcoe and Reese Street, courtesy of ECCL - Eastern Construction Company Limited

For more information on the detour, see the City’s website here.

What do you think about the new cyclist detour along Lakeshore? Email web editor to share your thoughts on the Queens Quay construction detour for cyclists.

Related on the dandyBLOG:

Tammy and Colleen's Great Waterfront Trail Adventure

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2 responses to “Cyclist Detour for Toronto’s Waterfront – Spadina to York”

  1. AgFlyer says:

    The detour is a little hard to see when going south on Lower Simcoe Street. I’ve missed it a couple of times now…

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