Sunnyside Bike Park Now Open!

Training wheels in the skill zone.

Sunnyside Bike Park Now Open

By Sonya Allin

My four-year-old is still a little scared to get on a bike without training wheels.  In an attempt to inspire and prepare her to go training-wheel “free”, Robin (my partner) and I have taken her to bike shows where she’s seen some of the GTA’s most talented young riders lift bike riding to an art. We’re also lucky in that our neighborhood has seen an increase in the number of public spaces, like the Wallace Emerson Bike Park, that are designed to promote cycling and encourage young cyclists to learn.

The most recent addition to the mix of new bike parks is the Sunnyside Bike Park, which formally opened last week. This is a narrow strip of land by Lakeshore Drive at Ellis Avenue, which has been re-purposed for recreational cycling by Jay Hoots, a professional rider and designer of more that 50 North American bike parks.  Sunnyside is divided into several sections, which include large dirt jumps for BMX and mountain bikes, wooden and dirt “pump tracks” (or loops of small mounds you can navigate without pedaling), a wooden jumping wall and a “skills zone”.  The “skills zone” is made up of narrow, slightly elevated wooden boardwalks that challenge balance and dexterity.

Robin in the skills zone. He normally insists on wearing a helmet. Do not use the park without wearing your helmet.

While the big jumps are witness to plenty of eye-popping stunts, for my four year old and I all the action was at the “skills zone”.  This is because the “skills zone” is a great place to learn the basic coordination that you need to ride a bike.  The wooden paths have lots of exciting twists and turns and none are elevated much, so falls don’t seem too scary.  While we were there, we found lots of other parents with young kids were gravitating to the same area, and we talked to a few. Umesh and Jay are two such parents; Umesh was there with his eight-year-old and Jay with his son, who is six. Below are some of their thoughts on the new park, and the best parts for the littlest of riders.

Sonya: How do you like the park?

Jay: I think the park is amazing.  They took a piece of land that would otherwise be unused; they didn't put a condo on it, which is amazing … and they're using it for cyclists who really are, in my opinion, not really considered first class citizens in the city.  So I think it's a great initiative, and it's a lot of fun.

Jay on his favorite part of the park: a berm in the dirt pump tracks.

Sonya: What are your favorite parts of the park?

Jay: I've tried everything except the big stuff.  But everything else I have been on, and it's all fun.  And they have little stuff for kids which I love … as I said I am here with my six year old.  You can get on some of the easy stuff and feel pretty comfortable.  And the falls are not too big, which teaches kids to get back up and keep trying.

Jay’s son on the dirt pump track.

Sonya: It looks like your son has been enjoying the dirt pump track.

Jay: He had a little bit of a fall, and he got back up.  So he's having a lot of fun on it.  And he’s learning, like I said, how to get back up and not to worry about the falls.

Umesh’s son challenging himself on the wooden pump track.

Sonya: How do you like the park?

Umesh: I love it. I'm glad they put it in. We don't live far from here, so as long as the weather cooperates, it's a nice place to come over. It gives the kids something to do. And what I like so far is that it's not too busy.

Sonya: What are your favorite parts of the park?

Umesh: So far, we've tried about three or four parts of the park.  My favourite is this part is this wooden track, but only because I can do it.

View of the ramp from the Skills Zone.

Related on the dandyBLOG:

The Green Line

Bike Spotting on the West Toronto Railpath

Bike Plans in Other Cities: Amsterdam, Calgary and Chicago

Build a bike, build your confidence



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