Connecting Parkdale to the Waterfront

This bridge by Ontario Place allows cyclists coming from Dufferin Street to get on to the Martin Goodman Trail via Exhibition Place.

Connecting Parkdale to the Waterfront

By Robert Zaichkowski and Laura Pin

Standing at the foot of Roncesvalles “where King meets Queen”, you can see Lake Ontario only a few meters away. A slight hill creates the illusion that nothing separates you from that enticing blue. It might come as a surprise, but historically this was the case. Parkdale was known as a waterfront neighbourhood and a prime beach destination with Sunnyside Amusement Park.

All of this changed in the 1950s with the demolition of most of the Sunnyside facilities and the construction of the Gardiner Expressway. Today, Parkdale is still adjacent to the waterfront, but six lanes of some of the most congested highway in North America separate the neighbourhood from the water. Accessing the lake and the Martin Goodman Trail has become complicated.

One of the major concerns for residents (and the Cycle Toronto Ward 14 Advocacy Group) is connecting Parkdale to the waterfront. Inevitably, this means talking about bridges. Cities across the world are coming up with creative ways to link neighbourhoods that are pragmatic for pedestrians and cyclists; architecturally and aesthetically beautiful; and create new public spaces. Ponte Vecchio in Florence, known for its delicate arches, doubles as a social space with shops and food vendors. Meanwhile, London recently approved a 367m Garden Bridge over the Thames River.

Unfortunately, Parkdale has a long way to go in terms of creating seamless cycling connections, which guide residents (and tourists!) from the waterfront to shopping and restaurants on Queen St. West, to the West Toronto Railpath, Junction, and beyond. Existing waterfront connector routes are plagued by high traffic volumes, fragmented cycling infrastructure and poor connectivity to a broader network of cycling infrastructure.

Here are a few key points describing the status quo in Parkdale for six key intersections.

Waterfront schematic showing each numbered intersection.

1) Dufferin Street

While only the Queen to Springhurst portion is in Ward 14, Dufferin is an important connector for the neighbourhood. The bridge south of Springhurst currently allows cyclists to take the lane and from there, cyclists go through Exhibition Place (via Saskatchewan Road and Princes Boulevard) to access the pedestrian and cycling bridge next to BMO Field, which leads to the Martin Goodman Trail. Unfortunately, Waterfront access via Dufferin is shut down during key events such as the Honda Indy and the CNE.

Type of road? Arterial (very high volume)

Connecting cycling infrastructure? None currently. Potential to connect to the West Toronto Railpath at Queen after the southbound expansion is complete.

Jameson pedestrian and cycling bridge seen from the Martin Goodman Trail.

2) Jameson Avenue

At the foot of Jameson stands a relatively new pedestrian and cycling bridge over Lake Shore Blvd. While the bridge is a great idea in theory – low grade, no motor vehicles, and close proximity to Queen – the reality is disappointing. Cyclists share the Gardiner crossing with motor vehicles merging on and off the expressway. While there is a short bike lane contiguous with the bridge for southbound cyclists, northbound cyclists are essentially stranded at a high volume, high speed junction. Moreover, Jameson is not wide enough to accommodate bike lanes or sharrows without removing parking. All this makes for an uncomfortable ride.

Type of road? Arterial (high volume)

Connecting cycling infrastructure? None. Jameson ends at Queen West, where there is a jog to Lansdowne to continue northbound. However, there is no cycling infrastructure planned for Lansdowne south of the railroad bridge.

Lakeshore Boulevard and Jameson Avenue: One of Toronto’s most dangerous intersections for cyclists.

3) Dowling Avenue

Compared to Jameson, the access to Dowling from Lake Shore has considerably less traffic because it does not provide access to the Gardiner. The age and condition of the existing bridge by Lake Shore may render it unusable by motor vehicles much longer.

Dowling has a great deal of potential as a future cycling and pedestrian corridor. The width of the southbound lane on the bridge (3.5 m) and the sidewalk connecting it to the traffic signal crossing Lake Shore (3.6 m) makes it feasible to permanently close southbound access for motor vehicles and convert it into a multi-use trail along with the sidewalk that could link directly to the Martin Goodman Trail. Sharrows and way finding signs could then be used to connect the Dowling Bridge to King. In fact, a similar idea was discussed before in the 2009 Western Waterfront Master Plan, which suggested converting the entire bridge for pedestrian and cycling use to enhance its longevity.

Type of road? Secondary (low volume)

Connecting Cycling Infrastructure? Potential to connect to signed way-finding routes at Sorauren Avenue and Spinghurst Road.

Bridge connecting Dowling Avenue to Lake Shore Boulevard: A potential Martin Goodman Trail connection?

4) Roncesvalles

Roncesvalles has a pedestrian only bridge spanning the full width of Lake Shore and the Gardiner. Despite semi-frequent appearances of Toronto’s finest cycling the bridge, it is actually illegal to ride a bicycle across due to the steepness of the bridge and narrowness of the path. Consequently, it doesn’t really serve as a cycling connection to the Waterfront, given that cyclists must either dismount or break the law to use the bridge. 

Type of road? Off-road pedestrian path

Connecting Cycling Infrastructure? There are bike lanes on the Queensway to the west of Roncesvalles. Roncesvalles itself has limited cycling infrastructure and streetcar tracks.

Roncesvalles “pedestrian only” bridge seen from the Martin Goodman Trail.

5) Parkside Drive

Parkside Drive, which leads to Keele Street north of Bloor, acts as the eastern border of High Park. Currently, there is no cycling infrastructure on this street, which goes underneath the Queensway as opposed to crossing it. Parkside acts as the boundary between Wards 13 and 14, as well as the Etobicoke-York and Toronto-East York community councils, which means any cycling infrastructure there would need full council approval. Therefore, it is not likely a Waterfront connection will be approved there anytime soon.

Type of road? Arterial road (high volume)

Connecting Cycling Infrastructure? Multi-use paths on the south end of High Park.

6) The High Park connections – Colborne Lodge Drive and Ellis Avenue

Like Dufferin, these connections are technically outside of Parkdale, but in practice, they function as important routes for residents of the area. Both of these roads pass underneath the Gardiner. Currently, there are a smattering of different arrangements where Ellis and Colborne Lodge cross the Queensway and Lake Shore. Notably, none of these intersections have continuous bike lanes north AND south that run through the intersections. For example, when crossing northbound at Colborne Lodge and Lake Shore, cyclists are precariously positioned in the middle of Lake Shore without painted bike lanes to guide the crossing and the bicycle signal provides inadequate time to safely cross the street.

Right now, Cycle Toronto Ward 13 has an ongoing petition for improvements to crossings, including running bike lanes through the intersections and improvements to bicycle activated traffic signals.

Type of road? Secondary (moderate volume)

Connecting Cycling Infrastructure? Off-road paths in High Park and bike lanes on the Queensway.

Above you see Lakeshore Boulevard and Colborne Lodge Drive: Access to High Park via the poorly designed bicycle crossing.

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Laura and Robert are part of the Cycle Toronto Ward 14 Advocacy Group. To find out more or join ,check out our website, Facebook, or Twitter.

Related on the dandyBLOG:

What’s Up Bloor Bike Lanes?

Sunnyside Bike Park Now Open!

The Green Line

Railpath expansion coming soon

Ontario Place to get new waterfront park

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