Construction plagues Toronto.
Richmond and Adelaide streets though the eyes of a new cyclist
Story and photos by Jenna Campbell
My first time riding down Richmond and Adelaide streets was terrifying. I had made the mistake to start riding during the middle of rush hour. It became dark sooner than I expected, there was a lot of construction, and traffic was aggressive, packed and gridlocked. I am a new cyclist in Toronto, so I'm not yet hardened to the "two-wheeled-facts-of-life" in this town.
Construction made it hard to make my way through to the bike lane pilot project.
My plan: travel west on Richmond Street, south down Strachan Avenue to the lake, then back the way I came, except heading east on Adelaide Street — and finishing at the Distillery District. I have been reading about - and even participated in an dandy Bike Spotting session on the newly minted Richmond bike lane - the new protected bike lane pilot project on Richmond and Adelaide, so I wanted to check it out and write about it for my dandyhorse series of stories about being a new cyclist in Toronto.
However, I didn’t make it to the lake on my first attempt. I got flustered and said, “Screw this!” and turned around and headed home. In my own defense, I’ll say it was dark, there were so many cars that I wasn't prepared to deal with and I felt like I didn’t know where I was going. I had assumed I'd be happily riding along in a protected bike lane all the way, but this was not the case. It was scary and confusing. I decided I'd try it again during daylight hours.
So, I tried again the following morning after rush hour. What a difference — a night and day difference, quite literally. Traffic was sparse in the later morning hours, and I found it unbelievable that I had trouble navigating such a simple route. Though, this time I had a better idea where I was going, and had studied the map a bit more to help me mentally prepare.
I was also surprised to see that Richmond Street had actually changed over night. The first time (the night before) riding the east leg of Richmond Street between George and Church streets, I could smell the freshly-pressed asphalt and could hear it making a slick sound against my tires.
However, its smoothness didn't last to Strachan Avenue, unfortunately. Construction started kicking in again at Victoria Street and was intermittent throughout. The road was quite rough, a pothole here and a pothole there, and sometimes, there was that random driver who obstructed the bike lane.
Richmond Street's bike lane starts just before University Avenue. The majority of the bike lane rides nicely, when traffic isn't too heavy. Some parts of the bike lane had barriers, which was comforting to ride beside. Past Bathurst Street, Richmond Street turns into a sort of arterial side road. But at Niagara Street, there's an odd disconnect.
The evening before — it was very dark at this point — I was expecting to ride in a straight line to Strachan Avenue. I clearly didn't zoom in and analyze my Google Maps route before heading out. I asked a women passing by for directions. Turns out, Richmond continues if you turn south on Niagara Street and make a quick right. (She also corrected me when I pronounced Strachan as it's spelled. I knew better and was embarrassed. For those who don't know, it's pronounced like "Strohn.")
South down Strachan Avenue was pretty simple, except as you approach Lakeshore Boulevard, there is a hill with a bit of construction at the top.
I crossed Lakeshore Boulevard and went for a gander in Coronation Park. I relaxed for a bit and watched a few airplanes take off across the water from Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport.
Half-way point. Taking a breather by the lake.
Waiting during a long light change to head back at Lakeshore Boulevard and Strachan Avenue by Coronation Park.
The west portion of Adelaide Street was a narrow arterial road until it hit Bathurst Street where its bike lane begins. The bike lane starts off with pylon barriers to separate the bike path. However Adelaide Street has more construction to get around and was dangerous to navigate around during rush hour the day before.
The road was rough throughout and considerably so past University Avenue. Once I reached Parliament Street I turned south to Front Street (more construction at this intersection too) and rode to the Distillery District. It wasn't that difficult to get to, but it would be nice if Adelaide's bike lane extended further. There are no bike lanes, that I'm aware of, that connect to the Distillery District. The area is a bit out of the way and I wonder if more people would visit more often if it was connected to a network of bike lanes. It's quite lovely.
However my entire route I travelled did feel disconnected, despite recent advancements in the Richmond and Adelaide pilot project.
The Distillery District was a great spot to end a long bike ride. It's also a nice example of a pedestrian mall area — something we have been discussing at dandyhorse lately in regards to King Street. Once in the Distillery District, I was a little sweaty, a little rained on and a little thirsty, so I visited the Mill Street Brewery and sat at the bar and ordered myself a big beer.
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