SERIES: Exiting Toronto by bike – Ride from Kleinburg
Story and photos by Alix Aylen
Anyone that commutes by bicycle in just about any car-centric city can attest to the fact that the safest and most enjoyable cycling route is usually not the most linear or the shortest route generated on google maps. The trick is to select your points A & B, look for the major road that will take you there the fastest, then remember that that’s how cars think (as most of our roads have been designed with only cars in mind), then reimagine your route along side streets and bike lanes that run parallel to the car-centric corridor. This way of thinking is what some refer to as “bike-head” and “car-head”.
On our way back from Albion Hills, however, Kate and I were tired and too lazy to think up a pleasant and meandering bike-friendly route into downtown. After taking hilly country roads up and down and all the way into Kleinburg, where we visited the McMichael Gallery, we looked at our map for the the straightest line that we could find to get us to the northern border of the city for simplicity’s sake. I just wanted to ride my bike without checking my map every 20 minutes or so to find the most strategic route - a luxury that I figured I had to forget while piecing together the best routes into and out of the city since nothing about most exit/entrance routes is designed to be intuitive for cyclists.
It quickly became apparent that we were already on the road that would take us all the way into town, and even to the waterfront if we wanted to continue on it for that long. It was highway 17, otherwise known as Islington Ave.
I always try to think of the theme of the route that I’m riding in an attempt to notice the patterns and differences between neighbourhoods, and regions on longer rides. This was a great route to attempt this on as all transitional observations would be more noticeable and seamless along the one straight line. Kleinburg is no doubt the most charming section of this route, with McMichael, The General Store, and a Post Office with a white picket fence. The section of Islington just south of Kleinburg then transitions into a lush green area, home to various conservation areas and parks such as the Kortright Centre for Conservation and the Boyd Conservation area. The conservation areas seem to be limited to the east side of Islington, with the west side painted by the rolling hills of large suburban properties that we used to play the game “ Sod farm or front lawn?”. It was a front lawn most of the time, but we did find an actual sod farm at one point which made us ponder the arbitrary distinction between the two.
We rode on the street while exiting Kleinburg since, although it was busy, traffic was moving at a relatively slow pace. Slow, relative to the next section of Islington, slightly south of the town. At this point, however, we decided to ride on the “sidewalk” as it wasn’t clear whether it was that or a multi-use path. This is one time that unclear, confusing signage worked in our favour as it wasn’t clear that we were not supposed to be on this strip of pavement. We passed only two pedestrians in about an hour and a half, and no one else. It was one of those awkward areas, likely designed by someone who thinks of bikes as recreational toys for twelve-year-olds only, where the sidewalk signage tells cyclists to dismount to cross the street every hundred metres or so. I loathe those signs. I’d really like to understand the logic behind the whole idea since it seems that Stop signs and Yield to Pedestrian signs would do more good than to ask cyclists to dismount when crossing streets used by the almighty car. That’s just weird and annoying.
We caught glimpses of the mighty Humber the further south we travelled, eventually stumbling upon an entrance to the Humber trail again around Finch and Islington. I thought about continuing south on Islington for the sake of my research, but decided to hop back on the trail to enjoy the final stage of my two day trip along the Humber.
I’m not a fast rider in any sense of the word. My ongoing joke is that anytime you see a speed limit sign, divide it by 10 and that’s likely the speed at which I’m travelling. A joke, but even more so just a reliable formula. We made it all the way from Kleinburg to Eglinton and Weston Road in just about two hours, including several short snack breaks (as always). Sometimes it takes me that much time to get somewhere within the city by public transit.
It was interesting to ride along one street for the majority of the ride back as it made the transition from the city into the suburban environment much more apparent. The region between Finch and Kleinburg is just littered with new housing developments bordering seemingly natural areas, which seem to be encroaching on the parks and conservation sites that were once far from any development. It’s a Tour de Sprawl, with a sprinkling of experiments in cycling signage that don’t really mean much more to cyclists than just a reminder that somebody somewhere in the design process of these suburban neighbourhoods has recognized that they exist, but doesn’t yet know what to do with that fact. In the meantime, I say yield to pedestrians, take the lane when you can, and take your time.
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