by Alix Aylen
In an attempt to see how easily one can enter and exit Toronto as a cyclist, I devised a plan in June 2015 to exit the city as much as I could, making note of how enjoyable and cyclist friendly each route was. Or whether they could be considered as cycling routes at all. Having done this by touring through a few other North American cities, states and provinces of equal size or larger, I wanted to see how my hometown compared in terms of bikeability. The result of those five trips is this map here:
There are certainly other routes, but I found these to be the most intuitive and well-connected of the possibilities. Not everyone will travel the entirety of the routes mapped out here on a daily basis or ever even, but it’s a valuable exercise to see how extensive, comfortable and connected our city’s current cycling infrastructure is by riding from one central location to each of the Western, Northern, Eastern limits. Most of the city’s cycling infrastructure is concentrated in the old City of Toronto - south of St. Clair Ave., east of High Park and West of Coxwell, with roads outside those limits largely dominated by cars and buses. The development of a more comprehensive cycling network out of these old City of Toronto limits would make riding longer distances from one end of the city to another more enjoyable, more efficient and safer for everyone.
To illustrate the differences in the efficiency of travelling by bicycle in various parts of the city, I found myself timing how long it would take to ride equal distances in different neighbourhoods. For example, it’s possible to ride the entirety of the West End Rail Path (2km), in about five minutes. A ride along the Harbord bike lane (2 km from Queen’s Park to Ossington) takes about 10-15 minutes. Twice as long due to stop lights and other interruptions. A ride of equal distance from the end of the Humber Trail, past Finch Ave. and over the 427 into Clairville took about 20 minutes with a large serving of discomfort and anxiety and much of that time spent switching from city streets to awkward shoulders and sidewalks trying to navigate an area designed for only one type of vehicle.
Riding from one end of the city to the next allows you to experience how much our cycling infrastructure feels like patchwork with a green lane here, some bollards there, and sometimes even bike lanes that last one block before being merged into a sidewalk with a “Walk your wheels” sign yelling at you. Each neighbourhood speaks to (or yells at) cyclists in a different tone. There are distinct zones in the city where the message transitions from “Don’t ride on the sidewalk!” to “Ride on the sidewalk!” rather quickly.
Even with the awkwardness, anxiety and confusion, cycling is still the best way to commute in this city. The highways are a pain to cross, cars north of Eglinton aren’t prepared to encounter cyclists on the road, and where there is any signage for cyclists, it’s usually inconsistent and confusing.
However, the city is extremely flat, with an extremely simple grid layout, loads of parks, old rail lines and hydro corridors that are currently or could easily become cycling corridors. Corridors for those of us that choose cycling as a form of active transportation and not just light weekend recreation.
Earlier this year, Alix Aylen started documenting her travels into and out of the city (and other cities) for the dandyBLOG. Read all of her contributions here: