Toronto’s laneways offer hidden gems to cyclists

Story and photos by Greg Polimis

Laneways are hidden gems in the city. They're not just avenues for delivery trucks, they're also shortcuts to avoid the main streets, hideouts for miscreants, canvasses for street art, interesting living spaces and oases of peace amidst the bustle of the city.

Last Sunday, a group of about 60 cyclists took advantage of the great weather to explore the laneways of Queen Street West. Led by Herb and Rob from Cycle Toronto's (formerly Toronto Cyclists Union) Ward 19 Advocacy group, we gathered at Trinity-Bellwoods Park for a 2 p.m. tour of the laneways that connect Queen Street West, Bathurst, Dundas and the park itself.

After kicking off the tour, we headed south down Strachan then east on Adelaide to Niagara. A short jaunt north brought us to the entrance of the laneway where the tour began.

We followed the laneway east, crossing Bathurst critical mass style and cruising almost to Spadina. We then doubled back to Tecumseth and zig-zagged north to Dundas before heading back to the park, observing some incredible art and architecture along the way.

The tour stops in front of a piece Toronto artist (and dandy contributor) Elicsr, our cover artist, Summer 2009. Get back issues here. 

With some interesting proposals for development being tabled, these urban treasures should see a new breath of life in the next few years.

A project is now underway to revitalize the O'Keefe Laneway that runs south from Dundas Square to the Elgin Theatre between Yonge and Victoria streets:

The initiative, a partnership between ING Bank, 8-80 Cities and Gehl Architects and funded by a $25,000 grant for the Ontario Ministry of Health and a further $9000 from ING Bank, is developing a plan to turn the laneway into a mixed-use space that is pedestrian and cyclist friendly.

If Gehl's revitalization of Melbourne, Australia's downtown is any indication (in which the city's network of accessible laneways grew from 300 metres in 1994 to 3.4 km by 2004), these mostly forgotten and underused spaces will become new hubs for local business and community life.

A custom mural by Toronto artist and dandy contributor Mike Parsons (issues 1,2 and as in our photo by Rebecca Baran of Adam Vaughan last spring.

Laneway explorers stop for photo opps.

 Our mayor has inspired a lot of laneway art.


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