dandyCommute: CityPlace to the University of Toronto

Words and photos by Daniel Arancibia, additional photos of Daniel by Christina Lefebvre

This is the 11th installment in dandyhorse’s new dandyCommute series, which will continue with more stories and photos of your favourite utilitarian cycling routes through 2013. Send us your super commute story today and win bike swag.

dandyCommute #11: CityPlace to the University of Toronto (approximately 3 kilometres)

The map (above) shows my commute (in red) and my return commute (in blue) as depicted in this story. The length of the commute is variable depending on traffic, but I usually make it in less than 20 minutes. I can do the return commute in 15 minutes or less.

My girlfriend’s bicycle and mine on a dry December day. Picture taken on the Puente de Luz at Cityplace.

If you’d told me a few years ago that I would be riding bicycles through Toronto’s winter, well, I would have labeled you insane. What’s more, I would have pointed out that probably no one did that, that I didn’t dare riding in the city anyway, and that I would instead drive my car given the choice. In other words, I was insane.

I’m relatively new to the GTA, having only spent the past five years here. I now live in a CityPlace condo and commute to U of T four times a week on average. I have my own bicycle, but in a city where cycling infrastructure hasn’t caught up with demand, I don’t think this is always the most convenient way to travel. Sure, it’s more convenient than driving a car, taking transit, or walking, but often not more convenient than, say, boarding a streetcar to head up north with a friend and then magically having a bicycle available there for the return trip. This is where Bixi, Toronto’s bike-share system, comes in.

My model and photographer for the day prepares to take out her Bixi from the station at Bremner Blvd/Spadina Ave.

I love cycling in winter now, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Riding a bicycle is fun, physically and psychologically stimulating, and the fastest most reliable way to move through downtown Toronto. I have made almost 300 trips on Bixi alone over the past year.

My commute starts near Bremner and Spadina, where I exit my condo’s garage (where my bicycle rests) or take out a Bixi from one of the two Bixi stations located nearby. I must then cross the railway tracks, which means I can take Spadina (a very poor fit for cyclists) or move west to connect with the new Puente de Luz. This bridge, a magnificent addition to the neighbourhood, was designed by renowned Chilean artist Francisco Gazitua. I can no longer live without it.

Northern Linear Park. Normally the road looks wider!

Going under Spadina

To reach the bridge you can take the Northern Linear Park path under Spadina (as pictured above), or you can go west on Fort York Blvd and turn right as you near the structure (Note: there are bike lanes on Fort York, and I usually prefer it, but when I took these pictures it had yet to receive winter maintenance). The bridge’s ramps look daunting but are pretty easy to climb. The bridge’s colour, known officially as ‘mellow yellow’, brightens up the area considerably. I would say that traversing the railway tracks is now my favourite part of this commute.

How great is that?! The bridge’s surface offers great traction.

Now on the other side of the tracks, I just head up to Queen via Portland. While traffic is somewhat heavy during rush hour, I find vehicles on this street to be exponentially better behaved than on the likes of Peter or John streets.

Making my way to Queen St on Portland St. I am yet to have any negative experiences on this street.

When I hit Queen I have three options: I can take a right and then a left on Augusta, take a right through an alleyway and make my way to Augusta there, or take a left on Queen and link up with Augusta through Ryerson Ave and Wolseley St. The latter technically covers the longest distance, but since it is the least dependent on traffic lights I often go for it.

This is Ryerson Ave. (on my return commute). I have never ever seen any traffic here.

I head up Augusta until it merges with Denison, then I continue up Denison and, unfortunately, cross Dundas on that same street. This is the only time in my commute where I am forced to ride against the traffic, albeit only for a few metres. Five seconds later I turn right on Wales Ave and take Augusta once more through Kensington Market. I love the sounds, smells, and overall vibrancy as I near my destination. Sometimes I stop for a churro or Chinese take-out on my return.

My destination! A Bixi station at the University of Toronto right off St. George St.

A painted bike lane, sandwiched in between fast traffic and parked vehicles, (sort of) protects you along College. I ride east across Spadina and then either dock my Bixi at College and Huron, or take Huron north to the Bixi station at Harbord and Huron, or ride up St. George’s bike lane until I find a place where I’m comfortable locking or docking my bike or Bixi.

The College St experience. At the lights I dismount to cross on to the south side and head down Denison Ave (by the fire station).

My return commute, if I choose to bike back (I sometimes walk back or head somewhere else entirely by foot or on transit) consists of almost the same route in reverse.

Denison Ave on my return commute. My bicycle temporarily parked on the sidewalk.

The main difference is I take Denison south from College (as opposed to Augusta coming north). I also like to take a rather unknown lane south of Ryerson Community School (Egerton Ln) to connect with Ryerson Ave from Denison. I find that Ryerson is a) much calmer, and b) better to link up with Portland later.

Egerton Lane: the obscure lane that can take you from Denison Ave to Ryerson Ave. It’s even on Google maps!

I head down Portland, over the Puente de Luz, and onto one of the two Bixi stations or my garage. Going over the bridge at night is a completely different experience – also very pleasant. I love riding through winter.

P.S. I cannot ride my girlfriend’s bicycle; the frame is too small for me. She can’t ride mine, since it’s too large. We both can ride a Bixi comfortably, and I find that remarkable.

Puente de Luz at night as snow intensifies.


More of Daniel Arancibia's writing can be found on his blog, Front65.

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