Peter’s Routes: The Gay Village to Queer West


Follow Peter Harte as he commutes from one end of the city to the other through all seasons and shares his recommendations on the safest, smoothest, and fastest routes in this dandy series. You can read his previous post here. The rest of the series is at the bottom of this post. Safe rides everyone!

Peter's Night Out (aka Peter's Commute Routes)

Church Street Village to Queer Street West

This was a particularly great opportunity to write and photograph a route that I travel so frequently. December 1, 2016, was unseasonably warm. It was prime riding weather. By documenting the late night trek I realized how frequently I take this Saturday night passage. From the Gay Village and then over to a specific strip on Queen West West that is affectionately referred to as Queer West.

It’s crazy how during this ride muscle memory took over to avoid certain bumps and aberrations in the road. Even the pedal pressure I used as I ascended north was predicted by my body and mind. And yet somehow, I can still pass by College and Spadina and forget what was there before the condos came.

Speaking of condos, I live in condoville at Bathurst and Fort York. Heading east can be tough as Spadina is often so busy. But there’s a pathway that takes you down a little known tunnel under Spadina just north of Fort York Blvd. You can use the underpass and end up near the Rogers Centre while avoiding nasty traffic. It’s also a fun path to see at all the little condo dogs as they get walked and do their squats. (Poor pooches don't have many parks in this part of town to do their business in.)


As you leave the tunnel you are faced with a pretty steep hill that curves alongside the Rogers Centre. This could sound odd, but I have some kind of fetish about the physics of travelling around corners. Like how during a 200-m track race everyone starts off staggered, but then end up equally evened out, sort of gets me off. I love this feeling, and even when it’s uphill like how it is here, I make myself work it hard no matter how lazy I feel.

Continuing north, Blue Jays Way eventually becomes Peter St. Where there has been some construction for what seems like years just as you’re about to reach King St. The lane is so narrow. Forget about trying to pass if a truck with Dumbo ears for side mirrors is in the red light queue. Oh well, I guess a city has GOT to build - but a guy has GOT to I wait patiently.

But, TA DA! A new bike lane has appeared on Peter St. So, from north of King up to Queen it’s not too bad of a ride anymore. I would have rated this section of Peter one of my top 5 worst quality roads in the city, but now - with the new lane - it’s a great connection from where I live to get to access other major bike lanes.


I take Peter until I get to Queen, and then side street my way over to Beverly. I’ve mentioned my love for the Beverly and College Street bike lanes before, so I’ll skip the repetitive bike lane love here. But I will say that when I can hoof it across College and pass Yonge to Carlton while hitting all the greens lights until I arrive at Church St., you better believe all those boys are checking out my skinny jeans! church-wellesley-01

Not long ago when you’d arrive at Church after zipping across College/Carlton, the first gay thing you’d see was Zippers nightclub. What’s remaining of Zippers is now just the façade of an unmarked building that will eventually be demolished and house yet another high-rise condo. It’s sad because Zippers was so iconic, and now there will be people who never knew it existed. I guess I’m not surprised though because when you think of it, Church and Carleton is just one main block away from Yonge, and that is, well... whatever it’s becoming.... it's changing.


R.I.P. Zippers.

Heading north on Church into the village is always a treat to me. Especially the lit up Drag-o-lanterns on the streetlamps in October, or the shooting stars in the winter; the neighbourhood does a pretty good job at decorating and defining itself. That includes everyone who is currently taking advantage of the unusually warm December weather in this photo above. The gay village is so important because it's an inclusive community. I know that young people especially depend on it as a place to feel safe and included, and where they can truly feel like themselves. I can’t foresee a future without Woody’s, Cruise and Tangos, The Eagle, or Statlers, but I have to admit the changing neighbourhood with its increase in property values frightens me. I worry for the future of Church and Wellesley.


Now, after paying my last homage to Zippers, it's time for me to head to Toronto's *other* gay nabe... Queer West (aka Queen West West.) To get across town to the west end I need to be strategic. From where I start I am faced with many obstacles; Little Italy, Queen St. West (possibly the worst artery for cyclists in the city), the nightclubs Richmond St., and the Dundas 'freeway'. But I feel like I got the best route figured out, so hop on and keep reading.


I head west on Wellesley and use the great bike lane all the way to U of T. Go under the bridge and swing around Hart House Circle until you make your way through the tree lined alley to pop out on to bike-lane-lined St. George St.


I’ve written about this area before and I’ll repeat that I love the consideration behind the slightly smaller rumble strips and speed bumps for cyclists (which, I've since discovered came as a repair or afterthought). This time of year U of T puts some festive holiday lights up on these historic buildings, and it puts me in a bit of a festive spirit. Then I head south on St. George to College but only take it as far as Markham, one street west of Bathurst. From there, if you follow the south alleyway, you can make it quite safely further west to Manning and then head south to Dundas. This section of Dundas that takes you to Trinity Bellwood’s park is not too dangerous of a section on this fast and tight street. I feel like west of here it gets a bit scary at night with a lot of cars and taxis, and people darting across the street. It’s only a few blocks until you hit Gore Vale where you can begin to head south. From there you enter into the park and cross through it all the way west to Lobb and then onto Shaw St. where there is a bike lane. The only pain here is that the entrance into the park off Gore Vale doesn’t have a ramp onto the bike path, and you have to hike your bike up. Way to kill my cruisin' vibes Gore Vale. (Maybe the City of Toronto's cycling infrastructure team could add a curb cut to their list of to-do's in 2017?) Crossing through Trinity Bellwood’s, even at this time of year, but especially in the summer, is literally the watering hole and courting ground of the 21st century. I <3 You Bellwoods!


When I get to Shaw, I have to turn and go the wrong way down the only portion of Argyle that is not dual ways for cyclists. It doesn’t make sense why this one short block doesn’t connect to the bike lane west of Ossington. After, you can get all the way west to Gladstone on this bike lane and then head south to Queen. I usually lock my bike up in the Fresh Co. parking lot because you’re lucky to find one anyone in this section of Queen. We need more bike parking: especially on Queen West!


Some bars I need to give a shout out too because I wouldn’t be who I am today without these quirky watering holes and the people that frequent and work in them. The Beaver, oh my god(ess) you and your staff put up with so much, and still manage to serve all our queer drunk asses with no attitude. The Gladstone Hotel has incubated an incredible collection of RuPaul’s Drag Race diehards who fight for a table three hours before showtime...maybe it’s the hosts Champagna Enema and Allysin Chaynes, I don’t know, but it's fierce! The Gladstone Hotel also host incredibly popular dance parties like the YASGODDESS costume drag party in the back Ballroom. And, seriously, the list goes on further west into Parkdale; and it’s reasons like that, all those options, that makes me never take Toronto for granted, and never hate on it for not having enough alternative nightlife and creativity (or safe bike lanes *cough* Queen Street *cough*).

I fall in love with Toronto more and more each year I live here, whether it’s from the new people I meet, the old friends I grow with, or the bike lanes I ride in.


Related Articles 

Peter's Commute: Brockton Village to Distillery 

Peter's Commute: St James Town to Dufferin Mall

Peter's Commute: Trinity Bellwoods to The Junction

Peter's Commute: Sherbourne Commons to Tarragon Theatre

Peter's Commute: City Place to Upper Beaches


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