July 03, 2017

Biking Brampton's Etobicoke Creek

While I have biked both east and west of Toronto, my experiences north of Steeles Avenue have been limited to training rides for the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer in 2014. Thanks to a suggestion from Helen, we took part in Bike Brampton’s “Bike the Creek” ride on Saturday, June 24. Not only did it give me exposure to cycling north of Steeles, but it is arguably one of the best organized rides in the Greater Toronto Area with hundreds taking part.

Map of 41 km End to End Ride
The ride is free and includes five ride options covering all ages and abilities from the 11 km Family Ride to the 60 km Canada 150 Ride. We did the 41 km End to End Ride, which combines the 17 km Nature and 26 km City Rides; covering the entire length of the Etobicoke Creek Trail within Brampton. Riders are given a passport before starting, which gets stamped at different pavilions in exchange for raffle tickets at the end. A free BBQ lunch is also provided after the ride.
Riders ready to start biking Etobicoke Creek
One of the TRCA pavilions seen along the ride
Most of the End to End Ride took place on off-road paths and aside from checking Strava a couple of times (thanks John Leeson), riders can easily navigate their route with coloured tape – yellow for ours – and wayfinding signs. The trail surfacing is inconsistent north of the Jim Archdekin Recreation Centre with some unpaved sections, though south of Jim Archdekin is paved. Despite this, my road bike could handle the trail no problem. The trail features decent lighting – something urgently needed on Toronto’s trails such as the Martin Goodman Trail by Coronation Park – and small asphalt ramps where the trail meets the road. Crew members were stationed at some major crossings to ensure the safety of riders.
Small asphalt ramps along Etobicoke Creek Trail
Trail lighting - something Toronto needs more of
With many organized rides, riders don’t stop except to grab snacks, water, or use the washroom. Bike the Creek ENCOURAGES riders to stop at each pavilion spaced 3 – 5 kilometres apart. Each pavilion provides a great opportunity to learn about local nature, history, and civic issues. The nature part discussed butterflies, river bugs, plastic waste, and a historic home with a blacksmith forging some iron. The city part had stations next to a historic jail, a community forest, a neighbourhood undergoing revitalization via the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority’s Sustainable Neighbourhood Action Plan (SNAP) initiative, and Brampton Memorial Arena.
Caterpillars at one of the pavilions
Iron making at one of the pavilions
One shortcoming I noticed was the lack of on-street facilities on the route. However, there were a few including an in-boulevard path on Bovaird Drive – Brampton’s main east-west bike route – and bike lanes on County Court Boulevard near the SNAP pavilion. When speaking with someone at that pavilion, she commented how Brampton lacks cycling facilities overall – their cycling map consists mostly off-road trails – and that many community centre users drive even if it is only one kilometre away. The County Court SNAP focused on improved storm water management, the installation of bio-filters on County Court Boulevard, habitat restoration within the creek valley, and green home retrofits.
Most of Brampton's trails are off-road including this bridge
Bike lanes on County Court Boulevard
While Brampton has some good off-road trails and Bovaird Drive for an east-west spine, they have work to do to catch up with other GTA suburbs such as Mississauga and Ajax. While we used a rental car, getting to Brampton car-free on weekends requires using the GO bus – the Kitchener line is closed on weekends – which runs every 30 to 60 minutes with the earliest arriving at Brampton at around 8:30 AM.
Brampton Cycling Map - last updated in 2013
Thanks Bike Brampton for organizing this fun ride and I encourage other Toronto cyclists to check it out in 2018.

UPDATE (2017/08/06) - A recap written by Bike Brampton quoted this post.

Happy trails!
Rob Z (e-mail)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting Robert. Always happy to welcome our Toronto friends to enjoy cycling in Brampton!