May 25, 2020

Increasing Cycling in Toronto's Inner Suburbs

There has been a lot of public attention in Toronto over the years in getting protected bike lanes on Bloor, Danforth, and Yonge; including a recent open letter and petition supported by over 100 groups and 5000 people. However, there is an urgent need to expand cycling infrastructure in the inner suburbs of Scarborough, Etobicoke, and North York – as well as engage local stakeholders – to help frame the idea cycling is not just for Downtown Toronto. Let’s take a look at some of the existing campaigns such as Our Greenway and the Eglinton East LRT, as well as what else is needed for a city-wide cycling grid.
Proposed spine (dark blue) and suburban (cyan) bike routes with existing infrastructure highlighted in red

Every Cycling Network Needs Spines

Building a cycling network requires spines to help build out other bike routes. In Toronto’s case, that means Bloor, Danforth, and Yonge. Both Bloor and Yonge have been considered for bike lanes for more than 40 years, yet bike lanes only exist on Bloor from Shaw to Avenue (2.4 km), as well as from Sherbourne to Broadview (1.6 km). An additional 0.5 km is almost complete at Six Points near Kipling. Only 0.5 km of bike lanes exist on Yonge from Queens Quay to Front.
Existing Bloor bike lane
Coincidentally, these three streets fall along Toronto’s subway lines. With Torontonians more hesitant to take the TTC because of COVID-19 and there isn’t enough space to accommodate more cars, building out these spines now is essential to provide transit relief. This includes the planned Bloor bike lane extension to Runnymede Road (4.5 km) which is expected to be debated by City Council on Thursday.

There has been some talk about building bike lanes on University Avenue to service hospitals in the area. While University certainly has the space, building bike lanes there must not come at the expense of Yonge which goes from the Waterfront to Steeles. Both streets can still see high cycling volumes with bike lanes.

Eglinton Construction Blues

Another major east-west corridor which would benefit from bike lanes is Eglinton. However, ongoing construction of the Eglinton Crosstown from Mount Dennis to Kennedy means temporary bike lanes would not be practical at this time, though Metrolinx plans to build them along the surface section east of Brentcliffe and near the underground stations. The City of Toronto is responsible for building bike lanes along most of the underground part of the Crosstown as part of Eglinton Connects. An existing 10.5 km trail exists from Jane to Etobicoke Creek, while a short eastern extension to Mount Dennis (0.5 km) is expected to happen this year. Once the Crosstown and bike lanes are completed – hopefully by 2022 – Eglinton would become Toronto’s longest continuous bike route (30 km) from Mississauga to Kennedy!
Existing multi-use path on Eglinton West
For a temporary solution, Lawrence could be considered until the Eglinton Crosstown opens, but adding additional north-south routes is needed for Lawrence to be effective. Even though there isn’t a firm commitment for building the Eglinton East LRT right now despite continued advocacy from Scarborough Transit Action, temporary bike lanes could still be considered from Kennedy to Kingston (4.7 km).

Greenways on Finch, Jane & Kipling

Sure, the Finch Hydro Corridor already exists across large parts of Toronto. However, on-street bike lanes on Finch are still included as part of the Finch West LRT construction from Keele to Humber College at Highway 27. With trails not being maintained during the winter and serving recreational instead of transport purposes, there is an opportunity to build a crosstown east-west bike route in North Toronto from Highway 27 to Morningside (33 km). Adding other elements Our Greenway proposed such as wider paths (to accommodate cargo bikes) and rain gardens to protect from heavy trucks and reduce storm runoff should be encouraged. Sheppard could also be considered to help relieve the Sheppard subway.
Proposed Mobility Greenway layout (via Our Greenway)
When the bike plan was approved in 2016, most of the major corridor studies were put on hold. One of those corridors is Jane, which is also part of Our Greenway. While the Greenway only covers from Steeles to Sheppard, the bike lanes need to be extended all the way to Bloor. Kipling would be the best candidate for an Etobicoke north-south corridor, given an existing 1.9 kilometre multi-use trail already exists from Finch to Steeles and a short segment of cycle tracks has been built at Six Points. One last project which could be considered for Etobicoke is The Queensway, given existing bike lanes east of the Humber River and a multi-use path in Mississauga.

Scarborough Beyond Eglinton East

In addition to the Eglinton East LRT, Kingston Road is a great opportunity to extend the Danforth bike lanes to Morningside. Space is not an issue with its six traffic lanes, but a crossing is needed at Danforth and Kingston Road for eastbound cyclists given the existing dangerous merge. Morningside – also part of the Eglinton East LRT – can be used to connect the Kingston and Finch bike lanes; as well as University of Toronto Scarborough.
A Google Street View of the merge at Danforth and Kingston eastbound
Victoria Park Avenue – Scarborough’s western border – should also be considered for a north-south route from Kingston Road to Finch (and eventually to Steeles). There would still be room for another north-south route between Victoria Park and Morningside (e.g. Midland, Brimley, Kennedy), but would likely be a longer term priority.

Final Tally

One last route which should be considered for bike lanes is Donlands Avenue, Overlea Boulevard, and Don Mills Road. Such a route would be vital to connect high-density neighbourhoods such as Thorncliffe Park, Flemingdon Park, and Don Mills Station / Fairview Mall to the rest of the bikeway network.

The routes discussed would add 150 kilometres of new cycling infrastructure on arterial roads (excluding Eglinton), which would effectively double Toronto’s cycling network.

Distance (km)
Yonge Street
Front Street
Steeles Avenue
Kingston Road
Finch Avenue
Highway 27
Morningside Avenue 
Jane Street
Bloor Street
Steeles Avenue
Kipling Avenue
Lake Shore Boulevard 
Finch Avenue
Kingston Road
Danforth Avenue
Morningside Avenue
Morningside Avenue
Kingston Road
Finch Avenue
Victoria Park Avenue
Kingston Road
Finch Avenue
Donlands - Overlea - Don Mills 
Danforth Avenue
Finch Avenue

Which suburban bike routes do you feel should be considered for installation as soon as possible?

1 comment:

  1. Would love for the Kingston Road and Danforth Extension to provide the East with a way into the city!