December 26, 2020

An Unprecedented Pandemic Year

When 2020 started, we had just returned from our vacation in Turkey and Spain. It was a vacation rich in history, good places to hike, delicious tapas, and even some cycling for good measure. At that time, we were keen to travel again and COVID-19 had yet to register on our radar. Once the pandemic ramped up in mid-March, it seemed everything we took for granted was thrown out the window.

The pandemic effectively wiped out international travel for the foreseeable future and restricted interprovincial travel. Many Canadians – ourselves included – are still working from home since mid-March while record numbers of people were laid off. Canadians were urged to stay home early on with bars, restaurants, and other non-essential businesses ordered to close. People hoarded toilet paper (remember those days?) and other goods, while face masks and physical distancing were necessary as businesses reopened.

Making sitting on parked benches illegal early in the pandemic was a big mistake on Toronto's part

In Toronto, the rules were so ridiculous the police fined people for sitting on park benches while they refused to provide space for people in March and April as most other large Canadian cities have done. There were also two times I had to get tested for COVID-19 – fortunately negative – though the second of those times involved enduring a four hour wait. Shortly after that day, tests became by appointment only.

Weekend ActiveTO closure on Lake Shore Boulevard

However, not everything was lost this year. Pollution dropped while cities worldwide went into lockdown; something which offered some hope in fighting climate change. Toronto’s ActiveTO program lead to more bike lanes built than in any year in history (31 kilometres), including a 15 kilometre continuous route along Bloor-Danforth. Weekend road closures along Lake Shore and Bayview were a big hit with tens of thousands walking or biking on them each day.

Destination Danforth included the conversion of parking spots to patio spaces as part of CaféTO

Transit riders benefitted from the dedicated RapidTO bus lanes on Eglinton East with five other routes on the way. Businesses took advantage of CaféTO to convert parking into patio seating which helped make the new Danforth bike lanes even more pleasant. People who biked demonstrated care in the community with groups such as the Toronto Bike Brigade delivering food and other supplies to people in need, as well as marshalling rides for Black Lives Matter, Indigenous groups, and other movements. If you haven’t done a delivery yet, I recommend you do in the New Year.

Bike Brigade riders waiting at PARC to deliver Mother's Day meals
FoodShare is a key Bike Brigade partner with over 3000 food boxes delivered by the riders

Not being able to travel abroad encouraged us to enjoy some places closer to home. We spent a week in Sudbury to hike, pick blueberries, canoe, and even bike. We brought our bikes to several places near Toronto including the Georgian Trail (Collingwood to Meaford), Brantford to Port Dover, the Elora Cataract Trailway (Belwood to Elora), and Peterborough. I joined Toronto East Cyclists for a ride along Huntingwood and the North Scarborough Green Loop – thanks Jonathan and Garnet – while also checking out the (since removed) Brimley bike lanes. Finally, I joined Darnel Harris of Our Greenway and several other cyclists for a ride around northwest Toronto to get a feel for what is needed to improve cycling in that part of the city.

The Lake of the Woods Trail in Killarney Provincial Park was a great trail we hiked while in Sudbury
The Georgian Trail from Collingwood to Meaford is a nice bike getaway not far from Toronto

The advocacy front saw a couple of personal firsts. In late January, I spoke at a BIKE MINDS event to discuss my bike lane tracking efforts, as well as how to make the data personal. In May, a petition I started calling for bike lanes along Bloor, Danforth, and Yonge got over 5,500 signatures within two weeks which – along with a letter organized by the new Toronto Community Bikeways Coalition – contributed to the year’s cycling successes.

Toronto City Council approved studying bike lanes on Yonge in Midtown and Transform Yonge in North York Centre, while support has been growing for bike lanes along Keele-Weston and Donlands-Overlea-Don Mills. With the fate of many of the bike lanes installed this year to be decided next fall, a lot of work remains for 2021 including ensuring this year’s pace becomes the new standard. Cycle Toronto started a campaign to keep, improve, and expand ActiveTO which has over 3400 signatures.

The Brimley ActiveTO bike lanes were removed after only four months
In early December, I had my road bike – a 1999 LeMond Tourmalet – upgraded with a Shimano 105 R7000 groupset and new K-Race wheels. I’ll have to do a write-up about the upgrade in the New Year after getting some more rides in, but the bike feels lighter and the shifting feels a lot smoother. Shout out to Mojo Cycles on Dundas West for doing this upgrade; a bike shop I would recommend for west end folks.
Last, but not least, this year saw me move out of my apartment in Parkdale / Liberty Village after almost nine years to next to High Park. The neighbourhood is a lot quieter and allowed me to enjoy High Park more often. Especially the llamas at the zoo. 😊
Thank you all for visiting my blog over the past eight years and I wish you all the best in 2021!

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