May 11, 2021

Overhauling Toronto’s Urban Highway Interchanges

Last year, the City of Toronto substantially completed the reconfiguration of Six Points; one of the City’s worst intersections for people walking or cycling. The spaghetti junction was replaced with three at-grade crossings for Bloor, Dundas, and Kipling including protected bike lanes, proper sidewalks, and streetscaping improvements. However, there are several other overbuilt urban highway interchanges which could use similarly radical interventions.

Dundas at Royal York

Etobicoke – Dundas and Royal York

A year and a half ago, I biked along Dundas from Scarlett to Six Points. It was very unpleasant once I got to Royal York. Not only was there the highway-type interchange, but the Milton GO rail line crossed the area while The Kingsway is interrupted at Dundas. Not to mention, it is difficult for motorists to navigate through.

Reconfiguring Dundas at Royal York would mean making the intersection at grade (in orange) and the rail tracks above ground (in brown), while connecting The Kingsway (in peach) could be considered.

While short stretches of bike lane were approved there earlier this year and the Better Dundas Coalition is pushing for a complete street on Dundas, a teardown of that intersection is badly needed to improve long term safety. Dundas would need to be lowered to ground level, while the rail tracks would need to be elevated at Dundas instead of the other way around. Protected bike lanes would need to be added on Dundas, while those on Royal York need to be upgraded. It may be possible to make The Kingsway continuous, but care would be needed to minimize property acquisition.

The ramps at the northeast corner would likely be demolished, while those south of Dundas could be realigned to open up land for development, parks, or other public spaces.

Scarborough – Danforth and Kingston

Going from Danforth to Kingston is scary by bike
The merging of Danforth Avenue and Kingston Road going eastbound can be a scary experience; especially if you are coming from Danforth where you would need to cross two lanes of high-speed traffic to get onto Kingston. The City’s major city-wide cycling network calls for the Danforth bike lanes to eventually be extended onto Kingston, but that goal cannot be accomplished without making this intersection safer.
Replacing the ramps at Danforth and Kingston with a T intersection would open up a lot of land

For a short term fix, the bike lane could be placed on the left hand side from Birchmount Road to Cliffside Drive, but doing so would require cyclists to cross the road twice. A more permanent fix would require demolishing the existing interchange and replacing it with a T intersection. This would open up land for development or public spaces, as well as slow down motor vehicle traffic.

North York – Bayview and Lawrence

One major east-west street in Toronto which disconnects is Lawrence Avenue where it crosses Bayview Avenue. Going east on Lawrence requires turning left onto the highway on-ramp at Bayview and then right onto Post Road and The Bridle Path before returning to Lawrence. York University’s Glendon Campus is east of Bayview, the TFS international school is on the northwest corner, and the West Don River cuts through the area. If that doesn’t make the idea of reconstruction complicated enough, the wealthy Bridle Path neighbourhood lies just east of Glendon Campus which could be opposed to any proposed intersection reconfiguration that allows for a continuous Lawrence Avenue.

Going eastbound on Lawrence currently requires taking the blue route along Bayview, Post & The Bridle Path. Two options for connecting Lawrence are marked in red (via TFS) and green (via Glendon)

There are two ways this disconnect could be dealt with. The first would be to extend the eastern part of Lawrence straight to Bayview and go around TFS to connect with the western part. The river crossing will make this less practical, while some parking spots would need to be removed at TFS. A more realistic option would be to go through Glendon Campus and maybe convert the highway interchange into a signalized crossing. Existing roads (with minor adjustments) could be used through Glendon, while a new bridge would be needed across the Don River to connect with the eastern part of Lawrence. Such a route could also be used as an exclusive pedestrian and cycling trail in the event the opposition to a continuous Lawrence for motor vehicle traffic is confirmed.

Downtown Toronto – Eastern & Don Valley Parkway

Even Downtown Toronto is not immune to dangerous interchanges; the best example of which lies where the Don Valley Parkway meets Eastern Avenue, which in turn connects to the popular Richmond-Adelaide bikeway. When I first got to work in Pickering by bike and GO Transit, I took Adelaide to Eastern which in turn leads to Kingston Road. The most dangerous part was when approaching the Don Valley Parkway on-ramp in which people biking have to cross over a lane of fast moving traffic. Going westbound – which I never did on a bike – meant crossing the off ramp in order to continue onto Richmond Street.

Closing the existing DVP on-ramp at Eastern and instead use existing streets would considerably improve safety for people biking from Adelaide Street

Fortunately, a relatively simple solution exists for eastbound traffic. The existing Don Valley Parkway on-ramp should be decommissioned while drivers could be rerouted onto Broadview Avenue and Sunlight Park Road which could then connect with the on-ramp. The ramps leading to/from Richmond and Adelaide Streets are ten metres wide which are more than wide enough to accommodate protected bike lanes and two traffic lanes. Eastern Avenue is also wide enough to accommodate them; especially if the centre median and the Don Valley Parkway on-ramp were to be removed.

Addressing westbound Eastern would require placing a bike lane crossing at a 90 degree angle with sensors that alert drivers to pay attention. If the existing Eastern bike lanes can be extended west from Logan to Broadview Avenues, it could help provide another safe connection to Toronto’s east end and maybe even make the case for bike lanes on Kingston Road.

Moving Forward

Toronto’s legacy of overbuilt highway infrastructure continues to haunt us more than 60 years since the Gardiner Expressway was built and presents barriers for people walking and cycling. However, streets are not meant to be static as we have seen with the recent Six Points intersection reconfiguration. By addressing hotspots such as Dundas-Royal York, Danforth-Kingston, Lawrence-Bayview, and Eastern-Don Valley, Toronto can help address key gaps and build out a proper bikeway network.


  1. Great post! Don't forget about Weston and Albion:,+ON/@43.7170919,-79.5387055,359m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x89d4cb90d7c63ba5:0x323555502ab4c477!8m2!3d43.653226!4d-79.3831843

    There's also this infamous "wait for gap" pedestrian crossing of a Gardiner on-ramp downtown on Bay St.

    1. That's an insane intersection as well. Surprised I never saw it despite having biked nearby along the Humber River Trail a fair number of times. Thanks for the tip, Matt.