December 16, 2021

Cycling Good Cheer Along Yonge

About 30 to 40 people took part in Sunday’s 2nd Annual Cycling Good Cheer ride which started at Hendon Park in North York (a.k.a. the North Pole 😉) and ended at City Hall using Yonge Street, Bloor Street, and University Avenue. Janet Joy Wilson – a fellow founding member of the Toronto Community Bikeways Coalition – put together the ride while Albert Koehl was Santa. Many of us had antlers attached to our helmets while some opted to decorate our bikes. It was great having lots of people honk and wave at us with approval.

For a proper recap, I encourage you to read Jun N’s blog post and watch this video from Heather’s and Pier’s Bromptoning blog. I will instead focus on three cycling mishaps which deserve lumps of coal, as well as some hope as 2022 nears.

Lost at G Ross Lord Park

Given biking directly from my home to Hendon Park would have been at least 22 kilometres and required crossing Highway 401, I took the TTC to Finch West station and biked along the Finch Hydro Corridor. Having biked there a few times, I find it is a decent key east-west route in northern Toronto.

However, there is one part which has a serious disconnect and deserves a lump of coal; that being G Ross Lord Park. The reservoir there blocks the possibility of a direct route; meaning the trails go around it. Unfortunately, there is no wayfinding signage near Torresdale Avenue and I took a wrong turn which almost took me up to Steeles Avenue! A wayfinding sign is needed to direct eastbound cyclists to turn right (and right again) onto Torresdale) in order to get the trail back to the hydro corridor. Another solution would be to build a trail along Finch from Wilmington Avenue to Dufferin Street for a more direct route.

The arrow on this map shows where a wayfinding sign is needed for eastbound cyclists to avoid going the wrong way as I did, while the dotted blue line shows an alternate location for the City to put in a trail.

There are some parts of the hydro corridor trail which appeared to be narrow and could use upgrades in order to be better aligned with the latest City standards. Wrong turn aside, I still made it to Hendon Park with about ten minutes to spare.

Scary Highway 401 Crossings

One of the most annoying aspects about cycling in Toronto is the lack of safe crossings over (or under) Highway 401; itself deserving the second lump of coal. This is especially true along Yonge Street which can be at least six lanes wide at the highway; having rode along it five years back. Riding under the highway with a group felt considerably safer, but the City and Queen’s Park need to get this area fixed sooner rather than later. There is a study proposed in the bike plan which would look at using Avenue Road to cross the highway, but it does not have a suitable connection to Yonge north of the highway.

If crossing Highway 401 didn’t scare you enough, climbing up the hill by Hogg’s Hollow was brutal and Santa was helped by a couple of riders. Good thing I used my road bike to go up it as it would have been brutal using the cargo bike even in first gear.

Coffee and Snack Stop

Holly Reid with Cycle Don Valley Midtown arranged for a pit stop by Hale Coffee at Soudan Avenue for some hot drinks and snacks which were sponsored by the Midtown Yonge BIA. Both Toronto Life and BlogTO listed Hale Coffee as one of the best coffee roasters in Toronto which I can confirm with their delicious flat white. So was their apple cinnamon muffin.

Soudan Avenue is north of Davisville where the Yonge bike lanes start. Ahead of (and during) the December 2 Infrastructure and Environment Committee meeting, I called out the lack of a plan to extend the Yonge bike lanes north to Eglinton before 2025 to ensure the future bike lanes on that street have a useful north-south connection. Consider that missing gap the third lump of coal, though hopefully businesses within the Midtown Yonge BIA start to get the message that cyclists shop there as we demonstrated during that ride.

Back on the Yonge bike lanes, I saw a motorist blocking the bike lane, while the bike lanes themselves were too narrow to allow side by side riding. Having sufficiently wide protected bike lanes would have required removing all parking along the narrower parts of Yonge; the same argument for which could be applied on Bloor Street from Spadina to Lansdowne Avenues. Sadly, this is unlikely to happen anytime soon, but will need to be revisited as cycling volumes continue to increase along these spine corridors.

Arrived at City Hall

Once at City Hall, we gathered for a group shot in front of the Christmas tree before dispersing. There were three wishes we had in mind for Mayor John Tory and Toronto City Council with an election year approaching. The first is to ensure the Midtown Yonge complete street pilot becomes permanent and extended as soon as possible. The second is to build out the 2022-2024 bike plan to be debated at Toronto City Council this week as soon as possible. The third is to provide a dedicated fund for improving existing bike lanes which the Coalition recently called out in their bike lane report card.

Thanks to those of you who took part in the ride! May you all have a Merry Christmas and all the best in 2022!

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