April 27, 2022

Toronto Loop (and a Protected Intersection)

On Sunday, April 24, Albert, Mark, Arthur, and I from the Toronto Community Bikeways Coalition joined urban planner Al Rezoski for a ride covering the Toronto Loop. This recreational loop is 81 kilometres long which consists of the Martin Goodman Trail, Humber River Trail, Finch Hydro Corridor, and the Don River trail system. The loop is one of Mayor John Tory’s long term initiatives which has the potential to encourage cycle tourism in the city. Before starting by Queen’s Park, Al showed us a map of the loop and highlighted the following seven gaps which we planned to stop at for discussion. Some of these gaps will be addressed with the latest bike plan.

  • Stephen Drive (north of The Queensway)
  • Weston Road (between St. Phillips Road and Cardell Avenue)
  • Finch Hydro Corridor (between Weston Road and Norfinch Drive)
  • G Ross Lord Park (near Finch Avenue and Dufferin Street)
  • Yonge Street (at Hendon and Bishop Avenues)
  • Betty Sutherland Trail (between Duncan Mill and York Mills Roads)
  • West Don River Trail (near Eglinton Avenue and Leslie Street)

Toronto Loop highlighted in orange with the seven gaps circled

Getting from Queen’s Park to the Humber River was mostly smooth with protected cycling infrastructure along the entire route. Even Simcoe Street had a section closed off to motorists but open to cyclists. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for Queen’s Quay West between Simcoe and Rees where we had to ride on the road due to trail construction.

Once we arrived at Stephen Drive, a Pan Am Path sign didn’t make it clear cyclists needed to turn right to continue onto the Humber River Trail. Here’s Arthur pointing towards the direction where we needed to go.

While Al mentioned his preference was to have the trail next to the river, the City has no plans to make this happen anytime soon. At least traffic on Stephen Drive is light and painted bike lanes exist.

Just north of Eglinton by the Ukrainian Monument, the Humber River Trail was closed, so we had to take Scarlett Road to Tilden Crescent before rejoining the trail at Raymore Park. Unfortunately, the City did not do a good job with the detour markings, though the lane narrowing at Scarlett made things somewhat bearable. I didn’t manage to get a picture of the detour signage.

We then stopped just before the stairs near St. Phillips and Weston Roads for the next gap.

To underscore how ridiculous this gap is, I was informed this gap – originally going as far south as Lawrence Avenue – was being investigated by the City since 2000. About 600 metres of the gap was filled in 2013; leaving 800 metres from St. Phillips to Cardell along busy Weston Road.

While there appears to be a smooth path just beyond the fence, the Mid Humber Gap public consultation from June 10, 2021 did not call for the trail to go directly under the Kitchener / UP Express line; likely due to the steep terrain there. One of the options that was carried forward for further analysis would involve crossing the Humber River twice and use part of the golf course; something which its owner was strongly opposed.

Before continuing onto Cardell and under Highway 401, we grabbed some lunch at Fat Bastard Burrito and had a view of where the trail could go if it used the golf course.

Once past Highway 401, we came across a hydro corridor; something which Al was very keen on having Toronto take advantage of more to provide safe cycling trails. This is being done for The Meadoway as well as just west of Etobicoke Creek in Mississauga.

At the West Humber River Pond, we made a wrong turn. We were supposed to turn right to take the trail to Weston Road which would continue to a future Indigenous garden, but instead continued on the Humber River Trail and saw another closure by Finch West for the LRT. We ended up at Rowntree Mills Park which had been recently paved per the below picture – was a dirt path when I was last there – before taking Rowntree Mill Road and Duncanwoods Drive back to Finch.

Despite Finch being a construction zone, Albert remarked how it felt safer given motorists are forced to slow down. Even so, going across Highway 400 was pretty dicey and will remain so until the Finch West LRT opens as early as next year. We then took Norfinch Drive past the LRT Maintenance and Storage Facility before we arrived at what was supposed to be the start of the Finch Hydro Corridor.

Surprise! Yet another trail closure at Norfinch which the sign indicated would require detours to Driftwood Park, but really ended just past Jane Street. The trail didn’t have barricades at Norfinch, but I do not recommend going through on a road bike.

Given the delays with the later start time, wrong turn, and navigating trail closures, I dropped off at Finch West station for a ride total of 61 kilometres. While it would have been nice to get a century in with the full loop, I did get a first hand encounter with a protected intersection at the end of the ride.

The protected intersection is located at Evelyn Wiggins Drive and Murray Ross Parkway. With the intersection having two bi-directional cycle tracks – both of which were recently installed – corner islands are found at three of the four corners along with dedicated bicycle signals.

The east-west crossrides and sidewalks have been painted in, but not the north-south ones at this time while some of the traffic signals remain covered.

The new bi-directional bikeway on Murray Ross Parkway provides a more natural continuation of the Finch Hydro Corridor via Tangiers Road.

Having called for protected intersections for several years, that intersection called for an obligatory selfie. Look forward to seeing more of these intersections in the near future including at Bloor and St. George which is now expected to happen next year with a public meeting scheduled for Thursday, May 5.

Special thanks to Al for leading us on the ride and I hope to do the full loop on my own soon.

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Rob! I have enjoyed the loop many times but as I've gotten older (and wiser?) I've found that Humber-Finch gap in particular to be daunting. That and the Leslie/Eglinton gap are the most dangerous. The Weston gap is probably the most annoying though, as it just seems so fixable. Thank you for pointing out the less predictable temporary closures too, which seem to have really increased over the pandemic. The city needs to figure out a way to communicate these in a cohesive way to allow safe route planning for all levels of cyclists.

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