October 23, 2019

Checking Out Scarlett and Six Points

The Etobicoke York district has two main cycling projects for 2019; those being the protected bike lanes on Scarlett Road and the Six Points intersection in Etobicoke Centre. Scarlett was part of an action plan proposed by the Ward 11 Pedestrian Safety and Cycling Community (now Ward 5 York South Weston), while Six Points – where Bloor, Dundas, and Kipling meet – is attracting higher density development. I biked by these two areas on Sunday to understand the importance of these two projects.
Scarlett cycle tracks at the Humber River Trail

October 10, 2019

Biking Barrie to Orillia

Since moving to the Greater Toronto Area in 2008, the only GO train line that was easily accessible outside of rush hour was the Lakeshore line from Oshawa to Aldershot (just outside of Hamilton). However, GO Transit has expanded service on its Barrie, Kitchener, and Stouffville lines in recent years as part of their Regional Express Rail program. This includes year round weekend service to Barrie in December 2016 and to Niagara Falls since August 2019. Having gotten curious to check out the Oro Medonte Rail Trail, Helen and I brought our bikes on the GO train to Barrie last weekend to try it out.
Barrie's old Allandale train station
Right now, GO Transit’s Barrie weekend service is focused more on those visiting Toronto than the other way around. The earliest GO train leaves Union Station at 11:40 and arrives at Barrie’s Allandale Waterfront station at 13:20, while the last train leaves Barrie at 20:40 and returns to Union at 22:20. If there could be an earlier train leaving Union at 8:00 or 9:00, that would make a day trip to Barrie more ideal. Having said that, the Barrie line has some vintage style stations along the way at Maple and Aurora, while the old style Allandale station can be seen from the new one.
The multi-use path is on the other side of this public washroom
Fortunately, a simple crossing of Lakeshore Drive brings you to Barrie’s lakefront trail. Barrie’s downtown is within walking distance from Heritage Park by crossing the rainbow crosswalk and heading to the Cenotaph. Outside of the waterfront, Google Maps shows few disconnected bike routes and Barrie – a city of 140,000 people – doesn’t have an active transportation map; something smaller communities such as Ajax and Moncton offer. An updated transportation master plan was released in April 2019 as a blueprint to build their bikeway network.
Admiring the fall colours just east of Barrie
Once past Heritage Park, most of the trail to James Street in Orillia – including the entire Oro Medonte Trail – is good quality gravel surface. While this may inconvenience asphalt loving road racers, it was more than adequate for our hybrid and commuter bikes.
The wayfinding signage was good while the trail from Colborne Street to 1 Line was a bit narrow. A short ride on 1 Line with minimal traffic brought us to the Oro Medonte Trail parking area.
Some narrow trail sections between Heritage Park and the Oro-Medonte Rail Trail
The 28-kilometre Oro Medonte Rail Trail runs along an abandoned CN rail line and serves as a cross country ski and snowmobile route during the winter. Visiting this trail during the fall was a real treat with the changing leaves and a trumpeter swan sighting by a pond. A bike repair stand is available at Line 2, while information panels can be found along the trail. Washrooms and porta-potties are also available every few kilometres.
Trumpeter swans along the Oro-Medonte Rail Trail
The trail becomes paved again at James Street with some oddly placed ring and post parking and stops at West Street. For those uncomfortable crossing mid-block, signalized intersections can be found within a 1 – 2 minute walk. An off-road path was found on Queen Street, which dumped us into a construction zone at Front Street and wayfinding to Orillia’s waterfront wasn’t clear. Getting there required going a short distance north to Elgin Street. While it would have been nice to spend some more time in Orillia, the shorter daylight hours meant having to turn back almost immediately to avoid riding the unlit trail in the dark and get on the train home.
Made it to Orillia's Waterfront but had to turn back shortly after
A redo of this trail is definitely in order for several reasons; especially if an earlier GO train run could be added. Not only would it be nice to spend more time in Orillia (or even just Barrie), the Oro Medonte Rail Trail is part of the 160-kilometre Simcoe County Loop Trail which could lead to another multi-day bike trip accessible from Toronto car-free. Lots of work is needed for Barrie and Simcoe County to catch up to Niagara Region for cycle tourism, but giving Ontarians more cycle tourism options is never a bad thing. 😊
Keep on touring!
Rob Z (e-mail)

September 11, 2019

Tearing Down the Democratic Process

Over the past twenty years, Dave Meslin has become one of Toronto’s leading city builders. You may recognize some of his projects such as Spacing, Dandyhorse, Cycle Toronto, RaBIT, Downtown De-Fence Project, and the Toronto Public Space Committee. His new book – Teardown – draws from those experiences and those from other political roles to help educate people on the obstacles of our political system and how to overcome them.

August 29, 2019

The Value of Tactical Urbanism

For those who aren’t already aware, the term “tactical urbanism” refers to the use of temporary, low cost materials to help improve public spaces and neighbourhoods. The practice has been around for a long time, but this term has been popularized over the past few years including by Mikael Colville-Andersen during his TV series “The Life Sized City”. Last weekend, 8 80 Cities and Better Block took this concept to a whole new level by building a pop up complete street on Danforth Avenue known as 8 80 Streets Danforth; a first of its kind for Canada.

August 07, 2019

Observations Along the Humber

With the desire to escape the noise from the Caribbean Carnival on Saturday afternoon, I decided to bike the Humber River Trail all the way to Steeles and make some observations. A ride I used to do a few times before. This ride marked the first time I saw a deer while biking in Toronto, which happened south of Islington and Finch. A reminder of how cycling can lead to the most pleasant of surprises.

July 29, 2019

One Year Later – Where Are We On Protected Intersections?

Last year saw two cyclists killed in places where bike lanes intersected; those being Douglas Crosbie at Dundas and Jones in May and Dalia Chako at Bloor and St. George in June. Those fatalities helped spark new demands for Dutch style protected intersections from road safety advocates and the Toronto Star, while City Council approved ten “complete intersection” pilots. What happened on this file since then?
Cycle Toronto's protected intersection demo at Open Streets TO

July 22, 2019

What's Next, Bike Share Toronto?

Back in 2013, Toronto held the “Feeling Congested” consultation series to reduce gridlock and included a recommendation to expand Toronto’s bike share to 5,000 bikes. Earlier this month, this goal has been fulfilled with the newest of the 465 stations being installed in the Junction, Bloor West Village, the Beaches, East York, and Midtown. With this goal achieved, where should Bike Share Toronto go next?