Empathy is often described as being able to put yourself in another person’s shoes or, in this case, on their bike! To let our local politicians experience what it’s really like to bike on our local roads and trails, Cycle Don Valley Midtown has initiated “the good, the bad and the ugly” rides. The idea is that with greater understanding, policymakers will support making cycling safer where we live.
Don Valley West MP Rob Oliphant was first to sign up, gamely agreeing to a Saturday ride not long after recovering from an appendectomy. Peter Low of Cycle Don Valley Midtown organized the route in consultation with Rob’s office, and several Leasiders joined in for the ride. Beginning at the East York Town Centre, both “the good and the bad” were experienced simultaneously. While new bike lanes installed last fall on Thorncliffe Park Drive are good, the missed opportunity to connect them to schools and Flemingdon Park via protected bike lanes on Overlea Blvd. was indicative of “the bad” and the chronic problem with cycling infrastructure in Toronto – missing connections.
Not a “quiet” route
Leaving Thorncliffe Park, the group rode along Beth Nealson Drive and Wicksteed Avenue to Brentcliffe Road amid busy Saturday traffic. Wicksteed is sometimes labelled as a “quiet street route,” but those of us who live, work or bike here know that is not the case. Any cycling infrastructure in this area needs to offer protection for cyclists as well as accommodation for the many large trucks which rely on this route.
Better than good!
Leaving the roads for trail riding was an opportunity to experience not just the good, but also the great! The group rode down from Rykert Crescent to Serena Gundy Park and then north to Edwards Gardens via the Wilket Creek Park Trail. The latter is currently under construction and closed during the week, but once completed this will provide an excellent connection between Leaside and Don Mills.
And now for the ugly…
Accessing the Don Mills Trail (also known as the Leaside Spur Trail), north off Lawrence Avenue East, the group cycled to Bond Avenue to show Rob the “ugly.” The exit from the trail is steep and ushers bike riders into a busy entrance to the parking lot of a popular sports field. Drivers are not alerted to potential bike traffic and their sightlines are partially obscured. This is a popular ride for families, and Cycle Don Valley Midtown is working on drawing attention to this dangerous intersection to get it fixed.
Although cycling infrastructure in Toronto is under municipal government control, the federal government through Infrastructure Canada has provided funding to projects the City has initiated. Two local examples are the East Don Trail (completion December, 2019) and bike lanes in Flemingdon Park and Thorncliffe Park. Here’s hoping that additional money will come Leaside’s way soon and bring more of “the good” cycling to our area.