Are Leaside streets for all ages and abilities?

Pedalheads campers learning to ride on our residential roads. Photo by Holly Reid.

When temperatures hit double digits in early March and the sun was shining, my thoughts turned to warm-weather cycling. Getting out for a ride on bare roads and feeling the (warm) wind on your face is both restorative and exhilarating. As it turns out, Leaside is apparently a pretty good place to ride a bike. At least that’s what a recent University of Toronto study illustrated.  

Researchers looked at how ActiveTO affected people’s access to low-stress cycling infrastructure in Toronto. Last summer, ActiveTO brought us major road closures on weekends and nearly 40 km of new protected bikeways. There’s more to come for 2021, so stay tuned. But Leaside didn’t have any ActiveTO installations; in fact, there was nothing for midtown in the ActiveTO program (see Leaside Life July, 2020), so how does this research relate to us? 

As part of the study, the researchers categorized all roads in the city based on who would feel comfortable riding on them. They looked at road type and width, traffic speed and speed limits, motor vehicle volume (morning peak) and cycling infrastructure to determine the level of stress associated with riding a bike on a particular road. According to their analysis, most of our residential roads within Leaside are low stress and suitable for all users, including children. McRae Drive, Millwood Road, Southvale Drive and Broadway Avenue are considered more stressful and rated as being “comfortable for the majority of adults.” No surprise that arterials such as Bayview Avenue, Eglinton Avenue and Laird Drive have the highest traffic stress and are assigned to cyclists who are “strong and fearless” and, in a few sections, those deemed “enthused and confident.” 

I’m curious how Leasiders feel about this analysis of our neighbourhood routes? In theory, a number of factors support the assertion that anyone can comfortably ride a bike around Leaside. We have low speed limits, and most intersections are signalized or have stop signs, minimizing conflicts. While traffic calming is limited, many streets accommodate on-street parking on both sides of the road, effectively narrowing available space so people on bikes and in cars must share the road. But the lived experience can often be quite different from a theoretical one. 

Our “Watch Your Speed” signs show that not everyone is sticking to the 30 km limit. The Automated Speed Enforcement camera on Bessborough Drive by Field Avenue yielded more than 800 infractions! When drivers aren’t willing to share the road with people on bikes, they can pass too closely for comfort (a minimum of one metre is required between car and bike rider). And no one gets a pass at our four-way stops where there are plenty of transgressions to go around.

The researchers have shown that Leaside has the potential to be a place where everyone can feel comfortable riding a bike, but clearly improvements are needed if we are to realize that potential. So, what would you like to see? Email me at and share your thoughts.

About Holly Reid 48 Articles
Holly Reid is a recreational road rider and cycling commuter. An advocate for safe cycling, she is a member of Cycle Don Valley Midtown, Cycle Toronto’s advocacy group for Wards 15/16.