Biking in Toronto


How I Experienced the City 25 Years Ago

I went through an old bin of stuff I've saved for decades, throwing some stuff out and keeping a few priceless gems.

In this bin of memories I found a couple of guides I received 25 years ago. One is entitled "Cycling Skills" and taught me the rules of the road as a young cyclist in this city. I found this little booklet invaluable as a teen navigating the downtown core at all hours of the night.

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The other was the 1990 TTC Ride Guide. If I wasn't biking, I was jumping on the subway. I loved the subway and mapped my routes with this handy guide.

Ride Guide

Sadly, the TTC Ride Guide isn't much different today as it was in 1990.

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Yesterday's Bike Fall

Yesterday, at about noon, I crashed. Literally. Let me tell you about it...

Much like today, it was warm out, but rainy. Ice certainly wasn't a concern, as we were nowhere near the freezing mark. It was just another rainy ride.

There's a little loop near the Port Credit Yacht Club I decided to ride. Part of it is pavement, where coincidentally I fell last January before snapping this picture. Then, the pavement ends and a wooden boardwalk completes the loop. Here's a photo of this spot, taken earlier today.

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Less than a half second after the rubber of my front tire hit the wood, I was down. It was far more slippery than any ice I can remember. There was no traction at all, it was pure slick, and I crashed down on my left side before I knew what was happening.

Yes, my head slammed into the wood. Yes, I was wearing a helmet, because I won't ride without one. I was bruised, but otherwise fine, so I got up and continued my ride.

What makes this part of the Waterfront Trail so slippery? Again, there's no chance of ice, as it was an unseasonably warm day. It was just wet wood, but it's so dangerous to ride or walk on, I'm surprised there's no signage or that this surface even exists.

Not only do I now have a helmet to replace but it was my first crash on my new bike. It seems fine, but nothing messes up a finely tuned bike faster than a crash.

Here's the part of the Waterfront Trail you should avoid in wet conditions. I'm thinking of putting up a sign myself.

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Lake Shore Cycle Track Close to Fruition

In the spring of 2014, I wrote about the stretch of the Waterfront Trail between Norris Crescent and First Street. This is really the only part of the trail that's not off-road, not on quiet side streets and doesn't have a designated bike lane.

I followed that entry up with an update in July of 2014. I contacted my counsellor about it, and he told me they were looking at it. in fact, there was a study done, and they were actually looking at it.

Now, we're very close. There's an open house tonight, but I can't be there as it conflicts with my boy's hockey game. Here's what's coming, and a pic of what it will look like.

The City of Toronto is planning a 1.4km cycle track along Lake Shore Boulevard West from Norris Crescent to First Street, west of Mimico Waterfront Park in Etobicoke, Ward 6. The new cycle track will provide a safe connection for cyclists, and will close a gap in the Waterfront Trail. 

Lakeshore Cycle Track at Royal York Draft July 2

It's even better than I had hoped. I can't wait to ride it.

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Cycling: November 2015 vs. November 2014

That was the best November I've ever cycled. Sure, there were a couple of toe-numbing days, but only a couple. The rest were ideal for biking.

Here's how my November 2015 stacked up against November 2014.

November 2015: 659.44 KM

november-2015

November 2014: 434.26 KM

november-2014

I'm now at 6859.76 KM for 2015.

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How to Bike Toronto Winters

Toronto's winters are very bikable, so there's no need to put your bicycle away until spring. I biked through the past two winters and now have it down to a fine art. Sure, you'll need to skip a few days when it's actively storming or when the temperatures plummet below -20°C, but you can get in a good ride most days with only three adjustments.

1. Layer Up
Staying warm is essential if you're going to bike through Toronto's winters. I've learned to add layers as the temperatures drop.

On a -10°C day in January, for example, I'll be wearing:

  • two pairs of socks
  • long thermal underwear
  • water-and-wind-resistant pants
  • tee-shirt
  • two long-sleeved athletic shirts
  • runner's hoodie
  • water-and-wind-resistant running jacket
  • balaclava
  • biking gloves
  • winter gloves

Trust me when I tell you you'll feel warm in all of the above down to -20° at which point your toes will turn on you.

2. Choose Maintained Routes
Once the snow falls and stays, I have to alter my regular routes. Much of the waterfront trail to the west of me is not maintained in the winter time, and it becomes an unsanctioned skating rink. That's no good.

Through trial, error, and common sense, I've mapped out several routes that are ploughed and salted throughout the winter. The Martin Goodman Trail, for example, is maintained all winter long, and you'll often find me biking it on a cold February afternoon.

Be prepared to lose your regular routes and map yourself rides with cleared snow and ice.

3. Slow Down
Even if your trail / road is ploughed and salted, the greatest danger in winter cycling is losing control on snow and ice. In my adult life I've never fallen off my bike in dry conditions, but I've had several falls in snow and rain. It's essential you reduce your speed during winter rides when snow and/or ice is present. This is especially true when turning.

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Get out there and enjoy biking Toronto in winter, just be prepared to bundle up, lose many of your favourite trails, and slow way down. Things will return to normal some time in April.

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Cycling: October 2015 vs. October 2014

Having surpassed my 2015 goal in mid-September, I'm now fulfilling a contractual obligation by comparing my year-over-year distances through December.

Although there were a few chilly, wet days in October, overall it was a great cycling month, with the sun shining and mostly double-digit temps.

Here's how my October 2015 stacked up against October 2014.

October 2015: 762.53 KM

october-2015

October 2014: 513.21 KM

october-2014

I'm now at 6200.32 KM for 2015.

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Cycling: September 2015 vs. September 2014

My goal for 2015 was to bike 5000 KM. I had never biked that much in a single calendar year, and it seemed like an attainable goal if I stayed healthy.

It turns out I hit that goal in early September, and just kept going. September was an amazing month for cycling this city with plenty of sunny warm days.

Here's how my September 2015 stacked up against September 2014.

September 2015: 920.26 KM

sept-2015

September 2014: 529.3 KM

sept-2014

I'm now at 5437.79 KM for the calendar year. We'll see where I end up.

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Separated Bikeway Connecting the Waterfront Trail Between Norris and First Approved

In the spring of 2014, I wrote about the stretch of the Waterfront Trail between Norris Crescent and First Street. This is really the only part of the trail that's not off-road, not on quiet side streets and doesn't have a designated bike lane.

I followed that entry up with an update in July of 2014. I contacted my counsellor about it, and he told me they were looking at it. in fact, there was a study done, and they were actually looking at it.

bikelanes

Today, in a tweet from @GraphicMatt, I see the light. An on-street separated bikeway on Lake Shore Blvd. connecting the Waterfront Trail between Norris Crescent and First Street will be installed next year. This is great news.

biketweet

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Cycling: August 2015 vs. August 2014

If I stay healthy, I should demolish my goal of 5000 km for 2015. I'm actually on target to surpass 5000 km by the end of September.

Here's how my August 2015 stacked up against August 2014.

August 2015: 613.59 km

august-2015

August 2014: 387.81 km

august-2014

I'm now at 4517.53 km with 4 months to go.

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Cycling: July 2015 vs. July 2014

I set a personal best for KM cycled in a single month in June, but I trounced that number in July. July was an amazing month for cycling this city, and I made the most of it. Here's how my cycling in July 2015 measured up against July 2014.

July 2015: 893.34 km

july-2015

July 2014: 405.07 km

july-2014

My goal for 2015 remains a personal best 5,000 km. I'm currently at 3903.94 km with 5 months to go.

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