Learn more about BikingToronto and Singer Kwinter
NEVER MISS AN UPDATE: Click here to join over 900 other people and get updates and free stuff!

Biking Toronto’s Ravines

Toronto is known by outsiders (and even a startling number of Torontonians) for being relatively flat.

Anyone that bikes Toronto knows that perception to be false, because of the oft-forgotten ravines of the city. Toronto is marbled with deep, wild, forested ravines. In fact, biking the ravines give a totally different view of the city than the one you get biking the streets (I’ve had a photo post of a big ravine ride I did a few weeks ago that I still have to post…), and different than car drivers see.

When biking the streets of Toronto, cyclists tend to adjust their routes to take them across one of the bridges that traverse the many ravines of the city. The minor ones are filled with trees which hide what’s down below. Biking the ravines though, you realize that Anne Michaels was right when she wrote about them in Fugitive Pieces:

It’s a city of ravines. Remnants of wilderness have been left behind. Through these great sunken gardens you can traverse the city beneath the streets, look up to the floating neighbourhoods, houses built in the treetops. It’s a city of valley spanned by bridges. A railway runs through back yards. A city of hidden lanes, of clapboard garages with corrugated tin roofs, of wooden fences sagging where children have made shortcuts. In April, the thickly treed streets are flooded with samara, a green tide. Forgotten rivers, abandoned quarries, the remains of an Iroquois fortress. Public parks hazy with subtropical memory, a city built in the bowl of a prehistoric lake.


Like diving birds, Athos and I plunged one hundred and fifty million years into the dark deciduous silence of the ravines. Behind the billboard next to Tamblyn’s Drugstore we dipped down into the humid amphitheatre of a Mezozoic swamp, where massive fronds and ferns tall as houses waved in a spore-dense haze. Beneath a parking lot, behind a school; from racket, fumes, and traffic, we dove into the city’s sunken rooms of green sunlight. Then, like andartes, resurfaced half a city away – from under the bridge near Stan’s Variety or from behind the Honey Dew Restaurant.

Honestly, biking the ravines it’s easy to forget that you are in the middle of a city of millions of people and cars and pollution. You climb up out of a ravine (or emerge from the Don or Humber Valley at the lakefront) and you are all of a sudden back in Toronto, after a trip through a forest you’ve been riding through for hours.

We owe our ravines to Hurricane Hazel and Jane Jacobs. The remnants of Hurricane Hazel hit Toronto in 1954, flooding our river valleys and washing away homes. Development was restricted in the valleys and they became parkland. Then, in the 1960s and 70s, the ravines were earmarked for highway placement until Jane Jacobs helped stop the Spadina Expressway at Eglinton, keeping it from decimating Cedarvale Ravine, the Annex neighbourhood, and the western part of downtown.

Recent Posts

bloor-infographic1

TRUTH: The business of bikes and parking

Click on through to Spacing to see the full infographic. There has been some debate about whether bike lanes on Bloor would hurt or harm businesses. Spacing is republishing this infographic from our Fall 2014 issue to help inform the discussion. View Full Graphic: INFOGRAPHIC: The business of bikes and parking – Spacing Toronto

bikechain

VIDEO: A DIY repair shop created by students for students

A great video introduction to U of T’s BikeChain from Global News (except there’s an ad that runs before it): ‘Bikechain’ was created in 2005 as a student project serving the University of Toronto student community. This DIY bicycle repair shop is based out of the St. George campus and is open to everyone on […]

pollution-map1

MAPS! Helping cyclists avoid smoggy routes in Toronto and Montreal

  Amazing tool!  Played with it a long time.  Very telling that when you turn off the street map, high pollution levels still indicate where roads (and especially highways and the airport) are, and where the ravines (without highways) are. It is essentially a Google Map with an extra layer representing the average concentration of […]

blue shirt

OH YEAH! Get Biking Toronto Updates, Win A Shirt

This is on until midnight on Saturday, April 30th, 2016! If you’re a regular visitor to Biking Toronto, you may notice little asks for you to join the update list.  This list updates you about new things on the site (and then you decide what you want to click through and read).  There are over […]

10697830754_444ae89432_z

NEWS: Bloor Bike Lanes Pilot Should Be a Council No-Brainer. Here’s Why It’s Not. 

An excellent piece in Torontoist about why a bike lane pilot designed to collect data about benefits/detriments and overwhelming supported by the community is getting static from politicians: There really should have been little to no debate about this 2.5 kilometre bike lane pilot project running along Bloor Street West from Shaw Street to Avenue […]