Back in mid-April, I spent a good chunk of time one Sunday doing a large circuit of some of Toronto’s ravines, valleys and bike trails. I ended up covering just over 50 kilometres by riding the waterfront trail from the Beaches to the Humber pedestrian bridge, up the Humber Valley to where Lawrence Avenue meets Scarlett Road , across the auto-centric nightmare that is the former borough of York, down the Beltline Trail, Moore Park Ravine and the Don Valley to the east end of Toronto again.
Here’s a map for your viewing pleasure.
It was an interesting ride, if very long (I was out for about 4.5 hours) for me, and I snapped a couple photos along the way (you can click all of them for larger versions):
Here’s a panorama I made from a bunch of photos near Lakeshore and Carlaw. The Gardiner (the elevated highway in the photo, for those of you unfamiliar with Toronto) used to have an eastern “stub” (the start of the cancelled Scarborough Expressway) here, but it was torn down a few years ago. It’s still a car-dominated area, though. They’ve got a seperate bike and pedestrian path here, where it would’ve done wonders for the place if they made bikelanes part of Lakeshore here.
At the other end of the waterfront is Humber Bay Park, with the pedestrian/cyclist bridge that can be seen for miles and miles as you’re biking the waterfront. After crossing this, I headed north up the Humber River, the historical divider between the old city of Toronto and the former borough of Etobicoke.
The Humber Valley is also the area where an entire block of homes was washed away in 1954 in the rain and flooding of Hurricane Hazel (the homes were actually pretty close to where these photos were taken). Development in the Humber and other valleys and ravines of Toronto was stopped because of this, leaving the city with great park networks.
The Humber ride is a pretty nice one (even going north/uphill), even as you get up to the Eglinton area and the old suburbia around you is evident. The parks here are young, with newly planted trees, but even if the trees were mature, the giant “avenues” that you have to cross or ride under are an overwhelming presence.
According to the Toronto Bike Map, the stretch of Tretheway and Castlefield between Jane and the Allen is a “suggested link between off-road paths and other bikeways… links may entail travel on busy, major roads through commercial or industrial areas“
Well, they aren’t kidding. No bike lanes anywhere, huge wide open windswept spaces in a rundown area of the city which has suffered due to the auto-centric urban planning ideals of when it was built. A bit after these photos (which are remarkably free of cars) I had to cross the suburban-style giant intersection of Tretheway and Black Creek Road (the extension of highway 400) and it was nerve-wracking. Give me slow, congested downtown traffic any day… it’s much safer.
This intersection of Tretheway and Castlefield (above) is one I had had to take a photo of, because the bikemap recommends that cyclists travel the wrong way on a one way street. (You can click the photo for a larger version). Next time anyone says anything about cyclists riding the wrong way on these streets, I won’t mention that those rules are for heavy baby-killing cars, not pretty environmental bikes… but that the City encourages it.
Getting past this orphaned bit of old suburbia, into the area of Eglinton Avenue and the Allen Road, I got to my favourite part of the journey – the Beltline. Having not ever biked the full length of the BeltLine before, I was in for a great time.
The western part of the BeltLine (an old railway right-of-way from the 1800s) is a little rough, and is being used as a hydro corridor, but has nice smooth pavement and a really cool bridge over Dufferin Avenue that you can stop on and watch all the suckers in their cars going under you.
You have to get back onto the streets for a bit to cross the Allen, but then you get to the best known part of the BeltLine – a mature tree lined linear park through the backyards of one of the richest neighbourhoods (Forest Hill) in Toronto. Back in April the buds were just coming out on the trees… I should go back and take pics now that all the leaves have burst out. Going west to east on the BeltLine you have a slight decline in the terrain, and this coupled with a non-paved but very firm gravel and dirt base lets you just fly (if the way is clear… I slow down to walking/jogging pace around people – especially kids and dogs) southeast towards Mount Pleasant Cemetary. There are a few road crossings, but are minor inconveniences compared to the fun of the BeltLine.
After getting through the cemetary (which does not allow rollerbladers, but seems to welcome cyclists, for some strange reason…)and whipping down Moore Park Ravine (reputably the longest descent in Toronto’s ravine system, and tons of fun, in my opinion), I scooted down into the Don Valley Brickworks (in photo – now a cool urban marshland), where the bricks of all of Toronto’s old buildings were quarried.
I then went down the Don and resurfaced into the city near Broadview & Gerrard after going over the Riverdale pedestrian bridge (pictured, with my bike and the soon to be demolished half-round building of Bridgepoint Health Centre (Riverdale Hospital).
It was a great ride… through many parts of Toronto and great for getting an appreciation of the parks, ravines and often forgotten parts of the city that people in cars and on transit miss out on. There are more photos over on Flickr. Grab yourself a Toronto Bike Map (available at bike stores) before trying it… it helps a lot in the stretch between the Humber Valley and the BeltLine.