Video of a little trek I took from Jones Avenue and Queen via Queen Street to Leslie Street, via Leslie to Lake Shore Boulevard.
Some residents of Toronto’s downtown east side neighbourhood known as Leslieville, want the City of Toronto to install cycling infrastructure along Leslie Street when it is redeveloped this year.
This video goes a measure to explain why, it’s dangerous for bicyclists on Leslie – that’s why you don’t see very many of them. But soon, with all the parks opening to the south and a gentrification ongoing in the neighbourhood – this street will be teaming with cyclists… because it is one of only a few Gateways across the Great Wall – Lake Shore Boulevard!
This is a pretty slow Saturday afternoon in February, no snow, no snow banks – just a hellish westerly gusting to about 60 km/hr..
“Just your typical Bike Ride in Toronto on a Saturday afternoon in February“
The TTC is building a ‘Car House’ (the Ashbridges Bay Light Rail Vehicle (LRV) Maintenance and Storage Facility – ) on a plot of land on the South-East corner of Leslie Street and Lake Shore Boulevard – and to connect this cleaning a maintenance facility to the Toronto Transit Authority’s street car grid they are putting in street car tracks on Leslie Street from Queen Street, South down to approximately Commissioners Road.
Building a Grand Union at Bathurst Street and Queen Street West - 1997 (?)
The project is a major construction job:
1) A ‘three-quarter Grand Union’ at Queen Street and Leslie Street – so the new LRT cars travelling north can turn east or west – and so cars on Queen Street, traveling in either direction, can turn south to get back to the Car House;
2) Leslie street will need a new foundation to support the new LRT vehicles, each of which weighs in at 48,200 kg. The new vehicles are 30.2 metres, or 99 feet long – 25% longer than the longest street cars Toronto has now (the ‘articulated’, ALRV) which is 23 m or 75 feet. The TTC ssays they are ripping up the entire width of the street, sidewalks included.
3) The intersection of Leslie Street and Lake Shore Boulevard has all kinds of infrastructure under it. I’m not privy to the details, but I’m assuming water and sewer, electrical, fiber-optic… . Apparently many of the conduit for these elements will not stand up to the stresses that a street car right of way over top of them will create. That means they’re going to have to dig deep and build steel re-enforced concrete conduits for all these various elements – and make sure all are accessible by maintenance crews from a variety of city departments.
So after all this – can we get separated bike lanes on Leslie Street so folks can cycle safely to:
-the Waterfront Cycling Trail (formerly Martin Goodman Trail); -the new Port Lands Parks; and, -the new Tommy Thompson Park on Leslie Spit
The Transportation Department says the road is too narrow for Bike Lanes. The City of Toronto agrees – there is no way to make the street wider, and besides the road will be a TTC right of way in 10-15 years as Leslie becomes a service route. And the TTC says no, we can’t make the street wider – not in this project – the 2 year environmental study is already done – There’ No Time!!!
And they’re all correct … but we still need separated cycling infrastructure in order to help get parents and their children south of the great barrier, the Great Wall – Lake Shore Boulevard.
What to do?
We need your in-put.
The Leslie Street Complete Streets Working Group is meeting periodically and has lobbied all concerned about this issue. We are now at the end of the City of Toronto mandated, ‘Pubic Consultation Process’ – with no ground given on bike infrastructure. Now I think, we enter a phase of political organizing – we have to get a ground swell of popular support for cycling infrastructure on Leslie Street.
One suggestion, for the short term – just paint on bike lanes, or sharrows – for now, then…
Please help – us, all together, we can create a better Leslie Street. Perhaps, as I have dreamt – a Grand Gateway to the green and wild paces along the Great Lake Ontario – just 850 metres to the south.
And a new identity for Leslieville and South Riverdale – place names that will be known by tourists around the world.
For more more information, or to get involved – Contact me at, michaelholloway111(at)gmail(dot)com
Creating a ‘Gateway’ at Leslie Street through the ‘Great Wall’ – Lake Shore Boulevard
Update: 25 January 2012- Lito Romano – TTC Community Liaison Officer (email@example.com) has sent out a notification about the next meeting of the “Leslie Street Streetscape Working Group – it’s:
January 31, 2012 6:30 pm-8:30 pm South Riverdale Community Health Centre 955 Queen Street East
They’d like people to RSVP to make sure there’s enough chairs and such, by January 27th 2012 – via firstname.lastname@example.org
December 8, 2011
Lake Shore Boulevard defines the northern extent of Toronto’s “Port Lands”. The East/West automobile corridor is a ‘Great Wall’ to cyclists and pedestrians. Highways are wonderful for moving cars and trucks from point A to point B quickly – but in doing so they create barriers for everything else. These ‘Great Walls’ also have the effect of funneling traffic towards ‘Gateways’ that breach them periodically.
In the mashup below I’ve attempted to illustrate how Leslie Street and Cherry Street are the ‘sentry tower’ Gateways to Toronto’s Port Lands and Tommy Thompson Park.
(click on image for larger view)
Gateways to Toronto's Water Front
Leslie Street and Cherry Street are Gateways to the Portlands because they both connect to The Martin Goodman Trail, which circles the Port Lands and connects the City to the new Tommy Thompson Park Cycling and Walking Trails at Unwin Avenue and Leslie Street.
Carlaw Avenue, Logan Avenue and the Don Roadway do get cyclists and walkers across the Great Wall, but they only connect to Commissioners Street – then you have to travel East or West along Commissioners to access the Martin Goodman Trail.
One of the big issues in Leslieville has been ( and is ) the way this neighbourhood is cut off from the Water Front – namely The Port Lands, Tommy Thompson Park and the Martin Goodman Trail – ironically, by transportation infrastructure ( designed solely for automobile traffic ).
On Tuesday I rode my bike from Jones Ave. and Dundas St. E. across the Great Wall that is Lake Shore Blvd. through the Leslie Street ‘Gateway’ to the Tommy Thompson Park Bicycle Trail.
Below is my safe route that avoids the murderous hell that is Leslie Street from Queen Street East to Lake Shore Boulevard.
Because the TTC is building a street car barn at Lake Shore and Leslie to house part of the fleet of new Light Rail Vehicle (LRV) street cars - Leslie Street between Queen and Commissioners is about to be completely torn up in order to install street car tracks. The construction is to be so extensive that a re-visioning of the entire streetscape is in the works.
Cycling advocates see an opportunity to better connect cycling and walking infrastructure to the Portlands and the new Tommy Thompson Park Cycling and walking trails. The enabling of transportation infrastructure for more than just cars will not only connect this neighbourhood to the new parkland infrastructure – but it will connect the entire City of Toronto to it.
On November 9th I attended one such meeting. Architects presented a landscape proposal for Leslie Street below Lake Shore; and Lake Shore Boulivard itself between Leslie Street and Ashbridges Bay. In the proposal the Martin Goodman Trail remains pretty well where it is and a walking trail is added that weaves through a hedgerow shrubby, bulrushes and deciduous tree planted landscape contoured with lowlands and berms, and including seating. Councilor Mary Margaret McMahon ( http://www.councillormcmahon.com/ ) suggested bike lock-up hoops and someone else, drinking fountains.
( Perimeter Landscape – Ashbridges Bay Maintenance & Storage Facility – http://www.toronto.ca/involved/projects/lrv/pdf/2011-11-09_perimeter_present.pdf )
A further consultation meeting about Leslie Street north to Queen Street is in the works. A planned meeting for September 28, 2011 was postponed. It was re-schedualed for this week, Tuesday December 6th 2011, but that meeting was also postponed – to give architects more time to work through proposals made at other meetings.
( To get on the email list to be informed when this meeting is re-schedualed see the bottom of this article. )
So for cyclists and pedestrians – the issue is not how the proposed landscape architecture will look through the windscreen of an idling car stuck in grid lock on Lake Shore Boulevard – but rather how to get to the cycling and walking infrastructure that is being proposed to be a part of it.
Paul Young, Cycling Advocate and Health Promotor at the South Riverdale Community Health Centre petitioned the City to instal Bike Lanes along Leslie Street at a Public Consultation Meeting on September 14, 2011 at the Toronto Fire Academy – 895 Eastern Avenue. The City has so far replied that the Street’s foot print is too narrow for 2 lanes North and South, plus Bike Lanes. They suggest alternate Cycling Routes be found.
“TTC provided the following comments:
-$750,000 is the allocated budget for streetscaping of the study
-Landscaping for the perimeter of the facility will be funded
-Traffic Study indicates 4 lanes must be maintained in roadway
thus limiting the amount of space we have for streetscaping.
-Traffic lanes on Leslie should not be narrower than 3.3 metres. -Pedestrian and cyclist safety should be considered in any re-design
of Leslie Street, including intersections and mid-block entrances to
the commercial plazas.
-TTC will use multi-use poles where feasible in order to reduce
-The poles on the east side of Leslie St. do not have the required
bearing capacity- (ie limited use).
-City of Toronto Transportation have been asked to participate in all
future working group meetings, and public meetings associated
with Streetscaping, Construction Staging and Traffic Management.
-City of Toronto Transportation has commented on the traffic
counts and is of the opinion that the numbers being used are
satisfactory for this exercise.”
I find cycling on Leslie Street between Queen and Lake Shore to be hell on two wheels, so I’ve been doing just as they suggest.
Imagine an area, a semi-circle extending north to Queen Street and centred by the intersection of Lake Shore and Leslie. This area is full of danger points of for cyclists and pedestrians.
Here’s a map I made that high-lights several problems areas I have noticed cycling and walking in the area – and some solutions I’ve imagined.
List of Danger Points on Approch to the Leslie Gateway
1. The north/South Bike Lanes, Jones Avenue and Greenwood Avenue, end at Queen Street which, is a busy and dangerous route. Queen Street does not have Bike Lanes.
To connect the Greenwood Bike Lane to the Lower Don Recreation Trail, Knox Avenue is the obvious choice for a new Separated Bike Lane – it is a mere 20 metre jog West of the end of the Greenwood Bike Lane and the street already connects to the Lower Don Recreational Trail. ( The Bike Lane must be Separated along here because Knox is a through-way for Canada Post trucks, I suggest the western boulevard of 895 Eastern Avenue with planters separating the Bike Lane from the street – to replace the loss of green along the boulevard. )
Because there is no room for cyclists through the Leslie Street Gateway, I suggest a Cyclist’s Bridge over Lake Shore Boulevard at Knox Avenue.
2. Next is the problem of how to connect the Jones Avenue Bike Lane to the Lower Don Recreation Trail, which in turn, connects to my proposed cyclists bridge at Knox Ave..
Again, just a 20 metre jog to the West of the end of the Jones Avenue Bike Lane is a lovely, quiet neighbourhood street called Berkshire Avenue – which runs from Queen to Eastern, just West of the Eastern Avenue Chicane. A Cyclists Cross Walk needs to be installed at Eastern and Berkshire Ave..
On the South side of Eastern Avenue there are a series of film studio warehouses with massive parking lots that are rarely full – a perfect route to the Lower Don Recreational Trail. A Bike Path could be constructed along the eastern edge of the warehouse parking lot and then proceed between the eastern most warehouse and the back of the Price Choppers Store – where there is a 3 metre wide gap that cries out to be a Bike Path.
( On the map “Problems & Solutions: Leslie St. Gateway area” [http://g.co/maps/6z757] an info box shows on load titled: “Street View of proposed Bike Path route – Eastern Avenue, behind Price Chopper, to the Lower Don Recreational Trail“ - click on “more” (bottom right of info box), then click “Street View” in the drop down menu.)
3. Eastern Avenue, one block south of Queen, is a highway in all but name. At rush hour it generally runs faster than the posted speed limit. As Eastern approaches Leslie Street from the West, it chicanes north creating an extremely dangerous crossing area for cyclists and pedestrians – and a stressful predicament for car drivers trying to enter and exit residential streets to the North – and shopping malls to the South. Even with Bike Lanes on Eastern I feel very vulnerable through the chicane. Plus the Bike Lanes dissapear in favour of right turn lanes at Leslie in both directions.
In order to research this piece I did the ride again today – at 4:30pm. The on-Leslie experience for a cyclist is lots of turning cars and lane changing that forces you to the curb ( if you don’t take your lane ) and lots of waiting at lights. On “GO!” drivers power off the intersection in order to get to the next set of lights to stop at. The result being you’re pushed towards the curb – and then you catch all the impatient drivers at the next light – and do it all over again.
4. At Mosley Street just to the west of Leslie, at the exit from Price Choppers, there are too many traffic vectors in a tiny amount of traffic space. Fast moving traffic off of Eastern Avenue exits onto Mosley and either proceeds to Leslie, or turns into the Price Choppers parking lot. West bound traffic on Mosley – at the Price Choppers entrance - curves north towards Eastern Avenue – they may either slow to negotiate the right curve or decide to turn left into the parking area. Traffic exiting the Price Choppers lot may go right to Leslie, or reconnoiter well down Eastern to the west and hope no one is exiting onto Mosley and risk a left into the curve on Mosley – that stops short at the stop sign at Eastern. For a car it’s perfect fender bender territory – for a cyclist or pedestrian it’s a confusing, life threatening corner.
5. The intersection of Leslie Street and the Loblaws’ parking lot entrance – right across from the Price Choppers parking lot entrance is not a street but is fully Traffic Lighted like an regular intersction. There are three total lanes of traffic going in and out of each parking lot (left turn lanes on both). The crosswalk on the Price Choppers side is not clearly marked – add to that the fact that there is no clear definition between where the sidewalk ends and the crosswalk starts – the side walk continues across the intersection, dipping down to road level and becomes part of the street. Trucks and cars are regularly stopped or parked on the right hand side of the extra wide West bound ‘IN’ lane into Price Choppers – making the intersection more confusing than it already is.
I’m on Lito Romano’s email notification list. The next meeting of the Public Consultation Procss has not yet been set. I will post an update here when it is decided.
If you want to voice your opinion contact Lito Romano – TTC Community Liaison Officer ( email@example.com ) and ask him to notify you when the next meeting of the “Leslie Street Streetscape Working Group’ meeting is set.
“Highway 401 cuts Toronto in two; crossing it on foot or bike is very difficult. Those who cannot, or decide not to drive, are forced to negotiate the dangerous roads and sidewalks.”
So, that links to recent posts here (article) about the “Squiggly Grid (label)” road lay out that make it so tough to find safe, efficient routes for cyclists in Toronto’s 519. But the real reason I’m posting the video is the song! This years favourite! : ]
“It’s not Safe” by “Gentleman Reg” is the perfect sound track for this vid.
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I manage two blogs here at BikingToronto: "@Blog_FreeWheel" and the "Toronto/GTA Bicycle Route Mapping Wiki". The Blog and the Wiki are two sides of a coin - the blog to discuss bicycle routes and the politics of bicycle routes - and the Mapping Wiki to publish bike route maps contributors and I have discovered to help city planners, cycling advocates and road users to choose and advocate for, safe and efficient cycling routes on Toronto's busy and dangerous car-centric infrastructure.