What are the best streets for cycling in Toronto?
The best streets for cycling in Toronto help one to recapture that pure, unrestricted joy that made you climb onto the saddle in the first place. These are places where cycling becomes more than just commuting or getting from A to B. Rather than put together a utilitarian list focused solely on safety and cycling infrastructure — there's an app for that — the criteria we had in mind when selecting these candidates was a bit more subjective.
Is the street pretty? Can you go fast? Are there interesting things to look at? Think of it as destination cycling, where the road is the main attraction of the ride. Here are 10 great streets to ride on in Toronto. Add your suggestions in the comments section below.
Russell Hill Road / Poplar Plains
This pair of roads offers the best of both worlds. Coming down the former, you best take the whole lane because unless you ride the brakes, you'll be up around the posted speed limit as you barrel down the windy section south of Clarendon Avenue. Those willing to roll the stop sign near the bottom face the prospect of near-perfect corkscrew turn at Boulton Drive (there is, alas, a speed bump to contend with). You certainly won't go as fast on the way up Poplar Plains, but it's great little tree-lined climb for enthusiasts (and those looking to avoid the traffic on Bathurst.
Leslie Street Spit
Once you leave the traffic behind and enter the off-road section, Leslie Street reveals itself to be truly spectacular. South of Commissioners, the street becomes quieter and narrower as it turns into the bike path for Tommy Thompson Park. Ride it to the end and let the awesome size of Lake Ontario blow you away (sometimes literally). Bring a pair of binoculars if you're into bird or skyline spotting.
Lake Shore Avenue
Pick a time when the Toronto Islands' main street isn't packed with wobbly tourists on tandems and this beautiful bike-friendly cruise past Gibraltar Point Lighthouse and Centreville is hard to beat in terms of natural beauty and car-free delight. This is definitely a bike ride to slow down and savour on a quiet afternoon away from work.
Rosedale Valley Road
Although the pathway on the west side of the road isn't in the greatest condition, it's still hard to imagine a better stretch of pavement to ride a bike on in Toronto than Rosedale Valley Road between the Bayview Extension and Park Road. As is the case with most streets in Toronto, it's more fun when heading south(east) on account of its slight decline, but the gorgeous ravine scenery stays consistent regardless of the direction you're heading.
St. George and Beverley (lumped together for this post) between Queen and Bloor are everything city biking streets should be: relatively quiet, smooth, and, of course, bike-friendly. The University of Toronto campus section has a refreshing scholarly air while south of College, Beverley is a handy north-south connection between Queen West, Baldwin Village and Chinatown. The green space of Grange Park is a definite highlight.
Colborne Lodge Drive
Call it cheating, but all the roads that cut through High Park are a cyclists dream: pleasant scenery, slow-moving traffic that's easy to avoid, and just enough undulation to keep things interesting. If you like to go fast, the section south of Centre Road can be exhilarating. Just make sure to watch out for the speed bumps and wayward squirrels.
Glen Manor Drive
The winding, tree-shaded street between Kingston Road and Queen East is a welcome break from the ubiquitous ruler straight routes that dominate Toronto's grid. Although it's far from challenging, taking some of the downhill curves at speed is a pure delight when there's no-one else on the road. Mist tends to linger in the ravine after a rainfall giving the ride an distinctly eerie feel.
Old Finch Avenue
You don't have to go too far to feel like you're riding in the countryside. Most of the roads around the Toronto Zoo accomplish this, but none are as interesting as Old Finch. It's a bit hilly, of course, but the winding nature of the road is what makes it interesting. Traffic levels are typically low, though one needs to be careful when approaching the one-lane bridges.
The street's name says it all really. The view of the city skyline heading south from the Danforth past Riverdale Park is one of this flat city's best vantage points and great recreational spaces. Sure, you have to contend with a streetcar or two as you cruise toward Gerrard but there's always time for a pit-stop at Rooster Coffee House. Like all hills, the ride back up will make you sweat.
Although you might once in a while have to contend with a dump truck or two at the western end, Unwin Avenue in the Port Lands is otherwise a quiet street that's been attracting road cyclists for years. Even though the Martin Goodman trail runs immediately to the south, the post-apocalyptic looking Hearn Generating Station is worth skipping the path for. A resurfacing job on the eastern section of the street has greatly improved the enjoyment factor for cyclists who ride informal crits around the Port Lands.
Mount Pleasant Cemetery
This is one of the most tranquil places to ride in the whole city. Just keep the speed down and your thoughts contemplative. Access points from Yonge, Mt. Pleasant, Moore and Bayview.
Writing by Chris Bateman and Derek Flack