Archive for the ‘Urbanism’ Category

This is Jane’s walk weekend (to celebrate the birthday of patron saint Jane Jacobs) where volunteers lead tours all around the city to point out various things of historical interest. My Facebook feed flagged a Jane’s walk on bikes that advertised an 18km loop in the heart of the city that was almost completely on off road trails, and some of them were unfamiliar to me, so it was a golden opportunity to explore more of downtown by bike.

The ride started at Ben Nobleman Park, which was highly appropriate since it was located at the southern terminus of the Allen Expressway: the stub that was supposed to continue downtown as the Spadina Expressway. Jane Jacobs led the fight to quash the expressway. Here we gather in the shadow of the many cranes that are building a station for the Eglinton Crosstown LRT.


Just before we started, a community group called the Ben Nobleman Community Orchard was wrapping up a fundraiser, and one of them was able to tell us a little more about the history of this spot. The very long picnic table was made from reclaimed wood that had been part of a dock in the harbour. It also more or less marked the line where the province under Premier Bill Davis had a narrow strip of provincial land leased to the city  for 99 years as part of a strategy to ensure that an expressway would not extend further south than Eglinton Ave.


Our ride leader, Burns from the Cycle Toronto Midtown group, shows us the newspaper account of the cancellation of the Spadina Expressway.


Then it was a short ride up to the starting point of our ride: the western end of the Beltline Trail at Allen Expressway. (I do realize that the belt line extends further west). The sign had a lot of interesting information. The Beltline trail marks the path of the northern part of a railway loop that ran for a scant 28 months before it went bankrupt. The northern section of the rail line continued to be used for freight as far east as Mt. Pleasant, but then in 1990 it was converted over to a rail trail.


Here where the Beltline crosses Bathurst, there are no road markings. After a lot of lobbying, the city has agreed to put in a small refugee island and some signage at this crossing. This is due to go in sometime this year.


A brief stop under the bridge where Eglinton crosses the Beltline. Burns tells us that we have Eglinton above us, and below we have a buried storm sewer that was Yellow Creek, as well as the Eglinton Crosstown.


The first of several obstacles that mother nature provided us from yesterday’s wind storm.


Here is the crossing at Avenue Rd, which was the most improved of all the major crossing. Heavy lobbying by the Cycle TO Midtown group was crucial in making this happen.


They are less pleased with what the city did at Oriole Parkway, with this island in the middle, and no road markings.


What a beautiful day to be riding the Beltline.


Across Yonge lies Mt. Pleasant Cemetery. Here you can see another downed tree.


At Mt. Pleasant Ave, we enter the cemetery and head towards Moore Park Ravine.


Moore Park Ravine.


Another downed tree.


We stop briefly near the spot where there was the Moore Park train station.


Riding down the hill, we end up at the bottom of where the City is making a new switchback trail to connect the Beltline to Chorley Park. This trail had significant opposition from local residents.


Now onto towards the Brickworks.



Now climbing back up the Park Drive Reservation trail.


A very unfriendly crossing of Mt. Pleasant to get to David Balfour Park.


Up another ravine that I’ve never seen before.


After about a km or so on city streets, we are back on the west side of Yonge St. We pause briefly at Poplar Plains where we are told that the bike lane there was the first in the city it was installed in 1979. Note the newspaper article visible in the binder.


“Bike Lanes have drivers up in arms”. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

At this point, I had to cut off from the group who were headed back up Nordheimer and Cedarvale to the starting point.

Thanks to Burns from Cycle TO Midtown for leading the ride and teaching us things, as well as to Ken, also from the Midtown group, for providing supplemental information.

If you are so inclined, this ride is running again on Sunday, and it has also been offered several years so you might be able to join next year.



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One of the landmarks on my commute in to work every day has been Honest Ed’s, a Toronto institution that has been in the process of being demolished. Back in December, I started taking a series of pictures, mostly from Bloor and Markham, where I would pull over briefly, just off the bike lane.

Here is the first picture from December 3, 2017, where most of the building south of the Bloor St. Facade was already gone.


Dec 8


Dec 12


Dec 27


January 4


Jan 10jan10

Jan 13


Jan 30


January 30, from Bloor and Bathurst


February 5


At this point, I had to go out of town for a few days, and I didn’t manage to get the last pictures of the corner, but you can see an Instagram video here:

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Feb 9: just as last bits of the corner entrance are demolished.



Feb12: From this panorama, you can see that all that’s left of the ground floor is a little section off Bathurst.


Feb 15


Feb 27. Even some of the hoarding along Bathurst has come down, and now you can see across to some of the properties on Markham St. that have yet to come down.


Feb 28: Oh yes, there is a small block of stores on Bathurst that refused to sell, and so they have been left alone.


There is also a second block of stores at the corner just south of here. According to this rendering, these buildings area part of the final design.

Screen Shot 2018-03-04 at 2.17.35 PM

(image source)




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There was an event nearby on the West Toronto Railpath timing around dusk. We thought it would be a nice opportunity to get in a little family outing.

Lucy wants to go for a bike ride.


The event was put on by DeRail Art, and was entitled “We pause at twilight” It consisted of an audio track accessed from their website that we could access while we were guided along the rail path. At various points, we were directed to pause, and to think carefully about our surroundings, the movement of our bodies, and even at times the collective motion of the entire crowd.

Here on the bridge over Bloor, we are directed to face south. Of course there are always one or two who don’t take direction as well 😉


It was interesting to see the repainting of the Red Cross building, and how the new paint deliberately avoided these vines.


The evening event ended with us on the Wallace St. Bridge.


Neighbourhood resident Vic was taking pictures as usual.


It was also interesting to see the row of two storey live/work buildings almost complete, as one of the last parts of the Wallace Towns development.


At this point Lucy was getting a little cold, so we wrapped her up like ET and headed home.


Thanks to DeRail for an simulating event. Nice to see so many people turn out as well.


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Haven’t been to Henderson’s in a while, and when I dropped by today, I was surprised to see most of the parking lot filled with cars. It is now largely reserved parking for the various businesses that have sprung in the building adjoining the brewery.


While I’m happy about the number of jobs being created in the area, I’m a bit sad to see the largely empty lot gone, which would preclude holding family oriented bike events as in the past.

On the plus side, they’ve finally added a small ramp so that it will make it easier for me to haul beer home through the rear entrance onto the Railpath.


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The pedestrian bridge across the rail lines at the west end of Wallace Ave has been an important link for the neighbourhoods that are being built up east of the tracks. The stairway on the east end of the bridge just reopened after intermittent closures over this past winter.

The reconfiguration of the stairway is necessary to allow a new roadway (Sousa Mendes St.) to link between Ruskin and Wallace Avenues. 

Here is a site map from the developer.

Nov 15: you can see some uprights for the new stairway.

Jan 14: the steel framing for the lowest section of stairs is in.

March 23: in the process of pouring concrete on a platform.

March 28: the first evening that the stairs are open.

April 1: they certainly didn’t waste any time taking down the old stairs.

It was important to maintain this vital link for the neighbourhood. Eventually, there will be a pedestrian underpass in the area as well, which will also greatly facilitate the transfer between the UP Express and the Dundas West subway station. Until that happens, this bridge will have to do.

Update: here is a link to the city staff report on this project, and here is an excerpt:

Wallace Street Pedestrian Bridge One of the consequences of putting a new public street through the site, was the need to realign the eastern staircase of the Wallace Street Pedestrian Bridge as the stairs in their existing location are located right where Sousa Mendes Street joins with Wallace Avenue.

The Wallace Street Pedestrian Bridge was constructed in 1907 and is on the City of Toronto list of heritage properties. The bridge is constructed of steel, concrete and wood and it is organized in 3 distinct sections. A single set of stairs at the east and west ends rise in two tiers and the stairs are illuminated with decorative iron brackets. The bridge is a rare example of a vintage pedestrian bridge in Toronto and it is a visual landmark and an important feature in the neighbourhood. It is very well used, as it provides the only connection over the railway between Bloor and Dupont.

The applicant will be replacing the eastern staircase with a new staircase that will be located within the West Toronto Railpath, moving northward, then scissoring back to land at the end of Wallace Avenue. See Attachment 7 for drawings of the proposed stairs.

Given the prominence of the bridge and its high level of use, planning staff, the local Councillor, the applicant and members of the community met two times on-site to review the proposed stair location, the stair design and how the realignment of the stair would impact the gathering space on the Railpath at the end of Wallace Avenue. The bridge will remain open during the construction on the bridge and both Heritage staff and Engineering and Construction Services staff have signed off on the bridge alterations.

Screen Shot 2017-04-03 at 2.28.02 PM

Update 2: a few more pictures


The new view at the end of the bridge. Several people in the Junction Triangle Community Group on FB have mourned the ending of the former view, where the stairwell at this end of the bridge was basically invisible from mid span.


The bike rails are handy. No better or worse than before.



IMG_4952 (1)

A view of the space where the old stairs were, from ground level.


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I’ve been in Glasgow for a few days, and the bikeshare system has allowed me to explore a bit more of the city that I could have on foot.

First step: getting a bike. I noted that Tammy Thorne had reported some issues with the bikeshare system on the Dandyblog, so I prepared by loading the Nextbike app. Here is one of the bikeshare stations.


If you have the app, you can scan the QR code on the bike and it will let you know if it is available for rental. This seemed to work better than manually keying in the number on the phone or the keyboard on the bike. The app responds by giving you the combination to the lock.


and we’re off. Here is the bike on one of the pedestrian and bike bridges across the Clyde. It is a chunky bike with a Shimano 3 spd Nexus hub, but it strikes me as being less heavy than our bikeshare bikes in Toronto.


There are some nice paths along the north side of the river. In some sections, there are separate paths for pedestrians and cyclists. Here it is multiuse.


To get around some buildings, the path sometimes becomes a glorified sidewalk.


Approaching the Transport Museum, which was designed by the late Zaha Hadid.


The museum holds a sample of everything on wheels, plus some models of ships. I’m going to concentrate on the bikes.


Unfortunately, many of the bikes were suspended on a round track that was hung from the ceiling.



You could use a touchscreen display to get descriptions and pictures of each bike, but it wasn’t the same as being close up to them. I guess the advantage is that you can provide text in different languages, and that you could provide more text than on a static display, but it was a little disappointing none the less. Here are a Moulton and Raleigh 20 on the track.


A USS recumbent dating from the 30’s.


A display of trikes, with a Windcheetah in the foreground.


A vintage tandem trike on the same display. The front person has the option of not pedaling, and just using the footrests.


A view out the front of the building, with a huge wall of cars to the right. The same complaint applies to the cars: you can’t see them very well.


From another angle.


A special edition Raleigh chopper that was released for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. It didn’t sell very well. Perhaps the really heavy mag wheels had something to do with it.


A display of touring bikes. You could object to the fact that 2 out of five were not human powered, but one of the two motorbikes was used by Ewen McGregor, so I guess that’s OK.


This is allegedly a model of the first working bike in the world. Made in Scotland, naturally.


Finally, the thing that I really wanted to see was the replicas of Graeme Obree’s bikes.


One had the original narrow bars meant to be under the rider’s chest, and the other featured the extended superman position. Both positions were banned by the UCI.

Here is a shot of the narrow bars, with my hand barely in front of them, to get a sense of just how narrow these are.


Overall, I was underwhelmed by the Obree display as the replicas were rather crude, with no attempt to show the ultra narrow Q factor or the special cranks that the real bike had.


Nevertheless, it was a fun visit, doubly so because I got there by bike. Here I am biking back as the weather turned rainy.


These wayfinding signs were helpful, with timings given for both cyclists and pedestrians.


It was often difficult to tell if a given sidewalk was part of a bike route. It was more clear where the pavement was a special colour, such as red which seemed to indicate multiuse.


Elsewhere, blue signage was helpful.


When you return a rental bike, you just pull up to a bike station, lock the bike and then indicate the return on the app. One thing is that if you are on a roaming data plan, it would be inadvisable to keep the app running for the whole time that you have the bike. If you turn off the app after you check the bike out, it is helpful to note the combination beforehand, especially if you plan to lock up the bike during your rental period. I got into the habit on taking a screen cap as soon as I rented a bike.

When you return the bike, relaunch the app and it will figure out where you are.


Note that this screen is also providing you with the lock combination. Press return, and then you can select the actual location where you are doing the return. You will be rewarded by this screen.


The app also lets you review your rentals to make sure all your returns were successful.


On our second day in Glasgow, the weather was much better and it was great to see so many people out and about on the two main pedestrian streets downtown: Buchanan and Sauciehall.



A cool non US model Cannondale with small wheels and a kid seat.


This is Mitchell St, which runs parallel to Buchanan but one short block west. This street seemed to be used for loading into the backs of buildings that fronted on Buchanan.


The pedestrianization of a good deal of downtown has transformed these streets into a big, outdoor shopping mall. There was definitely a huge amount of foot traffic, but I’m not sure that this would be the best model for revitalization. I would hope that the second floors and above of the buildings would be given over to offices and such so that employment as well as retail activity could anchor downtown.

More Glaswegians enjoying the sun. You might wonder about the slogan posted in many places: “People Make Glasgow”.  Well I must say that everyone we’ve met in Glasgow has been very friendly!


Some flaggers in the Merchant City district, practicing for a street festival that starts tomorrow. This section of the city had pavers put down in 2011, and it gives this area a distinct character, along with all the old buildings with their impressive stonework.


and here are two Dutch bikes belonging to the owners of a very cool jewelry shop, with one of them trying to get out of the picture.


All in all, an enjoyable visit, but all too brief. I also went by a special bike shop, but I’ll write that up in a separate post.




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It’s been unseasonably warm this December. Following on last month, I took advantage of a day with a forecast high of 12C to ride in with shorts again today.
today It actually hit a high of 14C, and although it was past sunset on the way home, it was still a balmy 11C.

It being brilliantly sunny this morning, I took some pix on the way in. Here is a serious cargo trailer riding up from under the West Toronto Railpath underpass. His left wheel needs a bit of camber adjustment.

Just around the corner, I see that they’ve started putting in the curbs for the new section of Edwin Ave that will connect with Wallace once the Wallace Walk development is complete.
This was the site of the former Glidden paint factory. It took a long time to get the ground cleaned up, and then this block was left vacant for a couple of years. At this point, it looks like most of the townhouses on the east side are nearly complete, but they’ve only started work on the west side, where a row of live/work spaces will go in and back out onto the Railpath.

Here is a view from the Wallace St. bridge, taken back in Oct 2014. oct4_14 At this point, the condos that face Wallace are occupied.

A little further on is another church to condo conversion.

Compare the picture above to this one from October 2014. oct23_14

Headed east on Wallace, I approach a rail level crossing.
DSC07112 Metrolinx plans to elevate a section of this line to eliminate a rail crossing further north in order to enable more frequent service to Barrie. The initial renderings of the project showed a three storey tall wall that would visually cut this neighbourhood into two halves. More recent renderings show an elevated span that is more open, and there are media reports that this is a done deal, but there is still significant opposition in the neighbourhood.


Certainly, no matter how you dress it up, an elevated railway would totally change the character of the area.

At Dovercourt, a block north of Bloor, the former Postal Station E is being converted to TV studios for Master Chef Canada. The exterior cladding on the second storey is almost complete.
jun11 I thought it was a bit odd to have the splashes of orange, but it turns out that this is a project by an architectural firm called Superkül, and I guess they’ve decided this is the colour of the moment.

On the site of a former gas station on Harbord St., the same firm has designed a row of townhouses, and sure enough, the orange shows up here too.

Here are a couple more photos showing how quickly this project was built.

Nov 2014 nov11

March 2015

June 2015 jun17

It is interesting to see the rendering of Harbord St with lots of bikes in the marketing materials for this site. Note the target demographic: riders without helmets riding fixies on the wrong side of the street. Still at least one unit available!

Great day for cycling. Lots of changes in the neighbourhoods. All in a day’s commute.

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Hamilton Bike Share

We were in Hamilton this weekend to take in a little PanAm Soccer. It’s been years since I’ve been downtown, and one of the brand new things is a bike share system. Although I didn’t ride any of the bikes, it was interesting to take a brief look at their bike, in comparison to the Bikeshare Toronto machines.

The main difference is that the racking system is very simple, and all the smart tech is carried on the bikes themselves. The bike is a basic aluminum framed city bike that is significantly lighter than the ex-Bixi bikes.

Here is the tech that displays the status of each bike. The yellow loop is the bike lock that is opened when you rent a bike via a smartphone app.
DSC05881 The small loops to the left are a lock holster.

One quirk of the system is that each bike has a name. This one is named after one of my daughters.
DSC05879 According to the FAQ, if you signed up for a founding membership, you got to name a bike. Other bike names on the same rack were “Skeletor” and “Linus Blanket”.

The bikes also feature shaft drive, as well as a very sturdy front basket.

You can read this early review of what it’s like to actually use this system.

The next time I’m in town for an extended visit, I’m going to have to check out all of the new bike infrastructure that has gone in all across town over the last five years. It’s surprising that these improvements have gone in despite the actions of a City Council that often seems more dysfunctional that our own here in Toronto. Thumbs up to the citizen advocates such as those that are behind Raise the Hammer for pushing a progressive agenda.

Update: a Toronto based article comparing the two cities bike share system, and liking Hamilton’s better.

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Changes along Annette

Sad to see this for sale sign.

Because what this neighbourhood is really crying out for is more church to condo conversions.


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News flash: join us for the second edition of this ride on May 30, 2015!

Yesterday was the day for the Reading Line. I heard the flow of so many beautiful words that I hesitate to blog about it, but I’ll press on with my usual words and pictures to share my experience.

It was raining overnight, still raining at 7 am, and sprinkling at 9. Nevertheless, intrepid cyclists and book fans gathered at Book City.BC1 Think about the number of potential shoppers these bikes represent, occupying just two or three parking spaces….

Janet Joy coordinates with Dorothy from 11 Division. They escorted us through major intersections and made life easier for everyone.

A ribbon cutting (naturally a green ribbon), with Sarah Doucette, Peggy Nash, Cheri diNovo, Amanda and Janet Joy, some of our featured authors, Laurie Featherstone, and representatives from Cycle Toronto, Parks People, and the Friends of the Green Line.ribbon

We start off at our hosts, Book City, where Catherine Bush reads from her novel Accusation.

Some sweet treats provided by Sweet Flour Bake Shop that is right next door to Book City. I like the jump start cookie since it doesn’t have nuts or chocolate (I have allergies to both).

Now it’s time to hit the road. Janet Joy is assembling the people who will be riding with us. The sun has come out!

and we’re off!

Going a short way along Bloor to Jane.

The police took keeping us safe very seriously. Over seriously at times, but it was nice to have the peace of mind. Here we are turning at Jane and heading north.

I have never seen so many bikes on Jane St. Do you think Janet Joy is having a good time?

Along the Annette bike lane.

Regrouping at Keele.

Under the railpath.

Left on Symington.

Symington, approaching Davenport.
symington We rode along Davenport for a while, and a couple of blocks past Landsdowne we turned south on Lightbourn towards Geary Ave. This way, we cut off the diagonal portion of the Green Line that I scouted out last week. Just as well for this larger group of cyclists, and Laurie’s traveling bookmobile.

Our first stop, where Dave Harvey, director of Parks People, talks to us about the Green Line, and the vision of what it could be as a linear park connecting neighbourhoods along this rail line running east west, and following the hydro corridor further to the northwest to Earlscourt Park and beyond.

Next up, Shawn Micallef, co-publisher of Spacing Magazine, talking again about the Green Line, and how it brings a bit of the wild into the heart of the city. It was a treat to meet him since I am a big fan of Spacing, although I admit I don’t buy every single issue. I did buy a copy of his latest book: The trouble with brunch.shawn

As I noted last week, the biggest obstacles to the Green Line are the crossings with major streets. Here we are crossing Dufferin, which is no problem on this special day due to the efforts of 11 Division.

This bit of Geary is still a bit industrial, but as soon as we rejoin the hydro corridor, we’ll see more green spaces.

Our next stop is at this splash pad in the Geary Ave. Parkette.

Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer relates an amusing anecdote about an earlier short story, in which a woman is followed by a pack of feral dogs and coyotes. Her character is at one of the entrances to High Park subway station, and her editor at Granta has an issue with the word “parkette”, which apparently is not in the OED. It turns out that “parkette” is a distinctly Canadian word.gap3 You can see that we’ve picked up a reasonable number of people en route.

She then reads to us from her novel All the Broken Things.

and then off we go towards the next stop.

Next up: Amy Lavender Harris reads an excerpt about a woman visualizing death by car while riding a bicycle. This cut a bit close to the bone.alh1

The sky is getting darker, and it even starts spitting a bit of rain.

Next, across Shaw St to our final stop at the east end of Frankel Lambert Park.

I took this picture just as Laurie (of two wheels green delivery) was remarking that I weave when I’m shooting and it looks a bit dangerous.
laurie She worked hard pedaling all the books the whole way, and she was going to have to move house later that same day!

The sky clears again.

Christina Palassio, who has worked with the Stop Community Food Centre, talks about the importance of food in community building, particularly in underserved areas of the city.cp1cp2

Finally, an uplifting spoken word performance by Tanya Neuemeyer.tn1tn2

After all the readings, there were some sandwiches on offer from Vert Catering, and some near beer from Premium Near Beer, both vendors that deliver by bike. Vert catering noted that he didn’t anticipate that the books and bikes crowd would be so heavily vegan or vegetarian. I took a pulled chicken sandwich to help him out, which gave me the fuel to attend to the rest of my day. At this point, I had to leave the ride which looped back to Jane St.

Here’s a video from the ride.

Apologies to Riders Cycle and Board; one of the shots was taken on your doorstep at Geary and Dovercourt, and I mislabeled it Geary and Ossington. I’m too tired to go back and fix it.

A big thanks to Amanda and Janet Joy for putting together this wonderful event.
a&jj The crossover between the CanLit, Urbanism and Bike crowds made it a unique experience.

I’m also left with a stack of great reading material, analog for a change.

In this time of virtually unlimited white noise on the internet (to which I’m aware I contribute), and Amazon Prime (soon with drone delivery) it was wonderful to meet some local authors, to hear their words as well as their stories, and to support local businesses.

Update: coverage from Dandyhorse Magazine.

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