Find a route that works for you
Ask a Cyclist: Round 3
By Holly Reid
Holly is a long-time city cyclist, recreational road rider, Cycle Toronto member, and safe cycling advocate.
Each week, our resident safe cycling enthusiast Holly will break down common questions Torontonians have about riding their bikes in the city. Whether you are newer to cycling and want the rules of the road demystified, or are simply looking for tips on how to get your bike ready to ride this spring, follow along as Holly answers your questions.
Have a cycling question for Holly? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I would love to use my bike to get around the city – how do I find the safest route to take?”
Unlike other transportation modes, cycling isn't just about getting from point A to B - there are so many things to consider when it comes to planning your two-wheeled journey. Our third instalment is all about finding, testing, and adapting your route.
Design your ride with safety in mind
Cycling is a great way to get around the city, whether you are out for a recreational ride, running some errands or commuting to work. And with a little planning you can design a route with safety in mind. In our last instalment, we reviewed the different cycling infrastructure that makes up Toronto’s bike network. Now let’s see how to use that infrastructure and create a safe and enjoyable ride that works for you.
Rendering of the newly completed Waterfront Trail Cycle Track in Etobicoke (City of Toronto)
What’s your reason to ride?
Choosing a comfortable route for you will depend on a number of factors. Parents out riding with kids will have different criteria than those making a daily dash to work. Consider your personal preferences, comfort with traffic and available time. A meandering route through the city’s ravine network may be great for a Sunday cycle but may be too time consuming when you have to pedal it out to make a meeting.
Match your needs with Toronto’s network
The Toronto Cycling Map is my go-to resource in this regard. Why is this interactive map so great? Because it lets you select the type of cycling infrastructure you prefer to ride on. Click on the arrow box in the top left and then select only the cycling infrastructure you want to see. To build a route, I like to see where the cycle tracks are and then decide whether they will work with my destination. Next I layer on multi-use trails, painted bike lanes and contraflow lanes, narrowing my options. Finally, I look for sharrows, recommended routes and residential streets to fill in any gaps. Check it out:
An example of route mapping using the Toronto Cycling Map
*Tip: It always helps if you are familiar with the roads and trails up for consideration. That way you can quickly eliminate route sections you may want to avoid such as those with higher speed traffic, heavy congestion, bus and streetcar routes, on-street parking and other potential hazards, including streetcar tracks.
What about other mapping apps?
You can also find cycling routes on other mapping apps. The two I’ve tried are the bicycle option under Directions on Google Maps and BBBike@Toronto. Click on the links to see their routes from University of Toronto (St. George) to the Distillery District as an example.The only drawback that I’ve found with these apps is that safe cycling options aren’t always prioritized in the routes recommended. Still, by comparing the suggested routes with what you’ve discovered through the Toronto Cycling Map, you may find alternatives you hadn’t considered.
Test your ride
Once you have a route you’d like to try, go for a test ride. Pick a quiet time when you won’t be encumbered by traffic congestion so you can take your time and adapt your route as needed. Be sure to take note of any segments where you don’t feel comfortable and plan to look for alternatives. The more you can get out and explore on your bike, the more informed you will be about your options. Besides, it’s always fun to discover what new routes have to offer – and share them with your friends.
Be a part of your safe solution
Over the years I’ve built up a roster of preferred routes that get me all around the city and you can too. Always remember that you can make your ride even safer by following the rules of the road and best practices outlined in the Toronto Cyclists Handbook.
To sum it up:
- Make it yours: consider your personal preferences, comfort with traffic, and available time when choosing your route.
- Maps are your friend: use the Toronto Cycling Map to identify the different types of on-and-off-road infrastructure.
- Know your way: take advantage of free route-mapping tools to discover paths or connections that could take your route to the next level.
- Testing, testing:If you can, pre-ride your planned route during a quiet time of day.
- Safety first: Review your rights and the rules of the road so that you keep yourself and others safe and you roll through the city.