Proposed Borden-Brunswick Contra-Flow will connect neighbourhoods from Queen St to Bloor St

Rendering of the proposed design at the intersection of Borden St and College St, looking west.

The City of Toronto has proposed building contra-flow bike lanes on Borden St and Brunswick Ave. As part of the project, a short, two-way cycle track is also proposed on College St to connect Bellevue Ave to Borden St. This will make it easier for someone to cross College St at a signalized intersection.

Cycle Toronto supports this project as it will:

  • Connect the existing contra-flow bike lanes on Bellevue and Denison Ave north to Bloor St and Lowther Ave,
  • Complete a missing link in north-south cycling routes between Bathurst and Spadina Ave,
  • Create a new route on a quiet, residential street that may appeal to less confident cyclists, parents cycling with children, and children biking to school, and
  • Fill in the cycling network in the downtown core to create a grid of safe cycling routes.

Why install cycling infrastructure on residential streets?

Borden St and Brunswick Ave are quiet, residential one-way streets. The direction of these one-way streets frequently changes as a traffic-calming measure. Changing the street direction can successfully slow down traffic, but it makes it challenging to cycle. Someone driving a car may be able to navigate the one-way streets to find an arterial road, but people riding bicycles may prefer to continue through the neighbourhood rather than riding on a high-traffic arterial road.

Residential streets are often more comfortable to use compared to large arterial roads, particularly since nearby arterial roads, such as Bathurst St and Spadina Ave, do not have bike lanes. Residential streets may therefore be attractive to less confident cyclists, parents with children, and children riding their bikes to school.

Building a mix of cycling facilities on both major streets—such as Bloor St, Eglinton Ave, and Danforth Ave—as well as residential streets creates more opportunity for people to choose how they travel. Not everyone will be comfortable riding on a main street, so providing a mix of options is important.

Proposed changes to the design

The design of the bike lane is appropriate for the majority of its length. However, we do have concerns about the portion on Ulster St, where the contra-flow lane is placed adjacent to parked cars.

Proposed design of the contra-flow bike lane on Ulster St.


We recommend improving the safety of the design by keeping the bike lane on one side of the road and vehicle parking on the opposite side. The current design has challenges because:

  • It requires that people drive across the contra-flow lane to park, which can create conflict points
  • In the winter, when someone drives a car across a contra-flow bike lane to park, their vehicle drags snow into the contra-flow lane
  • A passenger of a vehicle would open their door into the contraflow lane, a unique experience, as passengers in vehicles are not frequently confronted with having to look out for oncoming traffic next to a parked car
  • Sight lines and visibility are poor for someone trying to pull out of a parking space: since the driver is sitting at the left hand side of the car, it is difficult for them to see oncoming bicycle traffic, which is approaching from the far side of the car

The Cycle Toronto ward advocacy group representing the neighbourhood, Cycle Toronto University-Rosedale, has made four suggested revisions to the configuration of the contra-flow on Ulster St:


Proposed revision

Option 1

Re-alignment of the street so that, from north to south, the order is as follows:

Westbound contra-flow for cycling traffic (top)
Eastbound traffic (middle)
Parking (bottom)

Option 2

Creation of a parking-protected bike lane, so that the order is as follows:

Westbound contra-flow for cycling traffic (top)
Parking, with buffer for doors (middle)
Eastbound traffic (bottom)

Option 3

Reverse the direction of Ulster, either between Borden St and Brunswick Ave or for a longer length, so that the traffic direction is westbound rather than eastbound. Then, adjust the order as follows:

Parking (Top)
Westbound traffic (middle)
Eastbound contra-flow for cycling
traffic (bottom)

Option 4

Removal of street parking on Ulster between Borden St and Brunswick Ave so that the order is as follows:

Westbound contra-flow for cycling traffic (top)
Eastbound traffic (middle)

Cycle Toronto University-Rosedale made two additional recommendations:

  1. Banning right turns on red for southbound traffic at the intersection of Borden St and College St to avoid conflicts with people waiting in the bike boxes, and
  2. Investigating the possibility of creating queue boxes on College St to make it easier for a confident cyclist to cycle south on Brunswick and continue onto Bellevue Ave without detouring around to Ulster and Borden St.

Cycle Toronto University-Rosedale submitted their comments on the design to the city and Cycle Toronto submitted a letter of support for the proposed design and endorsed Cycle Toronto University-Rosedale’s suggestions.

Future Work

The City of Toronto has categorized Howland Ave as a route to study in the Near-Term Implementation Plan. We support the creation of a continuous north-south cycling route to Davenport Rd by continuing the proposed Bellevue-Denison contra-flow lanes north via Howland Ave.

How can you help?

If you live on Brunswick Ave or Borden St, talk to your neighbours about this proposed design. You can also review the designs on the City of Toronto website and submit your feedback by February 21.


The City responded to the submitted suggestions with the following responses:

  • Ulster St portion: Margaret Fairley Park is located on the south side of Ulster St. The City avoids designating parking spaces next to parks for safety reasons. As a result, Option 1 will not be considered. There is not enough space to create a buffered contra-flow (Option 2), reversing the street direction would require a larger neighbourhood-wide study (Option 3), and removal of street parking is not being considered at this time (Option 4)
  • No right on red for southbound traffic at Borden St and College St: This will be implemented to ensure there are no conflicts between people waiting in a bike box and people making a right turn in a vehicle.
  • Queue boxes on College St: Not recommended as they would require the removal of a number of parking spaces and would likely be blocked by parked or stopped cars.

By Tamara Nahal on Feb 19, 2020

  infrastructure, cycling infrastructure, quiet neighbourhood routes