Bike the City
Now’s the perfect time to get biking, whether to commute or for pleasure. Maggie Crawford from Cycle Toronto explains important rules of the road so you can stay safe and have fun, and shares recs for leisure ride routes.
Maggie Crawford, Cycle Toronto Communications Manager
Let’s talk bike lanes!
Toronto has a few different varieties of bike lanes - you might have seen some with only a painted line separating cyclists from cars, and others with a more permanent concrete barrier.
Protected bike lanes or bikeways?!
Protected bike lanes are physically-separated lanes for bicycles that run next to motorized vehicle traffic. These are the safest on-street places to ride in the city, and thankfully they are becoming increasingly common. Protected bike lanes also increase the safety for pedestrians because they provide additional space from vehicular traffic. Pedal assist e-bikes are allowed in these lanes (which require the rider to pedal to activate the motor), but power assist e-bikes (which can be powered with a throttle, similar to a motorcycle) are not.
Painted bike lanes
A painted bike lane is the most common type of cycling infrastructure in Toronto, and is indicated by the bike symbol and a solid white line. These run right beside car lanes. A solid white line tells motorists that they can't cross it, while a dashed white line at an intersection indicates where a vehicle might enter the bike lane to make a turn.
Contra-flow bike lanes
Contra-flow bike lanes are often found on quiet residential streets, and are one way for motor vehicle traffic but bi-directional for bikes! They help people on bikes navigate one-way streets safely by limiting vehicular traffic. Shaw Street, Canada’s first street with more bikes than cars, is a great example.
Safety Tips and Rules of the Road
At Cycle Toronto we advocate for safer street design over putting the onus on vulnerable road users, like cyclists and pedestrians. But there are some measures we recommend you take to look after yourself while out cycling.
The great helmet debate
While helmets are not compulsory for adults over 18, they are definitely encouraged. Make sure you have a helmet that fits your head properly (doesn’t slide around). And fasten it correctly!
The law requires you to use lights from a half hour before dusk until a half hour after dawn. Your front light should be white or amber and your rear light should be red. Make sure they’re aimed slightly down at the road ahead of and behind you, and not into the eyes of fellow cyclists!
It can get busy out on Toronto’s streets and trails, so make sure you have a bell so you can alert cars and other cyclists to your presence. A friendly ‘ding’ goes a long way in keeping everyone aware of their surroundings!
Rules of the Road
Keep one metre between you, the curb, and cars
Don’t be afraid to take the lane on narrower streets
Only children aged 13 and under are allowed to ride on the sidewalk
You can get a fine as a cyclist for running stop signs and red lights, and for speeding in controlled zones such as parks and recreational paths
If you’re nervous about making a left turn, you can always hop off your bike and walk it across with pedestrians
Make sure you know how to signal properly:
Routes to Check Out
Traveling by bike is, in our opinion, the best way to explore Toronto. It’s free, fun, and a great way to get some exercise! With a little planning you can design a route with safety in mind. Most route planning apps will factor in bike lanes, or you can head to the City of Toronto site and take a look at their map of the cycling network.
Danforth Avenue bike lanes at Broadview
Take the Bloor and Danforth bike lanes to Greektown (Danforth from about Chester to Donlands). And if you want a longer ride, head farther east on Danforth then turn south onto the Woodbine bike lane and head to the beach! The bike lane ends at Queen, which is a couple blocks from the beach.
Finch Hydro Corridor Recreational Trail
Head north to the Finch Hydro Corridor Recreational Trail, which can be accessed from near the Finch and Finch West stations. Add to the ride by taking the trail found between Keele and Jane and go south through the ravine to Downsview Park.
Martin Goodman Lakeshore Trail
Ride along the lake and take in the views on the Martin Goodman Trail, which runs along the lakeshore from the Humber River in the west to the Rouge River in the east. For a shorter ride, check out Humber Bay Park at the trail’s west end. Or hop on the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail, which stretches for 3,600 km, to make a real day trip (or multi-day trip!) out of it.
Many of the bike lanes you see around Toronto today are the result of decades of organizing and hard work by cycling advocates. And there's lots more to be done to ensure people of all ages and abilities can safely bike in every area of Toronto!
Here are some projects CycleTO is advocating for right now, and tips on how you can get involved:
High Park Movement Strategy
The Danforth-Kingston Road Complete Street Extension
The EglintonTOday Complete Street Project
Keeping Bike Share Toronto Accessible and Affordable
Sign up for Cycle Toronto’s Action Alerts on our website to receive emails about public consultations and new infrastructure projects
Follow cycling organizations like @CycleToronto, @TheBikeBrigade, @TOeastCyclists @ScarbCycles and @TheBicycleMayorTO on social media for volunteer opportunities
Depute or write a letter to City Council on cycling infrastructure projects you feel passionate about. Sign up for our Events and Promotions mailing list to get notified when we host a Deputation Workshop!
This article appears in the May/June 2023 Issue.