Queens Quay's a work in progress but cycling will get better (except for the detours)

Detour on west end of Queens Quay

Queens Quay is undergoing a lot of street construction but the result should be beautiful. Even with the upheaval, construction, noise, and traffic people are still coming to enjoy themselves. As did I this last weekend when I joined in on a Jane's Walk hosted by some staff from Waterfront Toronto. On their Queens Quay walk they explained the undergoing work on the street and how it will be transformed into a much nicer boulevard, closer to Barcelona's waterfront promenade than it's current car-choked frustration.

For people on bikes, the Martin Goodman Trail (MGT) will be much improved with a fully separated bike path and a walking path to take over the southern two lanes of car traffic. That cyclists are treated so well may be due in no small part to the fact that the firm that won the design bid, West 8, is based in the Netherlands.

I was disappointed, however, to find out that the eastern end of Queens Quay - east of Jarvis - will have to wait until the government commits to funding a streetcar extension to Parliament and eventually the Portlands. Christopher Glaisek, VP Planning and Design of Waterfront Toronto, and one of the speakers on the walk explained that they are avoiding having to do the work twice. The streetcar extension price has climbed up to $370 million (something about maintaining access to the Hyatt so the streetcar has to be underground for a longer stretch).

In the meantime Waterfront Toronto got a bit of extra funding to extend the sidewalk and create interim cycle tracks from Yonge to Jarvis which should be open by June. I think this might be the second official cycle track built in Toronto!

East of Jarvis the cycle tracks end and eastbound cyclists are directed back onto the roadway. They travel in some freshly paved bike lanes until they merge again with the Martin Goodman Trail at Parliament. Going westbound by bike is a bit trickier. At Parliament they will be asking cyclists to cross at the lights and then take the bike lane along the road until they get to the Jarvis crosswalk where they will then again merge into the cycle tracks. Currently there is no indication that cyclists should do this so most people are choosing the obvious direct route, an asphalt "sidewalk" that replaced the MGT that was previously longer.

They kindly put some "No bicycles. Pedestrians only" stencils but from what I saw many people either ignored or didn't notice them. Another problem with this sidewalk, as Jelle Therry, Design Manager for Queens Quay, West 8+DTAH, pointed out to me, is that the sidewalk speaks a double language: the sign may say no bicycles but the asphalt says "Bike here!"

So why did they stop the cycle tracks at Jarvis?

According to Chris, they stopped at Jarvis because it would have required lights at the intersections, which would have required re-installation when the street is rebuilt for the streetcars. At least that's what I think he said. It doesn't make any sense to me. They didn't install lights for the cycle track from Yonge to Jarvis. And didn't the old Martin Goodman Trail that this sidewalk replaced take the exact same route? All the intersections are glorified driveways so I can't imagine that temporary cycle tracks couldn't have been worked out.

While the stretch of Queens Quay from Lower Spadina to Jarvis is going to be awesome, the rest of QQ leaves me frustrated. Why didn't they just leave the MGT where it was and connect it to the new cycle tracks at Jarvis? And why are they leaving the section from Spadina to Bathurst as is where cyclists will be forced to cross the street yet again?

Bypassing the Construction

Making things nicer unfortunately means some necessary headache but they City has been trying to ease things for everyone. There's a marked bypass route for cyclists so that they can avoid the construction mess. Interestingly the detour follows a forgotten section of the MGT - you can still see the distinctive blue/green markings. I believe that it fell into disuse when condos encroached on it years ago. It may also have been too far out of the way, when most people would have preferred Queens Quay's much nicer scenery.

Detour signage is an issue. I had a hard time finding the signage for the detour when I was travelling back from the Jane's Walk. It was only by testing a couple side streets that I found the detour and I was actively looking for it. Most people won't even know it exists. I backtracked and saw a small detour sign that was easily missed. The signage on the west side of the construction wasn't much more visible and I saw a number of people just biking onto the sidewalk since it was the obvious choice.

Most people seemed to be more than happy to bike at a walking pace down the sidewalk.

The new Queens Quay will be a big improvement for cycling but there are still some glaring issues. Putting in better signage for the detour seems to be an easy fix, though making the east end work better for cycling will take more work and perhaps a different mindset by Transportation Services that seems to ignore human behaviour by trying to get people to cross a wide road twice over a short distance. And I didn't hear anybody talk about any plans for west of Lower Spadina. It's going to be good but could have been done better.


The sidewalk on the south side of QQE around Jarvis is continually being torn up/blocked even though westbound cyclists are instructed to stop using the bike lane and switch to the other side of the road - it's not even clear that cyclists are allowed to ride on the sidewalk, or on which part of it. And all this for a bunch of rails blocking the bike lane?

The Queen's Quay detour is signed pretty well if you're approaching from the west. It will be interesting to see what they have planned when even more of Queen's Quay is shut down (Dan Leckie to Spadina, Nov to April 2014 according to the sign--yes, 2014)

A big gap in the detour, in my opinion, is that it goes to Bay Street only (at least, it did last I checked). A much better connection with the business district is via Yonge, where there are bicycle lanes to get past the gridlocked cars. However, the detour seems to assume that you'll be willing to ride south to Queen's Quay at Bay, and then back north again at Yonge.

Although I wonder what you're supposed to do now, because Queen's Quay is torn up between Bay and Yonge now.

I rode westbound Queen's Quay for a while, but now with the extra construction east of Bay and ever-worse conditions, I'm using Richmond/Spadina/Front to the bridge over the railway and Dan Leckie south.

Coming in, I use the detour to Simcoe, and north to Front.

Cars routinely use the Simcoe bicycle lane as their right-turn lane. This is especially frustrating as a bicycle can make a right turn onto Front, through the commuter pedestrian traffic pouring out of Union station, a lot more easily than a car. I'll squeeze right by them without compunction.

Agreed that requiring a couple of crossing from one side to the other of Queen's Quay makes no sense. It would take forever to wait for the light and walk your bicycle across (as I assume is expected). Queen's Quay is wide and I don't see traffic as an issue, so I would just ride in the curb lane and not try to use the path.

You're far too kind. The whole idea of requiring cyclists to cross at lights like pedestrians is moronic; it means that cyclists are mixing in with pedestrians making the same crossing at the same time at different speeds. (What, you think pedestrians will stick to the zebra-crossing, and stay out of the "bike crossing?" I have some wonderful ocean-view land to sell you.) And for the foreseeable future (this summer, at least) it would be cross at Jarvis, only to need to cross back at Yonge.

Besides, if you saw the Yonge-Jarvis path without jersey barriers and "closed for construction" signs this weekend, it's the first time that's happened since they put it in last fall - and I bet it doesn't last a week.

I ride through there every day; the only sensible way to go westbound is straight through with the cars. Eastbound is much more painful; from tomorrow it will be: detour south at Dan Leckie way around the Music Garden, north on Spadina to the old bike path, south on York to the water, north from the ferry docks up to Bay and then along the road. But it beats the constant risk of life & limb that is riding along Lakeshore (past the on- and off-ramps of the Gardiner) in rush-hour traffic. And despite all the back-and-forth, it's still faster than trying to cross downtown on King.

The biggest failure, though, isn't the until-the-feds-cough-up-some-dough pedestrian crossing at Jarvis, it's the reverse crossing they're going to build at Spadina. There won't be any way to go from westbound MGT to westbound bike lane except via pedestrian crossing. And they're not planning on ever changing that.

Okay, they'll "fix" it when they need to replace the tracks, say in 25 to 35 years. In terms of my cycling in Toronto, that's as close to "never" as makes no difference.

I share the frustrations. But I would like to share some extra information. There are more construction plans for east of Jarvis, waterpipes and buildings. The road is going to be moving around a bit. Temporary new traffic lights and temporary MGT are unfunded. The difficult traffic lights are at Lakeshore and Parliment. The section west of Spadia to Bathurst etc. is currently being studied for a MGT path. It will be a tight fit. We have to wait a few months for a to see if a MGT path will go in there.


The tracks west of Spadina are currently being torn up as far as Yo Yo Ma lane (which is halfway to Dan Leckie). So there is a chance of making the crossover better than "walk your bike".

Any place I see a "cyclists dismount and walk your bicycle", I know that whoever created the facility was not serious about creating cycling infrastructure, and most likely has never actually cycled anywhere. And, like about 90% of cyclists who approach such signs, I keep riding.

As usual, the Warrington Cycle Campaign has already tackled this topic in one of their Facilities of the Month: http://homepage.ntlworld.com/pete.meg/wcc/facility-of-the-...

To clarify another point, I don't actually cycle east of Yonge, since I'm commuting to Yonge and Queen from southwest Etobicoke. With access to Yonge to/from the west problematic, I've been using Simcoe or Dan Leckie, typically to Front.

The new, separated path is a great advance over what existed on Queens Quay. The crossovers at each end, not so much of an advance. I don't see why there isn't room on Queens Quay East to just continue the south-side two-way separated lanes to, I guess, Parliament (like I said, I don't get out that way very often). In the west end, likewise keep it separated to connect to the off-road trail at Stadium Road. Problem solved.