Recently on Biking Toronto it was asked if the proposed plan to add some multi-use paths was a good idea. I decided to bike around the park with the City's plans in hand and take a few photos.
There appears to be an increase of cyclists going through the park to commute to work, which has created a bit of tension since there are many other people doing what people do in parks - strolling, playing, sitting, walking dogs, pushing strollers, etc. The City of Toronto is proposing to add some multi-use paths in the hopes there's room for all park users. However, the plan for more paths and widening existing ones has resulted in a group forming to oppose the plan. This group, "Don't Pave Our Park," is concerned about increased asphalt in the park and turning the park into a "high volume transportation corridor."
I'm not in agreement with this opposition group. I think there can be a way to provide for commuting cyclists and other existing users of the park. That said, I'm not sure either Option A or Option B [pdf] are the best options. It's probably best to have these 'Options' on hand for the rest of this post.
The City provides similar photos to those that follow. Here.
SOUTH WEST CORNER
This is the south east corner of the park, near Queen West and Gore Vale, looking west and a bit to the south:
The City is proposing to widen the narrow path off to the left. This would led to the lane-way behind the church, on to Bellwoods Ave and beyond as it's to be connect to a larger cycling route. The path to the right is to converted from asphalt to sod or wood chips.
Here you can see narrow path leading to the lane-way:
Notice the steep grade (hill) here. For commuter cyclists, this hill needs to be flattened a bit. While it's fun go down, it rolls you out onto Gore Vale Ave., usually quite busy. [Street View of path from Gore Vale]
Here's a shot to show just how narrow it is now:
I find it strange that the proposed plan is to send people down the lane-way, away from all the action. Queen Street West is what you see coming through the park and it's where we want to go, even if it's not our destination and we're just passing through. Yes, it's a busy street and intersection, but this is where people go. Queen, itself, isn't the greatest to cycle down, but crossing Queen and heading down Walnut provides a lot of options for cycling routes towards the core of the City, or where ever we're going. I'm skeptical that cyclists will choose the lane-way route.
Way over on the far west side of the park, a little north of the middle, is the entrance off Crawford Street:
Note the raised curb making it difficult for cyclists, though there is a curb-cut a few meters north of the entrance. Here it is on Street View.
There are two paths from the Crawford Street entrance, but it's to one to the right that interests me:
This path is a direct line (as-the-crow-flies) from the Crawford Street entrance to the south east corner (Queen and Gore Vale) discussed above:
Despite it being the beginning of a direct line through the park, this entrance is not heavily used by commuters. But with plans for bike lanes on Shaw Street, and Artscape's new location at the Shaw Street School (just west of this entrance to the park), perhaps coming to the park this way will become more inviting.
However, this path goes right beside a playground and a wade pool for children, and many children use these. There's concern about children being close to a bike lane, but it's pretty easy to set up the path with a 'barrier' (trees, long planter, etc.) to ensure children and cyclists don't collide. Currently, the path is right beside the playground and pool and things seem to be fine.
NORTH WEST CORNER
It seems most commuters, perhaps avoiding the playground, cut across the top of the park, the north west corner, where the park is also on the west side of Crawford Street.
Here is where they would cross Crawford (just north of the above entrance):
The 'WHOA!' is courtesy of the Urban Repair Squad - you can read here why they did this.
I'm impressed by how well used those raised concrete ledges are. Skateboarders have been having lots of fun there - rarely is there a ledge like this that isn't 'skate-proofed.'
It's strange how Crawford Street narrows. There doesn't seem to be any reason for it to do so, and the sidewalk on the right inexplicably stops after the path-crossing. There are tell-tale signs that people cycle on this sidewalk and continue north beside the road on the grass.
Turning to right a few degrees, we see similar 'tell-tall signs' that people are carving their own paths:
It's rare that this bench is empty. A great spot to sit and have a smoke or just relax. It provides a great view of the action on Dundas, though far enough away to deaden the sound of its traffic.
BEHIND JOHN GIBSON HOUSE
Following the path into the park from here, we find John Gibson House. It has a small parking lot behind it, serviced by a short lane-way to Crawford Street. Bizarre that there is a curb, preventing cyclist from entering the park from the lane-way:
Further along this path, we get to the 'showcase' - the type of path that the City is modelling its plans on:
The photo is looking north, with John Gibson House in the distance to the left of the path.
While I was hanging around taking pictures, I noticed that most people stay on the paved part of this multi-use path. Very few people chose the gravel path, be they children or adults walking, cycling, pushing a stroller or walking a dog. I rode my bike on it and was glad to get back on the smooth asphalt.
However, this 'secondary,' gravel path (crushed granite?) lets cyclists safely go quicker. When you're riding a bike on the regular paths and come up behind a pedestrian, passing them can be a puzzle. I want to pass the pedestrian and not run into them, but I also don't want to startle them. I could ring my bell but that seems rude. With the secondary path, I can easily go around pedestrians.
RING-ROAD, SOUTHERN HALF
The multi-use path leads cyclists to the southern portion of the circular ring-road. From here it's a bit of a puzzle to get over to the south east corner, where that narrow path leads to the lane-way off Gore Vale.
Here's what that interchange looks like:
And the 'reverse angle':
Most, if not all, cyclists avoid the path in the foreground of the photo above and take the one just past it (you can see a person in yellow on this path). This is that straight, as-the-crow-flies path seen from the Crawford Street entrance (above).
Nearly all the cyclists I saw in the park who were heading from the north west to the south east of the park took the following route: south along the multi-use path, around the lower half of the ring-road, avoid the leaves and muck shown in the above photo and make a sharp right onto that next path where we see the person in yellow. What's interesting is that nearly all the cyclists going the other way (south east to north west) take a different route. They come into the park on the south east corner along this 'as-the-crow-flies' path (the one with the person in yellow) and they stay on the straight path. It's not really surprising, though. When you're coming south on the multi-use path, it'd be awkward to make a hard left and get onto the as-the-crow-flies path; you're led further south and suddenly on the lower half of the circular road. And when you come into the park from the south east corner, cutting a north-west diagonal, why would you make a hard left turn to the south? It seems the City could take advantage of this tendency of cyclists to take different paths depending on the direction they're going.
This as-the-crow-flies path is well used. The 'wear' around the edges tells us it's not wide enough:
Just look at all the bicycle tire marks! I take this as evidence that many cyclists are passing pedestrians here - why else would they ride in the mud? I feel it is essential that this section of the path be widened for the simple reason that use demands it. The photo above is almost a poetic resonance of the kernel of democracy.
The 'reverse angle,' looking north west:
Look at those lines that cut into the mud. That's your 'path.'
Right beside this path, where it's near the tennis courts, is another 'democratic path':
The guy with the white dog wants to follow that muddy pathway but obviously avoiding it.
SOUTH WEST CORNER
Back to the west side, just south of the community centre is a lovely path:
The rise and curve, the smooth surface, the clear end-point, the painted centre-line and arrows indicating direction - all this is so reassuring, so orderly and yet so carefree. It's as though Ebenezer Howard drew it himself.
Those gables and dormers are buildings on Crawford Street, a few meters north of Queen [Street View]. This is a much better lane-way destination than the one proposed on the east side. This one takes you down Logie Place and onto Shaw. It seems room for cyclists on Shaw is central to this problem of Trinity-Bellwoods Park.
Bizarrely, this lovely path enters the park with this:
Why is the path at a higher grade? Why is this curb here?
I suppose this is a bit better:
But a meter or so down, we find this:
As a final point, I say "Open the gates!"