Bike Paths in Toronto

Toronto G20 Bike Rally
Toronto G20 Bike Rally
by James D. Schwartz

Torontonian cycling infrastructure has been constantly improving and currently offers approximately 35 kilometres downtown and 121 kilometres in surrounding areas of bike routes. A Decima survey from 1999 shows that biking is very popular in Toronto. According to the survey, 48 per cent of Torontonians were cyclists and approximately 60 per cent of households owned bicycles. Toronto bike routes form a network that links Lake Ontario, local rivers, and parkland.

Bikes Distillery District
Bikes Distillery District
by megananne

Finding the right bike paths for your needs can seem slightly overwhelming when you first start cycling. But don’t give up right off the bat! Toronto’s website provides a map that lays out all the biking routes at your disposal. The map includes roads with bike lanes, paths shared between walkers and bikers, bike-specific roads, and several other options.

If you want to stay away from streets altogether, there are a number of trails you can consider. There is the Martin Goodman Trail, Moore Park Ravine, Tommy Thompson Park, Don River to the East, the Humber trail to the West, and the Waterfront system along the shores of Lake Ontario.

  • Don River Bike Trail

    River Don Bike Trail Map
    River Don Bike Trail Map

    The Don River Bike Trail extends for nearly 14km from Edwards Gardens down to the Lakeshore, so you can actually traverse the majority of Toronto on it. There are also many other paths that intersect with it so there is always somewhere new to go if you start to get bored. The whole Don River Trail system is multi-use, so you do have to be extra careful when coming around turns, but it is rarely so crowded that you can’t travel along at the speed you want. It isn’t an ideal trail for road bikes but is a great option for mountain bikes or hybrids.

  • Humber Trail

    Humber Trail Bike Trail Map 1
    Humber Trail Bike Trail Map 1

    The Humber Trail is the most tucked-away option. It is ideal for mountain bikes as it is fairly twisty and connects some dirt and less well-paved trails. It is a little harder to navigate and therefore is probably best travelled once you have a good amount of experience.

  • The Waterfront Trail

    Waterfront Bike Trail Map
    Waterfront Bike Trail Map

    The Waterfront Trail gives you the rare opportunity of being able to feel like you are completely removed from the city. For the majority of this route, you have parks on one side of you and Lake Ontario on the other, which is an absolute treat. The air is fresh and crisp and the path is free from big hills, which make for a very relaxing ride. However, these blessings cause the route to be an ideal path for walkers. You will have to do a fair bit of dodging strollers and keeping a lookout for escaped pets. But the further you bike away from Toronto, the more sparse the public becomes and the more freedom you’ll have to bike.

    My recommendation would be to start at around Strachan Avenue as this is where the route starts to pull away from the downtown core. Go west, keeping on the path closest to the water. It may be busy for the first little while, but so long as you keep to the right of your lane, passing as need be, you’ll be just fine. The route extends all the way out to Mississauga and beyond, so you can go for as long as you like. Just keep in mind that you’re sharing the road with pedestrians and other cyclists, so awareness of your surroundings is key.

    If you want to train for races or work on speed, these aren’t your ideal options as there are plenty of pedestrians and a good deal of sharp turns. However, if you’re looking to just get out there and get biking in an environment free from automatic vehicles, these are great options for you.

  • Martin Goodman Trail

    Martin Goodman Trail by Robert Taylor
    Martin Goodman Trail
    by Robert Taylor

    This trail, named after Martin Goodman, former president of the Toronto Star, is part of the Waterfront Trail. Cyclists can enjoy a safe and direct route through the park with 161 heritage hardwood trees and a magnificent atmosphere. The Martin Goodman Trail runs parallel to Lakeshore Boulevard through Ontario Place from Marilyn Bell Park to Coronation Park at Strachan Avenue. It is easily accessible and without any barriers. It’s best to ride this trail in summer when the temperature near the lake is slightly lower than anywhere else.

Other Places Suitable for Biking

Besides the designated bike trails, there are also other areas in Toronto, which are suitable for biking, thanks to low/no traffic and suitable paths.

  • Tommy Thompson Park

    Tommy Thompson Park by Neal Jennings
    Tommy Thompson Park
    by Neal Jennings

    The car-free zone of Tommy Thompson Park, located on an artificial peninsula extending into lake Ontario also called the Leslie Street Spit, is a very popular biking spot. The park is popular for its particularly rich natural habitat. You don´t even have to get off your bike to see the charming natural features of the park while most of them are visible from the paved road. The road is directly accessible from the Martin Goodman Trail or the Waterfront Trail. The best time to ride on this trail is during the annual CNE Air Show in August, when you’ll have the opportunity to see planes flying over the harbour.

  • Moore Park Ravine

    Moore Park Ravine by Lone Primate
    Moore Park Ravine
    by Lone Primate

    This is an ideal trail for less energetic bikers when starting at the north end. Those who like challenges will definitely enjoy the second option. Either way, you will be amazed by the peace and tranquility of this place. This park is entirely unknown to tourists but very popular amongst Torontonians.

Outside of Downtown

If you live more on the outskirts of Toronto and want to bike more freely and not get constantly stopped at lights, your best option is to bike away from downtown. Various parts of the GTA such as Thornhill, Mississauga, and Markham provide longer stretches of obstacle-free roadway than the city itself.

Bike Lanes Plans

All this being said about Toronto’s current state of affairs, the city is consistently considering different options to make cycling more accessible to the average biker. One option they have considered is the concept of protected bike lanes. These are bike-sized lanes that go on either side or down the middle of a busy street that are divided from car lanes by a small curb. These separated lanes give bikers a greater sense of security because they are better isolated from speeding cars.

Bixi Bikes
Bixi Bikes by Numinosity
(by Gary J Wood)

The city is also looking into the possibility of adding bike lanes on wider streets such as University, Richmond, and Adelaide. There is also the option of extending the bike lanes on Beverley Street all the way down to the Lakeshore. Although these notions are still works in progress, it’s good to know the need for more bike lanes is a topic up for discussion.

No matter your biking needs, there is an avenue available to you. It’s all about using the resources at your disposal (both online and in cycling stores) to find the paths you are most comfortable with. So don’t be afraid; just get out there and get cycling!

3 thoughts on “Bike Paths in Toronto

May 15, 2013 at 12:51 pm
Gail says:

Just read about the Robert Bateman Nature Trail dedication in Toronto. Great idea and it sounds lovely. 18km loop walking trail but we are wondering is it also a trail we could cycle on? Or is it strictly for walking? Thanks in advance for any info you could give.

September 3, 2013 at 7:07 am
John says:

Yesterday I was riding east on the bike route around Colbourne Road, I signalled and looked behind me to make my turn onto the Lakeshore road and all I saw was about 10 bikes racing behind me, I had enough time to get out of the way, I went over my bike and as I lay there bleeding from my knee, elbow, and a sprained ankle I watched them keep going. It was a club as they all had the same shirts on. There is now need to go as fast as they were going on a holiday Monday with hundreds of people on that pathway. I know who they are.

September 12, 2013 at 2:03 pm
Jamie Sarner says:

Hi John,
I’m sorry that you had such a bad experience on what should have been a beautiful ride. Fortunately most cyclists are respectful of one another.


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