By now you've removed your mess of a bike from the fence you lazily locked it to in late October, but your skills are probably rustier than your bike chain, so no matter how much you think riding a bike is, like, riding a bike, it's probably a good idea to consider your route.
The city of Toronto has put up little numbered blue bike signs at major intersections to point you to friendly streets, but these streets are not all created equal. While researching this guide to the best routes from points east, north and west to City Hall I encountered speeding cars, absent-minded jaywalkers, hills, streetcar tracks and jagged car bits.
Try these routes and, if you're dying to hit the road, you can avoid hitting the road and dying.
From Mortimer and Coxwell
the eastern route begins across from Toronto East General Hospital, a place this guide helps you avoid. Head a block south to Sammon. Any further south on Coxwell and you're going to be dealing with narrow lanes, sunken sewer grates and speeding cars. Remember, this is old Toronto suburbia, and bikes are a novelty for the suburban driver. Taking side streets like Sammon when possible means more trees and less tailpipe exhaust.
Sammon ends at Pape, where you make a little zig left (south) to get onto Fulton westbound. This street has traffic-calming bumps - maddening in a car, not bad for bikes. They keep cars from drag racing between stop signs, and you can easily roll over or around them.
Then turn left (south) onto Carlaw, which takes you to the Danforth, which, sadly, lacks a dedicated bike lane until the city opens its eyes to the Tooker Trail proposal. But on the Danforth that little bit of roadway beside parked cars is actually reasonable for biking as long as you remember to watch for car doors and inebriated restaurant patrons.
This route leads you to the Bloor Viaduct across the Don. There is a bike lane, and although it can get scary as cars like to gas along, the rush-hour crunch gives you the satisfaction of watching drivers roast in sunny 30° gridlock.
Sherbourne's the next southbound (left) turn. The intersection is set up so that westbound cyclists can make left turns without having to cross traffic. Ride across the intersection and stop at the square painted on the pavement at the northwest corner; drivers aren't permitted to turn right on a red through this box. Then ride south when the light turns green. This dedicated bike route is cracked up and in dire need of some fresh asphalt, but what other option is there? Church? Jarvis? Suck up the bumps and hold back your tears.
At Gerrard, you should be numb enough in the bum not to notice that it's no better than Sherbourne. I'm always surprised by the amount of debris on this road. Call 416-39-CLEAN to get Miller's broom on the job.
Westbound on Gerrard, head past Yonge and Bay to Elizabeth Street, just before University. It has a bike lane going north, but nothing to the south. Still, it's a pretty calm road unless you run into buses manoeuvring into the terminal at Edward and Elizabeth. Several metres later you're right at City Hall's backside.
From Allen Road and Eglinton
Do not under any circumstances take Eglinton to get anywhere on a bicycle. Because of the parking-lot type traffic drivers have to endure before exiting the Allen, they're always desperate to get somewhere, and you don't want to get in their way. The city has marked two cycling routes from this 'hood downtown. "Marked" means they've put up those little blue signs, but the roads don't actually have a painted lane.
You want the northerly route, so you have to go a couple of blocks north of Eglinton to Old Forest Hill via Old Park. Old-growth trees provide great summer shade, and you get to scout out castles available for purchase. The only drawback here are some really nasty stretches of chopped roadway - nothing worse than elsewhere in the city, but you'd expect better on the luxury avenue.
Old Forest Hill crosses Eglinton, flows into Russell Hill and then crosses St. Clair, at which point bikes get a dedicated lane. This is a good time to make sure you actually have working brakes, because you're going down some winding slopes. While there's no debris or potholes, a little water and leaves can make the descent slippery.
A few more turns and you go under a bridge and intersect Dupont. Go one block west on Dupont to St. George, and follow that south. It's tempting to continue south on Davenport, but that leaves you stranded in Yorkville and dodging cabs on Bay.
While riding on St. George, take a look at the northbound bike route and make note: don't use it. It's nasty and vanishes in too many spots to be called a legitimate lane. Continue south on St. George past U of T. Watch for weary students doing their zombie march out of Sid Smith or eager engineers ignoring traffic lights to make it to the Baden Centre.
At College, make a left (eastbound) and take that lane. Just after Beverley there's a messy asphalt patchwork where construction was taking place last summer. It's a shame, because College's recently repaved bike lanes are really pleasant everywhere else.
College takes you to Elizabeth, which you can follow south to hit City Hall's back door.
From Dundas and Keele (the Junction)
So you've just scouted out the Toronto West Junction after feeling the rising rents on Queen West. How best to find you way back to City Hall to secure the building permits for your cutting-edge art gallery? Your best bet is to pilot your Kronan north on Keele to Junction and ride east on Junction to Old Weston. Honestly, there's nothing good about the block or so south of Keele. It goes under an old, leaky rail bridge, and the road is a mess. I'd almost recommend walking it to Old Weston.
Once on Old Weston, you relive the ups and downs of this industrial village for a couple of blocks. The Junction got its name from its many intersecting rail tracks; angle your front wheel perpendicular to them as you cross. And cross your fingers you don't get stuck waiting for a 3-kilometre freight train to inch past.
Old Weston leads to Davenport. This is the easy part. Davenport has its own bike lane and only one car lane. There's one patch of messy terrain approaching Lansdowne, and some parts are in desperate need of repainting, but for the most part it's fine. Geology note: you're riding along the 12,000-year-old shoreline of Lake Ontario's predecessor, Lake Iroquois.
When you reach Dupont, go right. You have the option of taking St. George south to College, but sometimes boredom can get the better of you. This is when you go a block west to Huron. It's not a super-smooth ride, but because of schools it has a low speed limit. You also get a light at Bloor, which saves you the danger of crossing during gaps in traffic.
Continuing on Huron, you'll find it does narrow a bit, but it gets you to College, keeping in mind there's a little dip at Russell. At College, turn left (east) and repeat the College-to-Elizabeth trip.
Voilà - you've made it, but there are no guarantees. As nice as Davenport was, some asshole in a BMW still swung his door out at me. That's why you have to be alert to the dangers of city cycling. Lights, bells and helmets will save you a fine and keep you from being one of the 2,500 annual bike-car collisions.
No one likes the hill. It's reason enough not to look for apartments north of Davenport, but sometimes the ice cream at Dutch Dreams is too tempting. There's also no magic escalator up it, unless you take one of those fancy Bathurst buses with the bike rack on the front. Still, there are good ideas and bad ideas.
It's a bad idea to ride up Bathurst. The road is garbage, and trucks love to shift gears and spew black, lung-clogging filth at you. Add some blistering sun and nothing seems worth it any more.
It's a good idea to take Poplar Plains, a little east of Casa Loma. It has its own bike lane and does a kind of switchback to the top. I'm not going to lie to you - you'll probably still curse old Lake Iroquois, but at least you'll be breathing.