Category Archives: Toronto

Cruise Control: Cycling Toronto’s Mean Streets

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From my experiences and conversations with other Toronto cyclists, it seems there is little agreement on proper bike lane etiquette. Not surprising in a city that boasts over 900,000 cyclists. One thing though seems clear: we cyclists are generally a free-spirited lot when it comes to the rules of the road or, like myself, downright contemptuous of those regulations.

Really. If I wanted to stop at red lights and stay off the sidewalks, I’d still be driving a car. Not that I expect others to follow my unscrupulous behavior, but spare me the sing-songing, “red light” as I blaze through the intersection.

“It’s my preference to stop at streetcar doors and red lights so don’t get pissy with me because you want to blast through,” says regular bike commuter, Nick Gamble. “Equally, if I feel it’s pointless to wait at a long red light with no traffic in sight, don’t play the self-righteous law-and-order freak. There are enough of those on four wheels.”

Speaking of four wheelers, writer Bryen Dunn feels it’s important to gain the respect of car drivers by adhering to the rules of the road, showing them that we belong there too.

“Forget the drivers, what about those pedestrians wandering all over the bike lanes of the waterfront recreation trails, ” leisure rider, Tom Roberts wants to know. Case in point for the bike bell which, given the number of cyclists, is seldom heard in bike lanes.

“It’s a bike lane, singular,” adds Nick, “so I will be riding in the middle of it and taking up the whole lane. If you want to pass me, pull out.” And as for newbie cyclists at stoplights: “I don’t have to make way for you and if you’re shaky on start up, make sure no one is about to pass you when the light turns green. Don’t wobble into me nearly knocking me over and then freak out because I “shouldn’t have been passing you at the light.”

“Waiting for the green light at an intersection isn’t a lineup at the ATM,” adds veteran cyclist, Ben Smith Lea. “Nobody’s going to read your PIN number. Bikes work best when they bunch up and clear the intersection together in a swarm – more visible, quicker and safer. So welcome the herd and ditch the queue mentality.”

So what’s a poor cyclist to do?

1. Avoid bike lane crazies by riding on the sidewalk – legal if your wheels are 24 inches or less – works best if you can convince the cop you’re under 16.

2. Move to Los Angeles. Void of pedestrian traffic, LA sidewalks offer plenty of room for all cyclists – even big wheelers and it’s all legal.

3. Wear earplugs so you can’t hear the insults from other riders.

4. No bike rage – avoid confrontations at any cost and, if necessary, see #3.

Toronto’s Ossington Strip

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Since 2007, the light industrial buildings and auto repair shops on lower Ossington Avenue in Toronto’s west end have been replaced by micro breweries, contemporary art galleries, boutiques, upscale restaurants and coffee shops. Here’s the best of Toronto’s Ossington strip:

Dinner, Coffee and Dessert:

Foxley Bistro    207 Ossington Avenue Toronto, ON M6J 2Z8 416-534-8520

The Foxley
The Foxley

Foodies line up for one of 40 seats in Chef Tom Thai’s exposed brick space for the unique flavor combinations of his Asian/Canadian inspired tapas.Share a dish of steaming east coast mussels drenched in green curry and spicy beef heart with Thai chili lime salsa tempered with a crunchy kale salad. Add frog legs sautéed with poblano and Szechuan spices and an arctic char ceviche with green apple and ginger – a perfect dinner for two. Summer evenings are best enjoyed on the back patio sipping a dry Rose, which pairs well with spicy dishes.

Quick Bite:

Cote De Boeuf    130 Ossington Ave, Toronto, ON M6J 2Z8 416-532-2333

Cote de Boeuf

Step into this old-fashioned butcher shop for a water buffalo salami sandwich topped with a specialty local cheese or perhaps some homemade pork terrine. These very knowledgeable charcuterie folks, two brothers who own Union, the restaurant next door, carry only top local products.

Shop Till You Drop:

Crywolf   91 Ossington Avenue, Toronto, ON M6J 2Z2 647-729-7078

Rob Ford button
Rob Ford button

This one-stop shop for limited edition clothing and gifts for everyone on your list is the brainchild of two young Toronto artists and long time friends.

Stephanie and Rose collaborate on drawings that become everything from funny, “You Crack Me Up Mayor Rob Ford” tees and buttons to mason jar lights to re-cycled leather patch toques (French Canadian winter hats) to day-glo shopping bags and a skeleton shirt for your friend’s cat.

Jonathon+Olivia   49 Ossington Avenue, Toronto, ON M6J 2Y7 416-849-5956

Serious fashion for all ages and sophisticated accessories and footwear from Toronto, Canadian and International designers are found in the largest boutique on Ossington. It’s the only place to score a graphic printed silk scarf from Toronto photo artist, Barbara Astman. But that’s not all. Trunk sales, exhibitions, catwalks and clothing drives for the local hospital happen here too.

Indoor Activity:

The Dakota Tavern    249 Ossington Avenue, Toronto, ON M6J 3A1 416-850-4579

The Dakota Tavern lobby
The Dakota Tavern lobby

In between bites of your all-you-can-eat weekend brunch, dance to Toronto’s best Bluegrass bands. Or just chill in the saloon atmosphere while checking out the farm implements and Canadian winter scenes that adorn the walls of this basement bar dance cave. Check back evenings for new Canadian roots-rock or faux folk bands.

Lower Ossington Theatre    100A Ossington Avenue, Toronto, ON M6J 2Z4 416-915-6747

Enjoy professional level performances of award-winning musicals, theater for children and a rare opportunity to enjoy a local Barking Squirrel beer along with wine and popcorn during the shows. The LOT’s cozy setting guarantees no bad seats.

Get Outside:

Technically speaking, Trinity Bellwoods is not part of the strip seeing how it’s three blocks east but it offers the quickest escape to the great outdoors.

Trinity Bellwoods Park   155 Crawford Street, Toronto, ON M6J 2Z0 416-392-0743 

Walk, run, cycle, skate, swim or play tennis in 37 acres of Trinity Bellwoods Park – a hangout for artists, dog walkers, kids and minor athletes. New slackline poles allow tightrope walker wannabes to practice their craft – but it’s BYOL – bring your own lines. Self-guided tree tours are available for the rest of us.