This summer and fall, take the Lake to Lake Cycling Route and Walking Trail
By Sonya De Vellis
If you have commuted anywhere along Leslie Street between Major Mackenzie Drive in Richmond Hill and John Street in Markham in recent years, you may have noticed ongoing road improvements, mainly on the west side of the street. Now that construction has (mostly) finished, cyclists, pedestrians, joggers, and people using mobility devices can enjoy this piece of new infrastructure.
So what is this new path, and where can it take you?
This new, multi-use trail is just one portion of the planned 121 km Lake to Lake Cycling Route and Walking Trail, which will connect Lake Ontario to Lake Simcoe through a series of off-road trails,
in-boulevard tracks, and paved multi-use paths. The trail will also provide access to numerous parks, beaches, community centres, and transit hubs in Toronto and York Region. Wayfinding signage and route markers will be placed throughout the trail, and will include elements of accessibility for all road users, such as tactile walking surface indicators (see photo on right). For more information and updates regarding the state of the trail, please click here.
The Lake to Lake offers the opportunity to explore some new neighbourhoods during a weekend bike ride or a leisurely stroll, but it also has the potential to change the way people cycle to work in Toronto and York Region. I cycled to work in late July using a portion of the Lake to Lake between Highway 7 and John Street for the first time, and it was definitely the most pleasant part of my commute. The surface of the trail is smooth and in perfect condition, plus I had lots of room to cycle freely around pedestrians or slower trail users. The best part of the experience was that I was completely separated from Leslie Street traffic the whole way, and there are painted road markings to indicate intersections or crossings throughout the trail. I enjoyed it so much that I’m going to review four reasons for why you should try commuting using the Lake to Lake this summer or fall!
- The portion of Lake to Lake in Markham and Richmond Hill is separate from vehicular traffic.
If you’re hesitant about cycling in traffic (which is absolutely legal, as a bike is considered a vehicle), you can be assured that users of the Lake to Lake are mostly separated from on-road traffic in Markham and Richmond Hill. Remember to be mindful of cars, cyclists and pedestrians at intersections, but for the majority of the trail, you will only encounter other two-wheeled, two-footed, or four-footed users (it’s a great place to walk your dog!).
Keep in mind the surface of the trail changes as you travel along Leslie Street, but as long as you follow the wayfinding signage, you’ll know you’re on the right track!
- It connects to other multi-use paths and cycling infrastructure.
Think of the Lake to Lake as “Highway 401 for cyclists” (but with much less traffic). This 121 km connector route intersects with many main cycling arterials, such as the Waterfront Trail in
Toronto, the Finch Hydro Corridor Trail in North York, Highway 7 bike lanes in Markham and Richmond Hill, and the Greenbelt Route/Oak Ridges Trail in Oak Ridges. This provides seamless connectivity for many commuters in Toronto and York Region.
Why is it so important to highlight the Lake to Lake’s links to other trails and infrastructure? You’re more likely to cycle to your destination if you can commute along a complete bikeway network that combines off-street trails, separated bike lanes and onstreet connections, rather than a disjointed series of bike lanes that require transferring on and off roads. A 2012 City of Toronto study titled “Road to Health: Improving Walking and Cycling in Toronto” found that the “critical on-street bike lane connections” that link destinations and trails are essential to a bike network’s connectivity and the viability of cycling in a city. This is particularly important in the suburbs, where cycling is less common and high-speed vehicle traffic is more prevalent than in the downtown core; thus, connections to other trails and paths along the Lake to Lake contribute to cyclists’ and pedestrians’ safety and likelihood of choosing to commute using active transportation.
- It’s ideal for multi-modal trips
Trips within five km are easily bikeable for most within 20 minutes (source), but what if your trip is outside this radius? How can you incorporate cycling into your commute? A multi-modal trip is one that is performed using at least two different modes of transportation.
The Lake to Lake is perfect for multi-modal travel, as it provides access to transit hubs, bus stops, subway stations and GO Transit stations for those commuters who are unable or choose not to cycle for their entire commute. For example, York Region’s Bike ‘n Bus program allows commuters to place up to two conventional (non-electric) bikes on the front racks at no charge, while GO Transit allows commuters to take foldable bikes on trains at any time of the day. You can save time (by reducing your cycling trip) and money (by avoiding double fares from eliminating a transfer to another transit system) by taking a multi-modal trip along the Lake to Lake.
Visit our Bicycles on Transit page to learn more about combining transit and cycling trips in York Region.
- It’s ideally situated for many Smart Commute MRH workplace employees
The Lake to Lake is in the advantageous position of travelling along Leslie Street through one of York Region’s largest business parks (Commerce Valley/Beaver Creek), which is the location of 15 Smart Commute MRH workplaces. Further north on Leslie Street, the Lake to Lake connects to an additional four Smart Commute MRH workplaces.
For the past two years, Smart Commute MRH has incorporated a portion of the Lake to Lake in our annual Bike to Work Day group ride on the last Monday of May, to demonstrate this corridor’s potential as a commuter bikeway. Check out our photos from the 2018 and 2019 rides here, featuring the Lake to Lake!
Are you convinced to try cycling the Lake to Lake to work? Or are you a regular user of the trail and would like to share your experience? Tell us on social media by tweeting @smartcommutemrh or post your photo on Instagram and tag @smartcommutemrh.