A few months ago, I decided to take a bike ride.
I’d been riding on and off for a few years, but usually just short rides to and from work or the grocery store. This was different. It was a lovely summer evening, and the heat of the day had dissipated to the point where I figured I could handle the unaccustomed physical exertion.
That night, I rode just to take a ride.
I didn’t go far – maybe 6 or 7 kilometres, which was about all I could handle. Still, it was fun, so the next night I did it again. I was curious about how far I was actually going, so I downloaded a cool little app called Runtastic (I’ve since switched to Endomondo) which uses the GPS in my phone to show my route on a map. It even shows how fast I was going at any given point and where all the hills are.
These days I’ve worked myself up to 20-25 km a night, 3-4 nights a week, and I’ve started organizing group rides every Wednesday for anyone who wants to ride along. I even rode 60 km in the Tour de Mississauga last month, which just about did me in. But it was fun.
The best part of all this has been exploring Milton and the extensive trails system we have in this town. From the on street bike lanes to the multi-use trails along major roads, to hidden paths through the parks and woods, our little town has made great strides towards having a truly world-class trails system.
Still, there’s always room for improvement. Because little things you might never notice walking or driving by become a very big deal when you’re trying to navigate your way around by bike.
An example: you’re riding along a park trail that crosses or ends at a street. Except it doesn’t actually intersect with the street. It just… ends, leaving you with two equally unacceptable options: either bump your bike over the grass and a full curb, or turn and ride along the sidewalk (prohibited by by-law) until you find a curb cut or driveway.
Cycling is all about momentum. When a bicycle stops moving, it falls over, so anything that halts your momentum is at best annoying, and at worst potentially dangerous. Of course cyclists must obey the rules of the road, but by the same token urban planners need to design cycling infrastructure that allows them to avoid unnecessary stops and starts.
With that in mind, here is a cyclist-eye-view of the good, the bad, and the ugly of Milton’s trails.
Bridge over Sixteen Mile Creek, Louis St. Laurent Ave.
Cyclists and pedestrians are very safely separated from traffic, and get a lovely view of the creek.
Coates Linear Park at Hepburn Road
This is a proper trail / road intersection: gates on both sides, a cut curb, a stop sign for the cyclist, and… well, no, I don’t always dismount before crossing. But I’m usually here late at night when there are very few cars.
Coates Linear Park at Bolingbroke Drive
This is a bad trail / road intersection. Gates are there, the trail goes right up to the curb, but there is no curb cut. This one took me by surprise the first time I hit it. It’s even worse trying to get on to the trail, of course.
Coates Neighbourhood Park North
Other than that one bad intersection, the Coates park and trail system will take you pleasantly and effortlessly from Louis St. Laurent almost all the way to Derry. And the trails are all lit at night. Well done!
Multi-use trail, north side of Derry
I love these. Instead of a straight, boring trail like they have on the south side, here the trail winds and rolls pleasantly along under the trees. It’s like this on the west side of Thompson, too. Makes for lovely shade in the summer.
Derry at Thompson
This spot is an anomaly on an otherwise well-designed trail. Not only does it narrow to sidewalk width going past this block of stores, the curb cut on both sides of the driveway is a bone-jarring inch and a half high. The bell fell off my bike once as I was going over this.
Clarke Neighbourhood Park at Laurier
This is a truly terrible trail/road intersection. I would like to think that it’s because the area is still under development, but it’s not the only spot like this. In this case, the only way across to the park and trails on the other side of the road without knocking your fillings loose is…
…here. And as you can see, I’m not the only one who crosses here.
Trail behind Bussel Crescent to Leash-Free Dog Park
This one looks rough but is surprisingly smooth. You can see the pretty little bridge in the distance and the dog park beyond that. Just don’t forget to turn on the high beams of your bike light – it’s very dark at night.
Beaty Trail near Clark Blvd.
This is a fun, scenic trail that runs parallel to Trudeau Drive from the Union Gas line down to Louis St. Laurent. I decided early on that it was even more fun going downhill (south) than up.
Sam Sherratt Trails
This is my very favourite trail. It’s actually a whole labyrinth of trails that goes all the way from Derry to Childs Drive near the Mall, connecting three schools and a string of parks and wood lots. And the whole thing is lit at night. Beautiful. The north section I’ve dubbed ‘The Bunny Trail’. Go through there after dark some night and you’ll see why.
(to see Milton’s entire trail system, check the Town’s Community Connections Map)