The soon-to-be-constructed Sunnyside Bike Park will provide cyclists of all ages and skill sets a safe environment in which to pop a wheelie. Ward 13 councillor Sarah Doucette tells us how the plan came to be.
Despite its enthusiastic cycling community, Toronto is a latecomer to the bike-park party; nearby municipalities including Kitchener, Mississauga, and, Markham all boast designated areas featuring jumps, tracks, and obstacles on which cyclists can sharpen their skills. But Toronto will finally get its due with Sunnyside Bike Park, slated for construction this fall on what is now a patch of trees and grass between Lake Shore Boulevard and the Gardiner Expressway, stretching from Ellis Avenue to Colborne Lodge.
According to Ward 13 city councillor Sarah Doucette, the process of building a bike-skills course has been in motion since an October 2011 community meeting where cyclists in attendance first tabled the idea.
“Everyone has said it’s a good location,” says Doucette. “It’s not too near residential areas. It’s accessible by bike. If someone wants to drive, there’s lot of parking on Lake Shore.” The site is also situated close to the 501 Queen streetcar line along The Queensway.
Jay Hoots—described by the Toronto Star as “a Frank Gehry for bike parks“—will design Sunnyside Bike Park. And it won’t be for experienced cyclists only—the park aims to bring together people of all ages in the cycling community to create a fun, recreational atmosphere, with obstacles ranging from beginner to expert levels.
“One of the unique things of the bike park is that it creates a dedicated facility for people to fall in love with the sport and recreational side of cycling,” says Jared Kolb, director of membership and outreach at Cycle Toronto. “You want to hook people when they’re young with a passion for cycling, and this bike park will help achieve that.”
Sunnyside Bike Park will also provide a safe environment for cyclists looking to challenge themselves. Torontonians who enjoy off-road cycling and jumps have had nowhere to hone their skills—nowhere legal, that is. There have, of course, been many unofficial courses built by daredevil riders hungry for an adrenaline rush, including one in a High Park forest that was met with protest in 2009 from a First Nations group who claimed it was situated on an old burial ground. (Though the group’s claims were disputed, the site was eventually dismantled due to safety and environmental concerns.)
“Unless you give a good location for people to do this bike riding, they’re going to find other areas to do it,” says Doucette. “It’s a hobby. People want to do these things.
“It’s great that we’re encouraging people to get out of their homes, get on their bikes, have some fitness, get some fresh air, socialize with other people, and socialize with families. It’s a win-win situation. I think it’ll be brilliant.”