Beyond keeping an eye out for motorists and pedestrians, cyclists have another hazard to deal with—streetcar tracks. We surveyed local riders to determine Toronto’s most treacherous stretches.
Wiping out on streetcar tracks is a rite of passage for Toronto cyclists, though most victims just end up with scrapes, bruises, or a damaged ego. However, the Aug. 6 death of Joseph Mavec—who was thrown off his bike by a decommissioned streetcar track on Wychwood Avenue—marks the rare instance where a Toronto cyclist has been killed in such an incident.
While the City tries to figure how to make Toronto’s unused streetcar tracks safer for cyclists, Mavec’s death serves as a sobering reminder to exercise extreme caution when cycling along any set of tracks. We surveyed 40-plus members of Toronto’s cycling community to find out where the city’s most dangerous sections lie; we also asked everyone to share their own tales of wiping out on the tracks. After examining the data, a number of trends emerged.
A great number of the reported accidents happened where there are intersecting streetcar lines; the convergence of so many tracks creates additional grooves and gaps that can snag bike tires. There were also a lot of accidents involving riders making a left turn, particularly along the Queen and Spadina lines. And if there’s any lesson to be learned here, it’s always wear a helmet: Many of our survey participants would likely not be here to tell their tales if their heads weren’t protected.
We plotted our survey data on a map to determine Toronto’s most treacherous streetcar tracks for cyclists. Our list begins in descending order below the map.
5. Queen and Neville Park streetcar loop
The Neville Park streetcar loop is doubly dangerous on account of the TTC pumping water through the tracks so the streetcar wheels don’t squeak as much. This has the unfortunate side effect of making the tracks slippery even on sunny days. Many a bike tire has slid into the track, sending their riders crashing to the ground, smashing chins and shins. It’s proof of how wet road conditions can make crossing the tracks even an more unwieldy experience.
4. Spadina and College
Anytime two streetcar lines intersect at a busy intersection, the result is a nightmare for cyclists, and many have taken their lumps here. With a constant flow of drivers, pedestrians, streetcars, and other cyclists, it’s easy to wipe out here if you aren’t paying close attention. The current construction on Spadina doesn’t help things, either.
3. Spadina and Queen
Much like Spadina and College, this intersection is busy almost any time of day. The new pavement job makes for a smoother ride, but there is still a complicated array of tracks going every which way. There were many stories of wipe-outs at this location in our survey, so don’t let the street musicians jamming on the corner distract you as you turn through traffic.
2. Queen and Roncesvalles
For cyclists, this intersection could very well be the streetcar-track equivalent of the Bermuda Triangle, with the 501 Queen line crossing over to the Queensway and the 504 King car curving north up Roncesvalles, and turning tracks in all directions. There’s also a heavy amount of vehicular traffic here, and many cyclists who take a spill have to scramble to safety before a car comes barrelling down on them.
1. Dundas and College
Without a doubt, the Dundas and College junction just west of Lansdowne was cited as the most dangerous track area by our surveyed cyclists. Riders travelling eastbound on Dundas are on a downhill slope, and the combination of higher speeds and a left turn onto College along curved streetcar tracks creates a disastrous mix that can send a cyclist crashing hard. If you need to make this turn, best to do a Copenhagen Left.
What do you think are the most dangerous streetcar-track sections in Toronto? Share you stories in the comments section below.