House on the hill

Lonely house on a hill

I came across this curious sight out near Guelph this past weekend. The old house, no doubt saved from demolition by a heritage designation, sits in the middle of a large lot that has been scraped clean of soil and flattened for what is sure to be a completely unremarkable subdivision. The patch of soil the house sits on is now maybe 8 feet above the surrounding terrain. The interesting thing is that there’s absolutely no sign of action here: there’s no equipment on site, no sales pavilion, no signs, no building material, nothing. It’s almost like someone just wanted to cart away all the topsoil and leave behind a moonscape.

The view reminded me of this spectacle last year in China.

Abandoned DVP on-ramp

Old DVP on-ramp from York Mills Road

Driving down the DVP a couple of weeks ago, I noticed an old roadway cutting through the brush just north of York Mills Road. I had a pretty good idea of what it was, but a quick look at Google Maps confirmed my suspicion: it was an abandoned on-ramp to the southbound Don Valley Parkway from westbound York Mills Road. The current DVP ramps at York Mills were reconfigured during construction to the overpass beginning in 2005. The northwestern loop of the cloverleaf was removed entirely. Or was it?

Old DVP on-ramp from York Mills Road

I went back by bike last weekend (the same ride where I blew out a tire) to investigate and was quite surprised by what I found. Not only was virtually the entire ramp still intact, but there had been no attempt to restrict access to it. I was expecting to see the traditional Toronto chain-link fence surrounding the road, but all I had to do was ride up a little hill before I was greeted by the remnants of the ramp in all its glory. I’m not saying that there should be a fence, just that I was expecting one. Toronto officialdom is so paranoid about putting fences and warning signs around everything more challenging than a sidewalk that I never imagined for a second that it wouldn’t be all locked up.

Old DVP on-ramp from York Mills RoadAlthough the subsequent landscaping at York Mills Road put the ramp’s remnants out of sight, the bulk of the road still sits behind the embankment, where it’s being slowly consumed by encroaching weeds. The posts that held up corrugated beam safety barriers around the perimeter of the ramp were cut down to the ground and a stone-lined drainage ditch has been dug across the roadway, but the ramp is otherwise intact to within a few metres of the highway.

Although you’re never farther than 100 metres from either York Mills or the DVP, the curving tree-lined ramp quickly isolates you from both. Even with the sound of traffic in the background, it’s surprisingly relaxing.

Old DVP on-ramp from York Mills RoadThe current Google Maps image of the area, probably taken in 2005 or 2006, clearly shows an excavator perched at the very bottom of the ramp, presumably preparing to rip up the 50 metres or so of the roadway that was removed.

At some point, the now-unused land here will probably be sold off for—what else?—condos, and another little piece of Toronto infrastructure will disappear completely. In the meantime, this hidden corner of the city is being rezoned by the local flora.

A version of this post originally appeared on Torontoist.

The leading edge of bad slogans

Etobicoke’s municipal slogan

Ah, Etobicoke. The Leading Edge of Metro. Or the ass end of Mississauga, depending how you look at it. This may have been the lamest slogan of the former Metro municipalities, with the probable exception of my own East York’s proud and perplexing, “Canada’s Only Borough.” “Yay! We’re Canada’s only, uh, what? What’s a borough? I suppose it doesn’t really matter, as long as we’re the only one. That means we’re the best! Yay!”

For some reason, this sign still stands along the bike path near Albion Road, ten years after Etobicoke was folded into the Megacity. I recently saw a picture of this same sign (about halfway down this page) taken last year. A fairly fresh tag shown on last year’s picture is a mostly-erased blue smudge on this year’s. Not only does this sign yet exist, but someone seems to be maintaining it. How efficient.
Who comes up with these slogans anway? And what are the worst municipal slogans currently in use in the GTA and environs? Vaughan’s “The City Above Toronto”? Richmond Hill’s “A Little North, a Little Nicer” eclipses that, and Markham’s peculiar “The Mark of Excellence” is worse yet. They’re all losers in their own way, but surely the prize for worst of all must go to Burlington’s oddly passive “Stand By.”

Old Indian Line: Part 1

Indian Line looking north from near the CN tracks

Way up in the very northwestern corner of the city, the old Indian Line used to mark the boundary between Etobicoke and Peel Region (Mississauga and Brampton). The road carved its way through farm fields and across a bridge over the Humber River before continuing north past Steeles Avenue. Most of the old road was effectively wiped out by the initial construction and subsequent widening and extending of Highway 427 starting in the late 1960s and continuing through the early 1990s. Other portions of the road fell victim to realignments of Albion Road, Steeles Avenue, and Regional Road 50 heading north out of the city. But as with other abandoned roads in the city, a few stretches of the old roadway still exist. A tour and more pictures follow.

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Trail detour

Watch that first step

Trail detour? Maybe when the harbour was frozen over a couple of months ago, but not right now. This sign is next to the condo construction site at Stadium Road and Queens Quay and is either intended to get cyclists and pedestrians around occasional intrusions by construction equipment into their realm or a forgotten relic from some long-ago temporary trail closure. Either way, shouldn’t it be pointing to the path straight ahead instead of directing unfortunates to make a right turn into Lake Ontario?

My own personal Quay to the City

Taking the lane big time

With the TTC strike on (and possibly over by tomorrow), I thought I’d get out and enjoy the promised bike lanes on Queen’s Quay. I couldn’t find them at first, but then realized that in all its wisdom, the City had put them smack in the middle of the road. And what wonderful bike lanes they are: nice and wide, smoothly paved, and grade separated. I think this temporary installation is even better than the original Quay to the City almost two years ago. I could live without all the streetcar tracks cluttering the lane, though. What’s up with that?

I was surprised that the new bike lane was so deserted on such a nice day. I heartily encourage more cyclists to take advantage of these lanes while they last.