I rediscovered the mostly-forgotten northern portion of the Martin Goodman Trail quite by accident last summer. I was stuck in a surprise downpour while riding along Queens Quay and scooted up to Lake Shore to hide under the Gardiner for a few minutes. And there they were, the familiar blue and green lines marking the original alignment of the Martin Goodman Trail.
I rode along and was quite surprised at how much of the original trail remained despite more than 15 years of encroachment by condo projects and neglect by the city. I was able to ride from York Street to Stadium Road without interruption, even though one section of the trail has been co-opted for a condo building’s back lawn.
I started cycling this portion of the trail regularly again this spring and met with another surprise: riding along here can be a lot faster and easier on the nerves than riding along Queens Quay. Not only is there less traffic to contend with, but the traffic lights usually favour traffic along Lake Shore rather than the intersecting streets. As a result, you can frequently zip from York Street to Stadium Road with only one or two brief stops for cross traffic. No more stopping for red lights at every driveway and parking lot along the way.
Old-timers like me will remember that the downtown section of the trail was always a bit of a puzzle. The original westbound alignment had you crossing from the south side of Queen’s Quay near Sherbourne to the north side, continuing along the north side to York Street, sometimes on the road, sometimes on a marked section of the sidewalk. You turned north on York and continued riding beside Lake Shore Boulevard all the way past the pre-loft Tip Top Tailors building and HMCS York driveway before swooping into Coronation Park.
Going east, cyclists were expected to ride on the north side of Queens Quay until Sherbourne, and then cross back to the south side before picking up the off-road portion of the trail again.
The various north-south transitions were so poorly designed with zero traffic control that most cyclists eventually ignored them completely and rode straight along Queens Quay for the entire distance.
The city eventually acknowledged reality and redesigned both ends of this stretch. The eastern portion of Queens Quay got proper directional bike lanes along each side of the street between Parliament and Yonge, and the western end got bike lanes from Spadina to Stadium Road and a direct connection behind the Tip Top building to the off-road trail.
With the extremities fixed, the middle seemed to fade bit by bit. The trail on the north side of Queens Quay east of York was repaved at some point and the distinctive blue and green trail markings were left off. Signs pointing to the continuation of the trail a block north disappeared. The trail beside Lake Shore was degraded one section at a time by adjacent construction. Eventually, memories faded with the paint and the trail just seemed to stop at Yonge and resume again at Spadina, with nothing but a stressful ride along Queens Quay in between.
The original alignment was never beautiful and was only barely functional. Sadly, it was and remains better than the current alternative. The upcoming Queens Quay redesign (previewed as Quay to the City last summer) should go a long way toward finally fixing this section of our waterfront trail.