May 17, 2017

A Flooded Commute

Last week, Ontario and Québec were subject to heavy rain and flooding with tourist attractions such as the Toronto Islands closed to the public until at least July. During my bike commute to work this week, I got a close hand encounter of flood conditions by the mouth of the Rouge River.
Submerged access to Toronto-Pickering bridge

The Waterfront Trail was dry from Rouge Hill GO station to the Rouge River. At the Rouge River, the trail access to the bridge linking Toronto to Pickering was submerged with water. While the water was shallow enough for bicycles to get to the bridge for now, there are concerns about water levels still rising which could rule out bicycle access in the future. In case this bridge does get closed – I will revise upon confirmation from the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority – here are a couple of alternatives to continue getting around.
Graph showing rising Lake Ontario levels (via Fisheries & Oceans Canada)
From Rouge Hill GO station, cyclists would need to travel almost seven kilometres by going west on Lawrence Avenue East, north on Port Union Road, east on Kingston Road, south on Rougemount Drive, and south on Rosebank Road to get back on the trail on the other side of the railroad tracks. It is not a pleasant alternative with high speed traffic (often exceeding 90 km/h) and steep hills on Kingston Road by the Rouge River. With the detour adding 4.5 kilometres (or 15 minutes) to cyclists’ journey compared to the 2.5 kilometres via the bridge, no wonder why that bridge is a vital cycling and pedestrian connection!
When the bridge is accessible, the same trip takes only 2.5 kilometres!
Two public transit options are available for those wanting to avoid riding on Kingston Road. For those already on the GO train, it is recommended to go to the next stop – Rouge Hill if going west or Pickering if going east – to bypass the flooded area. The other option is to take the DRT Pulse bus along Kingston Road from Port Union Road to Rougemount Drive (or another Pickering street of your choice) at a cost of $3.75 cash or $3.10 with a PRESTO card. From Pickering GO, you can take Liverpool Road to get back on the Waterfront Trail.
Flooding covered entire parking lot at Rouge Beach!
This flooding situation by the Rouge River revealed the need for trails to be complemented with a robust on-street bike lane network to help provide cyclists safe alternatives in the event of trail closures. Alternate routes need to be clearly marked to help cyclists get back to the original trail. With climate change expected to cause more flooding in the years ahead, Toronto cannot afford to drag its heels any longer in order to build out the Minimum Grid!

Stay dry, folks!
Rob Z (e-mail)

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