WaterlooBiked to Jake Layton’s Memorial Service

[I’ve had this post on the backburner for too long. The experience is dated, but puts closure on a previous post.]

Taking a bicycle to Jack’s memorial just felt like a righteous thing to do. On August 27th I’ll remember where I was and what I did, be it nostalgic or muscle memory (sore wrists, neck and butt).  It was good to reflect on someone more esteemed in death than in life, on a life dedicated to public  service,  on someone who fought for cyclist rights among a host of other important issues. It was good.  To smell the exhaust of how much work is left in creating bicycle friendly towns and cities was good as it helped my body, mind and soul feel the meaning of Jack’s parting letter.

I biked with Janice Lee who was a great cycling buddy.  I enjoyed hearing her experiences of meeting Jack.  However, we mostly biked in silence, basking in the sun baked rural roads and then mesmerized by the kilometers suburbia’s big box stores before dodging traffic in Toronto’s downtown core.

The trip took a longer than anticipated, arriving for the end of the service. I caught the service in full upon returning home. I appreciated being able to watch it in silence but missed the emotion of the crowds. Our trip from Waterloo to Toronto took a few detours from the original plan, taking Fischer-Hallman to Roseville Rd to Blair Road to Concession to Safari Rd, then South just after Highway 6 to Waterdown and across Dundas to Toronto. I’ll use bikely’s route recommendation for Hwy 7 in the future (great site).

Remembering Jack Layton at Nathan Phillips Square - flickr - Jackman Chiu
flickr - Jackman Chiu


Departure from City Cafe Bakery

We left from City Cafe Bakery a little after 8am. Love that spot. The self-service payment just leaves the customer feeling trusted and valued. I leave my biggest tips at this place!

We used Fischer-Hallman to exit Kitchener-Waterloo. It was great advice as it has a painted bike-lane all the way out of town and then has a paved shoulder until it ends at Roseville Road.

Ride for Lance

It was weird seeing all the cars and SUVs parked along Roseville Road right near the Werner Homestead. I asked a police officer and he said Lance Armstrong had just arrived. It was the Ride For Lance, which explained the SUV limo that just arrived.

Roseville Rd - Ride for Lance Parking

Near Death Experience x2

The hill coming into Cambridge was amazing.  A beautiful tree-lined street with Victorian homes on a hill without any stops. Unfortunately the rest of my Cambridge experience wasn’t so nice.

At Main and Dundas I almost got brushed off the road twice. The first brush off really shocked me as I thought the driver did it on purpose.  I was waiting beside an older red pickup truck during a red light and when it turned green I pulled a bit in front of the pickup truck while clipping into my peddles. I remember missing and having to look down to flip my peddle to clip in. It was at this point that Jancie yelled from behind and I realized that the front of the truck had narrowly missed me.  At this point I was expecting contact but was in a really awkward position looking down trying to clip in. The contact didn’t come, but I felt the exhaust pipe roar right by my leg, it didn’t miss by much.  I was incensed as I felt the driver was purposefully trying to get as close as possible. There was no way he didn’t see me as we were at the light together. There was also no catching this guy as he accelerated and turned left on Franklin. He could have given more room. The only point in his favour was that I probably veered into his path a bit as I had to look down to clip into the pedals.

Then about 100 feet later a smaller Corolla came close as well.  I figure the driver of the Corolla was looking behind him trying to change lanes to get into the left turn lane for Franklin and didn’t see me.   I was able catch up to the Corolla driver as he was stuck in the turning lane and reminded him to share the road.  “Hey Buddy, share the road with cyclists!”. I got the one fingered salute for my troubles.

However, I was still shaking from my earlier near miss with the pickup truck.  I don’t think I had ever been purposefully targeted by a vehicle on the road before. It took me at least 20 minutes of peddling for my adrenaline to simmer down. It was a close call.

African Lion Safari

From here we headed south east, straying from our route and found ourselves enjoying the rural roads as we made our way towards Highway 6.  As I passed the African Lion Safari, I wondered how many animals had ever escaped the African Lion Safari.  The fence along the road seemed a bit rusty :)

Waterdown Timmies

Crossing Highway 6 was a shock.  After all the rural roads, it felt like trying to cross the 401. Four lanes of high-speed traffic. I don’t think anyone was going 80km/hr.  We went south on Highway 6 for about 100 metres before heading west again, preferring the scenic rural roads.  We stopped for lunch at the Timmies in Waterdown, it seemed a good halfway point.

Endless Suburbia – Dundas Street Highway 2

We elected to enter Toronto via Dundas street as it was direct and at first had few stops.  Like Highway 6, it’s a 4 lane highway, but on the weekend it wasn’t anywhere near capacity and cars gave us plenty of room.  Between Waterdown and the Gardner we saw at most 2 cyclists, it was not a bicycle friendly environment.  It’s rural Ontario being eaten by suburbia and big box malls, the encroachment through Burlington, Oakville and Mississauga seemed endless.  This stretch reminded me just how oil dependent we are. It made me very thankful for the smallness of Waterloo Region and our relative light traffic. Compared to these commuter communities, we have amazing bicycle infrastructure.  During this stretch the cyclist vanished entirely.


Before crossing  the 427 we headed south to the Queensway for a ride into Toronto. We didn’t start to see another bicycle until we started to see bike infrastructure.  Bike lanes turned up on the Queensway after crossing the 427.  It was this stretch that had me thinking ‘Build it and they will Come’. It just seemed amazing how the cyclists appeared once there was cycling infrastructure.  I’m sure there are a lot more factors involved.  After passing High Park and the Queensway splits into Queen and King, it now felt like there were more cyclists than drivers (an overstatement for sure but at least we had company on the road now).

At one point a fashionably dressed woman with her young child in front of her was cycling in front of me.  A street car was waiting in front of us and the gap between it and the parked car seemed too narrow. This woman cycled through the gap without a care in the world.  I figured if there was room for her comfort bike, I should be able to squeeze by on my road bike.  No sweat, although I certainly had a grip on my handle bars. That’s my favourite memory of the trip. I loved the variety of people on all different kinds of bikes. I can’t wait to cycle on Queen Street again.

Jack Layton’s Funeral

As I said before we arrived towards the end of Jack Layton’s funeral. It was enough to witness the size and emotion of the crowds. There were lots of bikes and lots of orange.  Here’s a few pictures.

And if you it made this far the only damage I suffered was a tire rip which I didn’t notice until my next road ride. I think I even remember the culprit  pothole on the Queensway.  I was fortunate the tire held up for the rest of the trip as the tube eventually failed ….

8 thoughts on “WaterlooBiked to Jake Layton’s Memorial Service

  1. Good on you, Graham and Janice. And, though it was a small detail in the story, I will say that I too have often wondered about escapees from the Lion Safari. I’m wondering whether your ride made Toronto seem closer or farther away than it did before you rode it? Often I find places that seem terribly far and unbikable seem much closer once I’ve ridden there. But I grew up in Mississauga, not far from Dundas, and I suspect that part seemed unending.

  2. Great ride report Graham. I’ve been thinking about doing the Waterloo-Toronto ride to visit some friends, so the report is really useful for me.

    Main St in Cambridge from where approaching Dundas to Franklin is one of the least friendly parts of my commute. I almost always just take the lane now, as the lanes are just not wide enough to share, and people seem to squeeze by if you let them. Every so often some yahoo cuts me off by racing ahead of me before changing lanes to turn right from Main to Dundas. I haven’t figured out yet if there’s a good way to avoid this. At least I can usually hear it coming.

  3. Riding on Dundas would be a drag.

    We rode from downtown Toronto where he lived to St. Jacob’s. We tried to use a huge chunk of the Waterfront Trail which does swing from Mississauga. I can’t remember the exact route but we went through Elora which we enjoyed.

    There was a highway in the Guelph that was truly nightmarish and full of transport trucks for several hours.

    Anyway, great riding and writing. From an ex-K-W who grew up in there before moving to Toronto, Vancouver, etc.

    Our personal story about Jack Layton, the cycling advocate:

    1. Thanks for sharing! @Jean What was the connection with St. Jacobs?

      Loved the end of the Rick Mercer clip! Some day I’m going to have to explore the extent of the Waterfront Trail. At first we were planning on trying to find it but as we fell behind on the timing we elected to take Dundas. I suspect that you took highway 6 north of Guelph towards Fergus.

  4. We stayed in St. Jacob’s since I had (and still have) a friend near there.

    Sorry for the grammar errors in my lst comment yesterday. Sigh.

    I hope that K-W will develop its cycling infrastructure even more over time. That place, despite real signs of urban sprawl (north of Conestoga Mall), has much more potential as a cycling destination because of its unique local history.

    When I went to university in London (ON), I thought there would be Mennonites and German food in the area. (London is abit more boring in its local history and things to see, compared to K-W.)

    You have to appreciate as a kid in school in 1970’s, half of my classmates had German last names. I know K-W has changed lot demographically which is great.

    Yes, we did head towards Fergus on that horrible highway. You would enjoy Waterfront Trail.

    One could take that Trail which goes out to Oshawa then join onto the highway near Lake Ontario to go to Colburg or Prince Edward County area around Picton area. We have cycled the St. Lawrence/Thousand Island Parkway, a bike path between Kingston to near Cornwall.

    Or consider cycling through Burlington and get into the Niagara on the Lake region. There is a 50 km. one way trail (with some wineries along the way) between Niagara Falls and Fort Erie.

    So much to do, to see and cycle in a lifetime! Wishing you tailwinds in journeys ahead.

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