Are Bike Thieves Getting a Free Ride With GO?

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Are Bike Thieves Getting a Free Ride With GO?

Plus tips to keep your bike safe while you're at work.

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At most GO stations, it’s not clear if security cameras actually point toward the bike parking.

Your local GO station provides ample opportunity for bike theft. Why? Well, in large part because they don’t seem to be doing anything about the problem.

This is good news for bike thieves, because there are hundreds of bikes locked up at GO station bike racks on any given summer day. Many of the bike parking stands have roofs over them, but not all have cameras monitoring them.

As more and more people combine bikes and transit, we need more secure bike parking as part of that growing system.

According to Metrolinx, 171 bikes were reported stolen from GO stations in 2016. This is up from 147 stolen bikes in 2015. One of those 171 bikes stolen, one belonged to Sarah Goran—hers was taken from the Oakville GO station this past summer.

“I went to the ticket booth and told them that I thought it was stolen. They gave me a number to call for GO Transit concerns and also told me to call the police,” said Goran.

“If a bicycle is stolen from a GO station, or anywhere, the owner is encouraged to report the theft to police for follow up in the investigation,” said Halton Police Sergeant Barry Malciw.

Goran called the police, who admitted they didn’t have much hope in finding her bike. She also called GO Transit, who said they couldn’t do much else beyond reporting it to police themselves. The police never did find her bike.

In 2016, Halton Police reported that 95 bikes were stolen in Oakville, 25 of them from the Oakville GO station. Out of those 95, 65 of them were recovered, some by Halton Police, and some by civilians.

There are more than 70 GO stations in Southern Ontario and more than 2,800 surveillance cameras installed across all stations. Scott Money, a media relations specialist for Metrolinx, did not specifically answer whether any of the 3,000 bike locking spaces have cameras watching them, but did say this:

In order to keep GO Stations safe, we have Transit Safety Officers on shift 24/7.  They conduct routine patrols at all hours. Metrolinx has CCTV cameras at all GO stations which do provide CCTV coverage of bike storage areas. Every GO station is equipped with CCTV cameras. There are more than 2,800 cameras across the system including GO Transit and UP Express.

According to Money, those transit officers patrol multiple GO stations at a time, which means there may not be an officer at every single GO station.

Donald Wiedman, creator of Bikesandtransit.com, said that since some of the GO stations have been renovated or reorganized, the cameras may not be surveying all the bike locking stations on GO property.

When we looked at Union Station for cameras at the bike corrals, it wasn’t clear if the cameras were pointing towards the bike locking areas. 

According to Sergeant Malciw, the police can contact GO security to obtain camera footage, but he specified that this is only if a particular pattern of crimes is noticed, not for every individual theft.

Despite GO Transit and police officers not doing much when your bike is stolen, GO is trying to prevent it from happening in some locations. Right now, there are two secure bike locking facilities at both Hamilton and Burlington GO stations, indoor facilities that can only be accessed with a key card. Cyclists can pay $50 a year in order to lock up and have access to the facility.

According to Wiedman, though, the secure lock-up station is almost useless to bikers at the Burlington GO station: it’s far enough away for bikers to not justify using it. Wiedman also says that during rush hour, the lock-up station can be dangerous to get to as cyclists need to navigate the busy parking lot.

GO plans to add more bike-parking facilities across the system, including one at the Oakville GO station. Their Rail Station Access Plan also notes that other improvements may be coming, such as more regular bike locking stations, as well as encouraging towns to get better routes for cyclists to get to the stations in the first place. There is no exact timeline on when any of this will happen, but GO Transit labels most of them as “medium term” priority.

All of these changes are supposed to be completed by 2031. The plan also accounts for increased cycling by 2031. “Currently only one per cent of our customers cycle to the GO station,” said Becky Upfold, manager at Smart Commute. In 2031, the company expects it’ll be three or four times that. “We recognize we need to increase the cycling facilities in order to meet that target,” said Upfold.

As far as keeping your bike safe in the meantime, before the secure parking is available, GO Transit recommends always locking your bike. (Well, duh.) They also recommend taking off easily removable parts, like lights, and customizing your bike with stickers or paint—that way it’s harder to sell.  

Goran admits she should’ve splurged for a better lock for her bike. “I had locked it up with a regular chain lock,” she said. “In hindsight, I should have paid the extra $50 for a U-lock.”

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