Have you ever cycled along the Pickering and Ajax waterfronts? You should. It’s one of the best recreational bike rides in the GTA with beautiful scenery and mostly-flat trails, but presents Toronto cyclists with a big problem: how to get there. Because the Waterfront Trail all but disappears through most of Scarborough, you’re stuck with either riding the long, miserable route along Kingston Road and Lawrence Avenue to get to Pickering or driving your car to Rouge Beach and riding into Pickering from there.
There is another option: GO Transit. Most cyclists are unaware that they can take their bikes on any GO train (except during weekday rush hours). That’s where GO-by-Bike comes in. It’s a project conceived by Donald Wiedman that encourages cyclists to take a Sunday GO train to Ajax and ride a leisurely 15 km back along the Waterfront Trail to the Rouge Hill station, where they can catch another train back into the city. Not only do you get to avoid the nasty ride along Kingston Road, but you get to leave the car at home too. And best of all, because GO-by-Bike is promoting an existing capability on all GO trains along the Lakeshore line, you aren’t limited to travelling to or from any particular station, or on any particular train, or at any particular time. You’re completely free to go at your own pace and can even roll your own custom tour instead of taking one of the pre-surveyed routes covering the waterfront, Highland Creek, Petticoat Creek, Duffins Creek, and more.
Wiedman saw an opportunity to promote both transit and cycling in the spaces around Toronto and approached GO Transit with “a handshake and a smile. I told them right up front that I wasn’t looking for help, I was looking to help.” Wiedman also says that he wants cyclists to have “do-it-themselves” experiences rather than provide guided or structured tours. “Trails are ultimately self-serve.” In the end, it’s up to cyclists to set their itineraries, buy their GO tickets, and make the journey. GO-by-Bike plants the seed and provides suggestions, but the form, structure, and timing of the trips are entirely up to the individual cyclists.
By raising awareness of bike-transit connections, Wiedman and GO are hoping that more people will take advantage of eco-friendly local tourism opportunities around Toronto. Taking the GO train provides cyclists with access to dozens of new routes without having to drive for an hour to get to them. Whether you want a simple ride along the waterfront, a more challenging pedal north through the Oak Ridges Moraine, or a new setting for a family picnic, be sure to go by bike and leave the car at home.
GO-by-Bike to Ajax runs on Sundays from June 1 through the end of August. RSVP to the GO-by-Bike Facebook group, get yourself to a Lakeshore GO station, buy your tickets, and hop on an eastbound train. A representative will be at the Ajax GO station on Sundays in the summer to direct cyclists to water, washrooms, food, and the sights of Ajax.
Photo courtesy of the Town of Ajax.