Photo across the river from a hydro generating station in Niagara Falls by wjklos.
The opportunities for cyclists to get out of the city with their bikes—and without their cars—are multiplying. The Bike Train will be kicking off its third season on Friday June 26 with trains running from Union Station to St. Catharines and Niagara Falls. It’ll be the first of eight weekends of service to Niagara, with travel dates stretching into October. Last year’s experiment with Friday departures from Toronto proved popular, so there will now be Bike Trains leaving Toronto on Friday (or Thursday) every weekend on the schedule, in addition to the regular Saturday and Sunday trains. Return tickets are a little more expensive this year—up to $62 from last year’s $59—but one-way tickets for those embarking on longer tours or finding another way home are down from $35 to $31.
Following two successful years of shuttling cyclists between Toronto and the Niagara region, the Bike Train is expanding this year to include an Ontario Northland pilot route to North Bay one weekend in August ($153 return only), giving Toronto cyclists access to a variety of loops and other routes in cottage country and the near north. Two more proposed pilots to eastern and southwestern Ontario are also planned, with details to be confirmed later in the season.
An indirect competitor to the Bike Train has also popped up this year: GO Transit will be running trains to Niagara Falls this summer. Although the service isn’t aimed directly at cyclists, every GO train has space for about thirty bikes on a first-come, first-served basis. GO will run four trains on the Toronto–Niagara route every Saturday, Sunday, and holiday from June 27 through October 12, making stops along the way in Port Credit, Oakville, Burlington, and St. Catharines. The route allows for a variety of day trips or one-way excursions throughout the Golden Horseshoe. Peter Lipscombe, marketing manager for the Bike Train, welcomes the additional GO service in the corridor, saying that it will ultimately encourage even more tourists to leave their cars at home. “The GO train is a step in the right direction in terms of offering sustainable and convenient access. Our goal is to promote cycle tourism in Ontario, visits to the Greenbelt, and increasing transportation options for cyclists; the GO service will serve all of those ends.” GO will be charging $15.90 one way to Niagara Falls or $14.00 to St. Catharines, with fares for other stations yet to be determined.
Just a couple of years ago, it was rather difficult for cyclists to get out of the city for the weekend: GO train service was limited to running between Pickering and Oakville, most people wouldn’t have considered loading their bikes on intercity buses, and there weren’t any other roll-on and roll-off services. But following the restoration of weekend GO train service to Aldershot and Oshawa, bike rack installation on many municipal transit buses (including some TTC routes that extend to the very edge of good countryside riding) and intercity coaches, two years of the Bike Train and one year of GO-by-Bike (relaunched this year as Bikes+Transit), the options seem to be exploding. Wait, an explosion of bikes? Would that be the latest volley in the “war on the car“? It just may be.