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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

And this is why bikes generally aren't allowed during rush hour. Because chaos.

Recently I was cc'd on a series of emails from members of the GTA cycling community about how the current transit situation in the GTA does not accommodate for commuters who want to commute with their bikes on-board GO trains (and TTC subways).

I'm going to work with what I know - GO trains. I'm a cyclist myself. When the weather is good, it's not unusual for me to bike 30 to 40 kilometres around Courtice and into Bowmanville. One day, I'd like to bike all the way to the Oshawa GO station, just to see what it's like. But the lack of bike lanes is a concern, and although the City of Clarington has slowly installed bike lanes on key roads in Courtice, as part of a pilot project, they are not part of a Durham Region-wide network that would get me to the Oshawa GO Station without risking my life in traffic with cement trucks and distracted, texting and potentially murderous drivers. I admire those who don't give a shit and do it anyway. Honestly? I'm too scared.

But enough about me. As it stands, the trains we have are not designed to accommodate more than two bikes in a designated area and because bikes are bulky, they restrict movement and at Union, become a hazard because of how narrow the platforms are. The platforms were designed for people. People forget that Union Station is older than Jesus. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, nobody thought about whether downtown workers would one day, in 2015, want to bring a bike into the city and use it to ride to work. Union isn't built for bikes. The TTC subway isn't built for bikes. Bikes take up room. Room that was designed for people and as it stands, can't even accommodate the people we have now. Have you seen the platform widths of 24 and 25? How about 12 and 13? Especially around the stairwells?

Simply put, it's dangerous.

But can this change? Sure it can, but when? I'm still waiting for the Lakeshore East GO Train service to be extended to Bowmanville, which in my mind, is a bigger priority than being able to bring a bike with me during morning and evening rush hour. I continue to live in Durham Region because I refuse to give up the dream. The official announcement came down from the then-Mike Harris' provincial conservatives in 2000 that Metrolinx would run a train to Waverly Road and Baseline in Bowmanville. I started getting really excited when the farm lands around Trulls Road and Baseline in Courtice were expropriated for a station and parking lots. I jumped for joy in 2014 when the owner of the former Knob Hill lands in Oshawa and Metrolinx finally closed the deal on what would be the second Oshawa GO Station, only to learn there is no money for tracks. No money for trains. No money for parking lots. No money for stations. No money for signals. Nothing.

I sat on the emails about transit supporting bicycle commuting for over a month. I agree it would be a wonderful added benefit but not without billions of dollars in upgrades needed to make it happen. However, I agree that at present, some changes could be made such as an additional coach where the lower level is designated for bikes. I won't share the emails I got, but I will share the reply that was given.

From: customerrelations@gotransit.com
To: Names withehld
CC: Leslie.Woo@metrolinx.com
Date: Thu, 12 Mar 2015 12:16:41 -0400
Subject: GO Transit, a Division of Metrolinx EM0119001252

Dear Mr. (name withheld) and (name withheld)
Thank you for your patience as I looked into your concerns. 
You both have raised very valid points regarding GO Transit’s current bicycle policy and I appreciate your suggestions on how this service can be improved for our customers.  
I recognize that there is a growing demand for cyclists to be able to bring their bikes onto the train.  We have recently started reviewing this policy in coordination with our Smart Commute team, whose goal is to help commuters explore smart travel options such as cycling. We will be looking at various travel options for cyclists including implementing a designated coach for bikes and amending the policy for peak service options.  We will also look at using the accessibility coach as you have suggested. 
I realize that running a parallel bus service along our existing corridors would be of great benefit to you and many other cyclists.  Unfortunately, we don’t have enough buses to supply such service at this time. In addition, it would take buses away from those routes where bus services are the only option. 
Mr. Pinkerton, I was very sorry to learn that your bicycle had been stolen from one of our GO Stations.  I would like to assure you that safety and security are top priorities for us. As part of the bicycle policy review, we will also be looking at how we can advance safety measures to help prevent security issues related to bicycle crimes.  
Thank you for your patience while we re-examine this policy.  We will be sharing more information regarding any changes that might occur as it becomes available. 
Thank you again for taking the time to write to us. 
Sincerely, 

Paula EdwardsDirector, Customer Care, GO Transit
CC.      Paul Finnerty, Vice President of GO Operations, GO Transit            Leslie Woo, Chief Planning Officer, Metrolinx 

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sometimes baby steps get others what they need but Paul Edward's email does not address what happens when these cyclists arrive at Union. I'm sorry, but if I wind up with bike grease on my clothing I'll be pretty pissed.

Fred said...

What next? First bikes, then e-bikes? How about mattresses? Luggage? can I bring my car on the train, too? Can Go Transit hook up a auto transport box car and I can drive my car onto it?
How about GO Transit invest in bike share so you can sign a bike out when you get to Union.

Look, I'm not against the idea but bikes and hoardes of people don't mix. They just don't. Invest in bike share programs and bike lockers. Ride your bike to the station. Lock it. Get on the train. Borrow a bike. Build into a fare structure somehow but for fuck's sake, don't give up an entire coach to bikes. I stand enough as it is. Thanks.

Squiggles said...

I was thinking the same thing Anon.

That and the potential for damaged clothing. Having ripped open my leg on some of those peddles, the nightmare scenario of having to deal with that and replace clothing for work? No thanks.

Not certain how anything can be improved, but no transit options - beside local buses - are meant for cyclists. And even then, the dis/mounting of the bikes does cause delays. Can you imagine a similar situation with trains? And at rush hour? Nothing would leave on time.

Mark said...

Fred - How about beer? http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2015/03/19/skytrain-beer-delivery_n_6905668.html?

J. Allan said...

Fred, if there was adequate security at GO stations that cyclists could leave their bikes there for upwards of 10 hours a day with peace of mind, then what you suggest could almost be an option. In fact, that's what GO currently expects cyclists to do.

Some of us cyclists are riding/GOing to work because we don't have the cash-flow to operate a motor vehicle that will sit at the GO station or office parking lot wasting space all day. Some of us don't have the funds to buy a second bike to leave downtown overnight (and replacing that bike every 2 weeks-months due to theft).

I wasn't requesting that the trains give up a coach for bikes. I'm well aware that there's already a space problem on the trains. I floated the options of adding a bike-equipped coach, running bus service alongside the trains (along the same routes that are already running in non-rush-hour), or allowing bikes in the accessibility coaches (where strollers, which are even bulkier than bikes, are already allowed).

Fred said...

J.
I'm sorry to hear that. As someone who had a car stolen from a GO lot I can completely relate.
Metrolinx will not spend more money on lot or station security.
They will not hire more transit police.
Their approach to securing our personal property is laughable.
I'm sorry I sounded so harsh.
What is your opinion on a bike share program that would run across the GO system?

Anonymous said...

It's a shame that we are the ones who have to come up with the ideas. Doesn't Metrolinx hire smart people to do this for us? I'm sure other cities have found a solution.

Clearly a bike dedicated storage car is the only way to go - you can't mix hundreds of people and unweildly bikes. You'd then have to have a process to make bikers wait until the unloading has stopped or else give them a separate entrance and exit.

Until we can properly load bikes onto trains there should at least be better security for locking up your bike at a station - bike lockers, dedicated storage rooms with combination locks and cameras. Come on big foreheaded Metrolinx planners - lead the way!

Russell said...

I agree with Fred. I also think that the TTC is spending money stupidly on things. I personally don't understand the point of having Wifi at subway stations. Im in there maybe 5 minutes and feel no need to be online. In my opinion the TTC should spend the money on the wifi on signals or whatever it is they blame for the daily delay.

J. Allan said...

Fred, I'm against the idea of bike share programs on principle. I'm a firm believer that the safest, most comfortable bike is one fitted to it's rider. Shared bikes, by their very nature, cannot provide that. That said, for very short trips, ie., under 5km, shared bikes can be a useful tool for commuters.

Anon 1:18, you're right that Union is less than ideal for bikes, and I don't have an easy answer to that, but as Anon 8:42 said, it's a shame that we should have to come up with all the solutions. However, I will be putting some thought to this question over the coming days and weeks.

As far as the concern raised by Squiggles and Anon 1:18 re: bike grease and your clothing, I can't speak for other cyclists, but when I'm in close proximity to pedestrians, my first priority is always to avoid contact between my bike and said pedestrians. I generally keep the drivetrain oriented towards myself to avoid greasing anyone else, and unless you're going out of your way to rub up on the bike, I do my best to keep the pedals away from anyone's legs.

Squiggles said...

Thank you J.Allen. You are showing a lot of consideration that many of your fellow cyclists do not bother to show.

I hope things work out, that there may be a solution to the issue. But I do not think it will happen anytime soon.

Anon 8:42: Yes it is a shame. But in many cases the ones using the system in a certain way are better able to come up with solutions that benefit everyone.

Tyler Pelletier said...

It wouldn't be that unreasonable to expect a relatively cheap $50 IP security camera considering many bikes are over $150 X 10 bikes.

The summer go train service to Niagara already offers a full car for cyclists but getting your bike up and down stairs is a real pain without ramps,

@Fred Toronto has a bike share program but the cost of using the Go train (not just financially) is already high then you expect to limit my range of travel to within a bike share network? What if I was leaving Toronto to Niagara falls and wanted to bike to St.Catharines?

Anonymous said...

If I was commuting using the GO train and a bike, I'd use a Brompton or similar folding bike. You can fold it up and take it on the train under the current GO rules.

Tyler Pelletier said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tyler Pelletier said...

In the Netherlands many cyclists have 2 bikes one left at a station close to work and one to get to the station but this leads to very expensive bicycle parking and new riders still need to bring a bike at least once unless they buy one in the new city and abandon it when they quit working.

Anonymous said...

I love biking to the train; my complaint is actually that GO doesn't remind/enforce/clarify the bikes-on-the-train policy, eg the Milton line seems to have no trains that allow you to bring your bike downtown. Then there are people who bring their bike on at Union in the middle of the rush home and block the doors for everyone else. Post signs. Mark bike allowed trips on the website. Put times bikes are allowed on the doors of Union. Announce it on the intercom - instead of just loudly (oh the irony) declaring that quiet zone is in effect. Clarity goes a long way. Burying the rules online doesn't help make it visible, especially when customer service can't clear up things like whether a 930a arrival at Union is allowed bikes or not. But considering GO doesn't seem to care about enforcing even the smoking bylaw (every morning in Milton it's broken on the platforms), I doubt they'll ever clear this up.