Riding your bike to the GO train or TTC subway this spring

Riding your bike to the GO train or TTC subway this spring? The survey says you’d better get there early!

A survey of 100 regular Cycle-Transit Users in Burlington, Pickering and Toronto, Ontario, and select other Greater Toronto Area communities, conducted in the summer of 2014 shows that bike parking is about to get very tight, and in the coming years even tighter, in bike shelters and at bike rings outside transit stations across the GTA.

In 2008 – through its $5 million BikeLinx program – Metrolinx funded new bike racks on municipal buses, and built new repositioned, clear glass bike shelters at most GO train stations across the GTA. The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) has also since then installed bike racks on most of its bus fleet, and continue to increase the number of bike parking rings outside its subway stations.

In hindsight, Metrolinx’s $5 million investment was well worth the money, with racks, rings and bike shelters now a regular part of a growing number of local Cycle-Transit User’s weekday commute. However, according to the Bike to Transit 2014 survey – as early as this spring and summer 2015, there will be a need for more bike parking to be built at many stations, and corrections made to past parking location errors.

Following online promotions, media coverage and brochures mailed to nearby neighbourhoods, the July and August Bike to Transit 2014 survey was conducted amongst Cycle-Transit Users using Burlington, Pickering and Toronto GO Train and TTC Subway stations, with samplings from cyclists from Oshawa to Hamilton. Cycle-Transit Users were asked to go online to fill out the survey. Here are some of the key findings:

Survey Highlights:

  • The number of people cycling to GTA transit stations has almost doubled each year, over the past three years. With 46% reporting 2014 as their 1st year77% starting biking to transit in their 1st to 5th year.
  • 70% of cyclists surveyed bicycle 1 to 3 kilometres to get to and from transit. 91% bike 5 kilometres or less.
  • 62% listed saving money as the reason they bike to transit.  59% also said it’s very convenient. 56% answered one reason they do it is to save time.
  • 23% want safer, sheltered bike parking to thwart bike thefts. 7% think security cameras are needed.
  • 15% of respondents believe incentives, like transit fare or pass discounts, would encourage new Cycle-Transit Users.
  • 57% surveyed listed improved driving by motorists around cyclists on their way to the station would help grow the number of local Cycle-Transit Users.
  • 49% of respondents want more bike lanes to train and subway stations.
  • Interesting to note: 42% of Cycle-Transit Users walk to transit when they’re not riding their bike. 42% go by transit. 37% use their car/truck, and only 11% carpool.

Note: Bikes accommodated on rush-hour trains is the ultimate ‘Want’ of forward-thinking survey respondents, with 11% listing bike train cars (designated bike spaces on trains and subways, or one bikes-only train car) as a viable answer to helping stem the GTA’s growing gridlock problems.

How far do you bike to/from transit each day?
20% = 1 km or less
70% = 3 kms or less
91% = 5 kms or less
7% = 5 – 10 kms
2% = 15+ kms

Note: The majority of those surveyed are not ‘serious’ cyclists per se, but self-identify primarily as ‘commuters’ who bicycle to and from their nearby home or work – to save time and money, and reduce stress.

How long have you been biking to transit?
46% = first year (2014)
31% = 2nd to 5th year
77% = 5 years or less
18% = 6-10 year veterans
5% = life-long transit users

Note: There has been a very visible and measurable increase in Cycle-Transit Users across the region over the past three cycling seasons. Parking at many stations is now at capacity, likely to be overcrowded in spots in 2015. As a viable answer to growing gridlock problems – both in our cities, and around our transit hubs – Metrolinx and its GTA partner municipalities need to focus (like The City of Burlington has) on making approaches to transit stations safer and more comfortable for cyclists, with bikelanes and bikeways, separated from motorized traffic flow.

Why do you bike to transit? (multiple answers)
62 = “to save money”
59 = “it’s so convenient”
56 = “to save time”
24 = “I don’t own a car”
20 = “transit too unreliable”
16 = “for health & fitness”
8 = “I like to bike!”
6 = “to reduce my carbon footprint”

Note: The #1 motivation of the average GTHA Cycle-Transit User is to save time/money; #2 because it is more convenient than going by car or bus; and #3 because cycling is much less stressful, more fun, and much better for your overall health.

What mode(s) of transportation do you use in the rain/snow? (multiple answers)
45 = commute by bus/subway
42 = identified walking as a viable alternative
37 = drive their own vehicle
21 = catch a lift
16 = cycle year ‘round at home.
11 = carpool in bad weather

Note: A majority of those surveyed see walking and/or the bus as their best bad weather back-up plan to biking to the train or subway. Interestingly, many Cycle-Transit Users surveyed also had a car (or truck) at home.  However, with much time and money spent promoting car-pooling as an alternative transportation – perhaps promoting local cycling to transit is now due.

What challenges do you face in your commute? (multiple answers)
57 = “must stay alert, always”
36 = “I get hot and sweaty”
27 = “parking not secure”
26 = “I had my bike stolen”
18 = “station inaccessible”
10 = “station too far”

Note: Not surprisingly – more responsible driving by motorists around cyclists, including bus drivers, is seen by those surveyed as key to helping increase the number of Cycle-Transit Users from the neighbourhoods surrounding GTA transit stations, especially transit hubs. Increases that, ironically, would ease mounting GO and TTC parking lot pressures by freeing up parking spots for motorists, and leaving a seat and more elbow room for commuters arriving by bus.


Transit Companies Can:
51% of respondents want more, easy to access bike parking at transit stations
23% = more ‘secure’ bike parking
15% = fare incentives for those who arrive by bike
11% = more bike racks, bikes on subways/trains, bike train cars
7% = parking with security cameras
2% = user pay bike parking

Municipalities Can:
49% of respondents want more bike lanes to transit stops/stations
11% = better educate/fine motorists and cyclists
5% = improve/maintain roadways
4% = clear bike lanes year round
3% = subsidize transit to promote biking
2% = allow cycling on suburban sidewalks

Motorists Can:
57% of respondents want motorists to respect cyclists, drive slower, safer and give room when passing a bicycle
5% = say motorists and cyclists must learn the rules of the road
4% = drive less
4% = pay for parking
3% = respect bike lanes
2% = not honk at cyclists (please)


Here are the average numbers of bikes parked at Burlington, Pickering and sample Toronto GO Train and TTC Subway Stations – in July and August 2014. The largest increases, and growing pressures on bike parking across the GTA – are at Mississauga’s Clarkson GO Train Station (80+ bikes parked!), Toronto’s Union & Burlington’s Appleby GO Train Stations (40+ bikes parked each!) and the Pickering GO Train Station (with some 36 bikes parked daily, north side and south!).

Burlington, ON:
Aldershot GO Train – 12 bikes parked
Burlington GO Train – 22 bikes
Appleby GO Train – 40 bikes

Pickering, ON:
Pickering GO Train – 36 bikes parked

Mississauga, ON:
Clarkson GO Train – 81 bikes parked
Bronte GO Train – 10 bikes

Toronto, ON – GO Train:
Mimico GO Train – 31 bikes parked
Long Branch GO Train – 12 bikes
Union GO Train/Bus – 40 bikes
Scarborough GO Train – 3 bikes
Rouge Hill GO Train – 20 bikes

Toronto, ON – TTC Subway:
Pape TTC Subway – 17 bikes parked
St. George TTC Subway – 13 bikes
Christie TTC Subway – 12 bikes
Bathurst TTC Subway – 27 bikes
Ossington TTC Subway – 22 bikes
Dundas West TTC Subway – 17 bikes
Runnymede TTC Subway – 13 bikes
Old Mill TTC Subway – 10 bikes
Royal York TTC Subway – 27 bikes


Donald Wiedman and the municipal partners who participated in Bike to Transit 2014 would like to sincerely thank the projects’ sponsoring companies and individual ‘crowd-funding’ supporters who helped finance the project’s promotions and survey. Local and regional media did a great job with coverage. And Cycle-Transit Users surveyed?… We couldn’t have done it without you!

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