As many of us cyclists know, getting around via public transit can be somewhat problematic, especially when travelling long distances. Most larger city centres now have some sort of infrastructure to assist with bike transit within their own perimeters, but what if you want to travel between two different cities with your bike.
I am a year round cyclist and gave up my car many years back, as I didn't see the necessity of having one living in a city such as Toronto. There are times when I might opt to take the TTC, and upon doing so I have the option of taking my bike with me for the most part. All buses are equipped with bike racks that can be used any time during operating hours, subject to availability. Bikes are also allowed on streetcars and subways during off-peak morning and evening hours. There are also connections to other nearby public transit systems, such as Mississauga, Brampton, Durham Region, and York Region, as well as GO Transit and VIA Rail.
I still have my driver's license and I sometimes will rent when going away for a weekend, and there are the options of ZipCar and AutoShare for shorter inner-city needs. Here in Toronto we are lucky to have a couple of entrepreneurial initiatives, such as the Bike Train, and Parkbus that allows cyclists to travel with their bikes to selected locations on specific dates. However, if you want to explore beyond their offerings, that's when things get a bit more complicated to coordinate.
The GO Transit system is quick extensive and allows bikes on all of their trains and buses at no additional cost, although in limited capacity on a first-come basis. Via Rail allows bicycles on any of their trains that have a luggage car for an additional $25.00 per segment system wide. Each luggage car is equipped with bike racks, meaning no disassembling required. The only restriction is scheduling, as luggage cars are not on every departure time to all destinations, so flexibility is a must.
Unfortunately Canada's rail system doesn't have the network it use to have in the heyday before automobiles were introduced, so routes are somewhat limited to major centres close to the United States border, and some of the smaller cities along that route. That leaves the one other option of buses, namely Greyhound, Coach Canada, and Megabus. Greyhound and Megabus have never allowed buses on board, whereas Coach Canada did as long as bikes were fully covered in a bike bag. However, this has all changed now that Megabus has taken over Coach Canada and all their routes, introducing the double-decker Megabuses to replace the regular one level coaches. This means less luggage space below, therefore no bikes allowed.
I have received the following information from a Coach Canada Customer Care Manager with regard to their policy change. "I have checked with the people who are changing things over from Coach Canada to Mega and I have found out all of our routes will be Megabus by the end of September. With that being said, Mega will not allow any bikes on any of the routes it travels. I do understand that this will not help some customers as bikes are a way of transportation around towns and it is hard to get there when you need to take public transportation."
So while cycling as a form of transportation is on the rise, infrastructure for cyclists is being implemented everywhere from coast-to-coast, and cycle tourism is becoming a buzz word, there remains the struggle to connect the dots between the various regions of our country. Ideally, those with a preference for cycling over automobiles should not have to utilize a vehicle to travel for business or pleasure.
I strongly encourage all cyclists, and cycling supporters, to email your concerns to our major bus companies letting them know we want the opportunity to travel with our bikes. I've included the email and phone contacts below and hope that by receiving enough supportive requests they will consider allowing bikes on all of their buses.
Greyhound - online form - http://www.greyhound.ca/en/CustomerAssistanceRequest.aspx
Phone / Email - 1-800-661-TRIP (8747) Canada.email@example.com
Megabus - Phone / Email - 866-488-4452 firstname.lastname@example.org
Coach Canada - Phone / Email - 800-461-7661 email@example.com