Toronto-Niagara Bike Train
The Toronto-Niagara Bike Train (known in short as "The Bike Train") is an award-winning initiative in Southern Ontario allowing cyclists to travel by train on Via Rail to destinations across Ontario including Toronto, Niagara Falls, St. Catharines, and North Bay, as well as the city of Montreal in Quebec. 2009 saw a large expansion of the Bike Train Initiative, with new routes and more weekends of service.
The Bike Train initiative is independently coordinated, promoted, and ticketed service, utilizing existing Via Rail passenger trains, with an additional baggage car containing bike racks for 56 bicycles. Each passenger ticket for scheduled Bike Train departures includes both a passenger seat and a bike rack reservation.
Project founder Justin Lafontaine conceptualized the idea for the Toronto-Niagara Bike Train Initiative during a trip to the Niagara Region in April 2006. On that trip, he accompanied the Waterfront Regeneration Trust and several others from the region on their annual Lake Ontario Waterfront Trail cycle tour from Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario to Grimsby, Ontario. Impressed with the many trails, diverse landscapes, towns, cities and attractions, he was quick to begin planning another trip to the region.
When discussing the opportunities for cycle tourism with a fellow rider, Justin discovered that there was no convenient transportation option for cyclists between Toronto and the Niagara Region; the existing train service did not provide baggage capacity, and buses usually require bikes to be boxed prior to loading. This led him to Via Rail Canada and other partners to discuss the potential to introduce a Bike Train service – a concept that quickly garnered support from government contacts, tourism organizations, small businesses, media and the public.
A project proposal was subsequently developed for the Ontario Ministry of Tourism - Investment Development Office and funding for the Pilot Year of the Toronto-Niagara Bike Train Initiative was announced in January 2007.
In 2009, with the support from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation and the Ontario Ministry of Tourism the Bike Train successfully expanded to two new routes. The Ontario North route took passengers from Toronto to North Bay using the Ontario Northland's passenger rail service for a pilot weekend in August. The new Montreal - Toronto route provided daily service between Canada's two biggest cities.
- Introduce and operate passenger rail service between Toronto and the Niagara Region with bike racks on-board
- Promote cycle-tourism and cycling destinations across Ontario
- Increase inbound cycle tourists to Toronto and the Niagara Region
- Improve accessibility while reducing automobile pollution and traffic congestion
- Promote Toronto and the Niagara Region as a leading cycle tourism destinations with unsurpassed natural beauty, well-developed cycling infrastructure, diverse accommodation and dining options, and world-renowned tourist attractions
- Increase overnight stays in Toronto and the Niagara Region
- Develop the project as a future model for other regions
Partners and supporters
2009 funding partners
- Ontario Ministry of Tourism
- Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation (website)
- Ontario Trillium Foundation
- Transportation Options (website)
- Waterfront Regeneration Trust (website)
- Niagara-on-the-Lake Chamber of Commerce (website)
- Via Rail Canada (website)
- Michael Carey, Lawyer, Macdonald Sager Manis LLP Cabuna.com
- Brock University
- City of St. Catharines, Ontario
- Cycle Ontario
- Grimsby Chamber of Commerce
- Grimsby Downtown Improvement Area
- Grimsby Economic Development Committee
- I Bike T.O.
- Niagara Falls Downtown BIA
- Niagara Falls Tourism
- Niagara Freewheelers Bicycle Touring Club
- Niagara Fruit Education Centre
- Niagara Parks Commission
- Regional Municipality of Niagara
- Regional Niagara Bicycling Committee
- Ryerson University
- Toronto Coalition for Active Transportation (TCAT)
- Toronto Cyclists Union
- Tourism Toronto
- "Justin LaFontaine and the Bike Train Wins!" "i bike T.O." 1 October 2007