An article in the May 2 edition of the Toronto Sun claimed that bike racks on TTC buses are “rarely used.”

If that’s the case, the article failed to answer the critical question: Why aren’t they being used? posed that question to a couple of Toronto area listservs and received the following responses. If you would like to add your thoughts, please do so in the comments section at the bottom of the page.


I’ve used the bike racks on buses a handful of times, mostly when my bike breaks down mid-route and I need to get to my destination.  The first time I tried to use one, about a year ago, the TTC driver said he wasn’t trained to drive with it down yet, so I had to bring my bike into the bus.One limitation is that we can’t bring a bike onto a GO Train or subway during peak hours.  Perhaps there can be designated areas on board to accommodate bikes?

Shawn Smith

Maple, Ontario

One possible reason — the buses with bike racks can only be used on some runs, and these runs tend to be maybe less oriented towards bike travel. Sidewalks aren’t used that much in suburbs.

Hamish Wilson

The Sun article was a little misleading… the racks are being used (sure, not all the time, but they are being used).  The article even mentions TTC counts in 2005 and 2009 which showed a 205% increase in rack use.

Joseph Travers

Personally I think that the racks on buses are fantastic and I see them being used all the time.  They are especially handy when you are with a friend and one of you have a bike and the other does not.  It is also good when you are having bike problems and you need to get your bike to the store.  The integration of bike infrastructure into the overall transportation option of the city is important if we are going to continue to move away from single occupancy and towards a more sustainable transportation policy.

Derek Chadbourne, Ward 19 candidate,

The racks may not be being used to their full potential because those of us who are brave enough to bike out of the downtown core are usually skilled and equipped enough to ‘go all the way’.

If we had a truly complete transit system and bikes were an honest-to-goodness priority within that system, the racks would be system-wide and the education campaign would have been a lot more than a couple of pressers with Giambrone. Why aren’t there ever any demos with the bus racks anywhere? I remember seeing a bus at the Bike Show (in March) two or three years ago, but there was no bike to demo it with! I’ve never seen them demo-ed at any other bike event. Most people would need to try them first when they aren’t in a high-pressure situation with 40 people waiting on them.

Mostly though, I think it is VERY important to acknowledge that we do NOT yet have secure, accessible bicycle parking  at our TTC stations. This makes it impossible to have a streamlined trip with bike and transit together, which in turn makes it unappealing (and even unsafe) for people to combine modes.

For me, the bike I have that I would be able to lift up onto the rack is one I would NEVER leave unattended for any length of time like that – especially at more remote transit stations where there is lots of pedestrian traffic at the station, yet very few “eyes on the street”.

Finally, I have to point out that I think the article said there were about 20 used per day per route – so I don’t think that should be classified as “rarely”. What is the bench mark? The program hasn’t been “fully” running for very long – it was a pilot project for some time.

Twenty per day, PER ROUTE seems like quite a good start to me! AND 531 per week – again, without ANY real education campaign around it or user tutorials available anywhere – works out to almost 30,000 per year. To my mind that is a FANTASTIC start and demonstrates demand.

OH and this is my suggestion for the next step in Toronto’s education campaign for bike racks. Let’s copy this AMAZINGLY AWESOME video and would love to see this happen in Toronto:  or here at the official site:

AWESOME!!! The only thing wrong with this video is that it’s too short. If Louisville Kentucky can get into bike racks on buses what the *&%^# is wrong with Toronto?

OH and bike racks on buses are a hell of a lot more useful than a bunch of loud mouth politician wannabees with NO CHANCE at becoming mayor making BULLSHIT promises about subways that will never materialize.

Ride safe my friends!

Tammy Thorne

Editor -in-chief of dandyhorse magazine, Toronto on two wheels

It’s a subjective assessment. Are the sidewalks in the suburbs “rarely

used”? Should we get rid of them if they’re only used during rush

One needs to compare the recent data on bike rack use with historical
data – it’s been clearly increasing year by year as more racks are
installed – as well as compare to other cities with bike racks. I
believe that cities such as Vancouver or Ottawa also have bike racks
on buses and will also not see the racks used *every* bus and *all*
the time.

The price tag for the bike racks is tiny, tiny compared to the overall
budget of the TTC. Why don’t they find something that actually is a
colossal waste of money such as ever-expanding highways, gas
consumption and economically-inefficient private automobiles?

Herb van den Dool

Five years ago the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) started a program of outfitting buses with bicycle racks on the front, spending a little over $2 million on the project (plus added fuel costs for the additional weight of the apparatus).

Today its now a question of whether it was worth it or just a waste in an effort for the TTC in its goal of becoming more bicycle friendly. Toronto has over 2.5 millions bicycles after all and approx. 5% of Torontonians commute to work and college/university, to say nothing of the % that just enjoy a long ride out to the Scarborough Bluffs or the Humber Bay Arch Bridge. In theory it was a wise investment.

However the percentage of riders who actually use the bike racks is apparently nil. Most cyclists prefer to cycle back home rather than rely on the TTC buses… or if they do take the TTC, I usually see them taking the subway or street cars.

I must admit I don’t even know how to USE the bike rack on the front of a TTC bus. I’ve never used it and therefore have never tried.

The TTC claims rack usage is growing, but admits the numbers are still pretty small.

When the pilot program was first started in 2005 4 customers per 10,000 customers used the bicycle racks. That is 0.04%. Not even close to 1%.

Since then usage has apparently gone up says the TTC, but exact numbers are unknown despite installing the racks on 1,660 buses.

I admit I rarely see the bike racks being used, but I HAVE seen them in use even though I wasn’t paying attention and deliberately looking for them. It was completely by accident whenever I did notice. Its difficult for me to estimate just how popular their usage is.

According to the TTC usage of the bike racks during the Summer 2009 have gone up 305% since Summer 2006. Slightly more than tripled. So instead of 4 riders per 10,000 its about 12. That is still only 0.12% of users.

Mind you not all buses even have a bike rack. These statistics are skewed by the fact all of the TTC’s old GM buses still don’t have bicycle racks on them.

There’s another factor too… if only 5% of Torontonians regularly commute by bicycle then that means the 0.12% of TTC customers who use bike racks during the summer… then the approx. number of cyclists who use the bike racks during the summer is about 2.4%. That sounds about right.

Which means it probably is a complete waste of money, considering that the other 9 months the statistics will be pretty damn low and even during summer months the statistics remain reasonably low because so few cyclists bother to take the TTC on the way to and fro.

TTC operators are also keen to point its not bicycles that slow down buses… its a combination of bus delays, vehicle bunching, overcrowding, traffic and the dreaded baby strollers. Bicycles INSIDE the bus instead of on the bike rack aren’t really a problem for drivers.

“The stroller issue has really become a problem,” says TTC operator Paul Flynn. “There are definitely things that delay us for longer than bicycle racks.”

Many people still don’t know the racks are there or how to use them, says Flynn (and he’s right, I have yet to use one). Stopping a bus, coming out and showing riders how to place their bike on the rack doesn’t cause much of a delay, he added.

But those damn baby strollers on the other hand…

(I’d like to take a moment and point out that a lot of parents are putting their kids in baby strollers even by ages of 4 to 7. I know because I’ve seen it. That’s overdoing it quite a bit. Sure, its easier to control the kid so they’re not getting into trouble… but I’d argue these parents would be better off disciplining their children with either an ear tug or the occasional light spanking. Pampering your kids and refusing to spank them causes more problems in the long run. As a 5 year old I remember living in fear of my father’s spankings and the rule of thumb from my experience was to spank the child until they wept. No blood, no serious bruising, no permanent damage. Just a sore bum and some tears to remember why you shouldn’t play with matches. Parents could exercise a bit more common sense when their children are old enough to walk themselves to kindergarden.)

“The original pilot was only on a limited set of buses and their use has grown dramatically over the last few years,” says TTC chair Adam Giambrone. “Alternative forms of transportation like cycling, walking and transit are well served when they are integrated.”

“It depends on the time of day, the point is they are there,” says Toronto Cyclists Union executive director Yvonne Bambrick who believes the racks are important. “They help people get around; they help people use their bike as part of their daily commute.”

And the racks are there in the event of an emergency, like a broken bicycle that needs to be dragged back home or to the repair shop.

It also gives cyclists another option since bicycles aren’t allowed on the subway during rush hours… and the ability to visit distant places around the GTA, bring your bicycle along and then either bicycle home or carry it home on a bike rack.

Like bicycle lanes, the racks are an important step in incorporating bikes into the transportation network, says Bambrick.

My opinion however can be best summed in the following questions: Is it such a pain to just lift and carry your bicycle on to the bus? Or is it not the cyclists the TTC was really worried about… was the bike racks there to keep the other riders happy? Because if its a matter of keeping the other TTC users happy by not having a bicycle on the bus and taking up important space then I’d say the rack is well worth it.

Charles Moffat

The Bicycle Mechanic

Sure they rolled out bus racks, but where?

I’m a year-round cyclist and bike mechanic instructor.

My training classroom was at a non-profit near Weston Rd. and Eglinton.

In the dead of winter I was not above hitching a ride on a bus to go north especially if I was carrying a lot of tools and books on my bike.

The problems were:

1. in rush hour you could NOT get on the subway system to get to a bus line going north. You cannot even go on the subway which is going in the OPPOSITE direction to regular rush hour traffic. In the U.S., subway cars have a section at the rear of the train without any seats where cyclists can go.

2. When I rode my bike to the Keele subway I could still not get into the station to wait for a bus. I had to ride to a stop north of the station.

3. All the buses did not get bus racks on any one bus route at the same time. I could wait for three buses until one showed up with a rack.

4. then, when I was going to locations further from downtown, when visiting bike shops, I discovered there were buses with racks in Etobicoke, where there were hardly any cyclists at all. I rode from the Islington subway station to well north of the 401 once and I was the only cyclist on the road but buses were zipping by – all with racks. Who decided to put these racks on Islington Ave?

5. I imagine that many who need to suddenly put their bike on transit would be having a mechanical failure. Well, you can’t get home if you don’t have a rack on streetcars, or if there’s no simple way to get into a subway station, or as I said above you aren’t allowed on in rush hour.  How would a senior citizen get her bike, loaded with groceries, into most subway stations?

So, the main problem is the lack of connectivity. Many riders, just beginning to ride around the city MIGHT use the system to shorten their rides, but actually figuring out how to do so is a logistical problem.

Ask a new cyclist. Try to get them to figure out how to go a very long distance, while taking a short cut with transit. They probably won’t know how, or when it is possible.

One bus driver told me his union members were afraid to have cyclists use the racks. Apparently one rack fell off a bus in the early roll-out and the driver was charged by police with “carrying an unsafe load”. You’d have to verify this with the TTC or with the Union. I told him to tell his fellow drivers the racks worked very well and my bike was always secure.

The lack of transit connections with racks between subway, streetcar and bus is the biggest problem To explain it to a car driver you’d have to say “How could you have a piece of highway with no on ramp and no off ramp”, or something like that.

Currently the City is proposing bike lanes on University Ave. Again, there is no logic to this. In ANY road system the slower traffic stays on the side near the curb. Here they plan to put bikes in what used to be the high speed lane. Let’s say a cyclist gets to Queen St, and the light is green. How will she make a right turn across the lanes of car traffic? She’ll also be blocking other bikes while she’s waiting. When the light turns red pedestrians rush across because the lights don’t stay green long enough for a pedestrian to cross University in a leisurely fashion. How does our bike rider make a right turn across all the pedestrian traffic?  You can see the whole plan is ridiculous. Oh, and think about trying to turn left. It will be impossible.

Similarly there’s a study they hope to do on College with a new road marking system. They won’t say what it is exactly.  But the study starts at Manning where College gets narrow, and only goes to Lansdowne. If you’re riding west why would you stop at Lansdowne? The study should go all the way to Roncesvalles, or better yet, to Dundas W. subway and to High Park itself.

What kind of bike route will stop suddenly before it gets to anywhere real?

Forget this City.

They’re all hopeless when it comes to bike planning.

It’s not a “war on the car” it never has been. That’s just a cute phrase dreamed up by the right wing to stop anyone taking away any of their ridiculous car privileges.

Have you ever tried to get simple parking enforcement done in your neighbourhood?  Have you ever seen how many folks have handicapped parking signs on their dashboard – yet there’s no one who’s handicapped ever in their car? That’s one of the biggest scams in Little Italy. All these cool guys in long hair and leather jackets going to expensive restaurants in ridiculous sports cars park anywhere they want because they’ve somehow figured out a scam to get a handicapped sticker. The parking guys won’t touch them because they would have to A) wait till the driver returned to their car,  B) check the files to see if someone in their family is actually handicapped. But if the paperwork at City Hall says someone is handicapped who’s going to go to the trouble find out that they lied on the application? As I said, it’s one of the biggest scams around. These guys never get a parking ticket.

Smokey Dymny 

John Bonnar

John Bonnar is an independent journalist producing print, photo, video and audio stories about social justice issues in and around Toronto.