Pedal power is getting a boost in York Region.
The Town of Newmarket recently unveiled new bicycle lanes along Yonge Street reaching Davis Drive, giving GO Transit customers a safe, convenient way to get to and from Newmarket GO Station.
The new bike lanes are among the finishing touches on the vivaNext Yonge Street rapidway project (operational in January 2020) and reaches the Davis Drive rapidway (2015) which has seen a 62% growth in ridership in overall YRT and Viva service since its completion.
In some areas of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, bicycle infrastructure like this can ease congestion on busy urban roadways, especially on a major intersection like this in the heart of Newmarket.
For cyclists like Jennifer Brien, it means having a more direct and safer route to her destination.
“As a cyclist I always tend to take the safest route, that usually includes trails, side streets and routes with cycling lanes,” she said . “I think the bike lanes on Yonge will also encourage others to bike to more destinations along that route.”
Brien is the Marketing and Communications Coordinator for Smart Commute Central York, a program of the Newmarket Chamber of Commerce working to encourage active and sustainable transportation at a local level. Plugged into the common sentiment of the community, Brien said the top factors that influence smarter commuting choices are time, money, and safety.
“People often carpool or take public transit because it is less stressful,” she said.
But when it comes to cycling, eventually most people recognize “it really doesn’t take much more time to cycle to than to drive,” she said. “In fact, cycling can often be quicker, depending on traffic.”
Of course active commuting, such as walking and cycling, also has the potential to reduce demand for parking at stations, leading to improved connections.
Right now, about 1 per cent of GO rail customers get to their stations by bicycle. Metrolinx wants to increase this number to 11 per cent by 2031, but help is needed from municipal partners.
As part of the ongoing effort to improve station access and support sustainable ridership growth, Metrolinx is partnering with local municipalities to build bike lanes that will keep riders within cycling distance of GO stations. For this reason, the 2.5km stretch of newly paved lanes on Yonge Street, spanning from Savage Road/Sawmill Valley Drive to Davis Drive, is located only 2km from Newmarket GO Station, and less than 1km from Newmarket GO Bus Terminal.
For Brien and likeminded would-be cyclists, developing cycling infrastructure in York Region is the key to increasing these numbers.
“People are more likely to cycle – and will do so more often – if they have a safe means of riding to their destination,” she said.
“Bike lanes connect to existing infrastructure, such as the East-West cycling route in Newmarket and side streets that connect to the Tom Taylor Trail,” she said. “They also connect you to many public transit stops such as YRT, and vivaNext stations along Yonge Street. And if your journey is too far, your bike rides the bus for free.”
While the bike lanes have a small footprint on the road, they signify a big step forward in Metrolinx’s plan to connect the region’s urban centres. Included in these plans are system-wide station access improvements that will involve expanding covered and secure bike storage solutions at GO stations.
Cyclists can check online to see if their station offers bicycle storage, and looking forward, can expect to find bike storage available at future stations currently under construction, including Bloomington GO, Unionville GO, Lincolnville GO, and Rutherford GO.
Transit projects continue to transform York Region with more connections than ever. If headed south, the Yonge Street rapidway connects with the Richmond Hill Centre Terminal, which meets up with routes in Vaughan and Markham, and the future Yonge North Subway Extension.
If headed south, the Yonge Street rapidway connects with the Newmarket GO Bus Terminal, which meets up with the Davis Drive rapidway, offering connections to the Newmarket GO Station, Southlake Regional Health Centre, and will continue to the Highway 404 Park & Ride.
Story by: Kareen Awadalla, Metrolinx Community Relations and Issues specialist – York Region and Simcoe County