A few weekends ago, after finishing the Ride For Heart, Jen and I caught a GO Train from exhibition station out to Ajax for the first Sunday of the GO By Bike initiative. Yes, bringing bikes on GO trains isn't really a new idea, but the purpose of GO By Bike is to help promote the idea to people.
Taking bikes on the GO Train is a great way to quickly get out of the city to enjoy some new scenery for a day ride, or to get a jump on suburban sprawl when starting a bike tour (the rush hour restrictions for bringing bikes on board GO Trains limits their usefulness for multi-modal bike commuting, but that's a whole other story...). We have used the train many times to go on weekend tours of the Oshawa to Port Hope area, Bronte Creek Provincial Park, visiting family in Hamilton, and more.
The GO By Bike program is what lead me to get out at the Ajax GO station for the first time. To be honest, I didn't think there was much reason for me to ever get out there. However, Donald Wiedman, the instigator of this project has worked hard to map out and mark an interesting and safe route from the Ajax GO station, down to the lake along Duffin's Creek, and all the way back to Toronto along the Waterfront Trail. When we got off the train, Donald welcomed us along with another rider to Ajax, gave us some free maps of the area, made some route suggestions and ideas for places to stop, and pointed us in the right direction.
Leaving the Ajax GO station, we pretty much immediately ended up on a part of the Trans Canada Trail along Duffin's Creek. Apart from one major road crossing just outside the station, it was a very pleasant ride through the woods down to the lake. Quiet, nice views of the creek and marshes, and plenty of shade.
The Duffin's Creek trail brings you down to Ajax Rotary Park. Suddenly, things get a bit busy here, especially with all the kids around. It's a great spot to stop for a break, especially if you need a bathroom or some ice cream. If you decide to ride east from here, the trail takes you along the top of some waterfront cliffs, so you'll experience a great view of Lake Ontario.
We continued west, riding back towards Toronto along the Waterfront Trail, over the Duffin's Creek marshes. The entire ride back to Toronto across Ajax and Pickering is along the Waterfront Trail, and a few quiet residential streets. It's definitely family-friendly. Plenty of sights to see along the way: Lake views, various waterfront parks, the Pickering Nuclear station and wind turbine (more fun on windy days!), bridges, more creeks, etc. The route is easy to follow, just pay attention to the Waterfront Trail signs when riding on the on-road sections.
The park at the mouth of the Rouge River was the final highlight of this ride, before arriving at the Rouge Hill GO station. The staircase pathway down to the bridge from the Pickering side is a bit of a pain to navigate with a bike (I've done it several times with loaded touring bikes), but the reward is a nice view of the river and marshes. Fortunately, the Toronto side of the bridge has a new ramp to make cyclists/stroller/wheelchair access much easier.
We didn't spend much time in the park on this trip, but it's a cool place to hang out at while waiting for the next GO train. Nice beach, a new boardwalk, people fishing, etc.
We got back on the GO train at Rouge Hill station to take us back to Toronto. Maybe next time we'll continue further west, as Donald suggested, and take the Highland Creek trail to Guildwood GO station. That's another 15km of car-free trail riding that I look forward to.
So, if you've already explored all there is to see in the city and need a change of pace, consider taking a weekend GO train to a new destination. The rides suggested by GO By Bike are a great starting point. GO By Bike runs every Sunday this summer until August 17th.
There are some more photos from our ride over at my website.
Lastly, while you're at the Ajax GO station, make sure you check out their new covered bike parking area. It's part of GO's strategy to try to bring more people to the stations by bicycle. I love the way they worked the GO logo into the bicycle on the roof.
All photos by me, except for the bike parking shelter, which was sent by GO Transit. Full disclosure: My lovely riding partner and fiancee is a GO Transit employee who worked on GO's end of some of these bike projects.