Cyclists in Britain may bemoan the lack of provision given over on trains to enable them to take their bikes with them on their journeys, but for some of their counterparts in Canada that isn’t a problem, with news of the expansion of the Bike Train network in Ontario.
Throughout the spring, summer and autumn, the Bike Train initiative allows cyclists to get away for a weekend with their bicycles on selected services, which travel in a dedicated luggage car equipped with bike racks, to recreational trails and road routes throughout the province.
Train staff give information on the routes at the destination and also hand out free maps, while the journey also gives the opportunity to meet like-minded souls.
The award-winning initiative, which also has the effect of boosting tourism in the destination areas, was the brainchild of Toronto cyclist Justin Lafontaine, who came up with the idea on a trip to the Niagara region in 2006, when he discovered that unless you boxed your bike up and took it on the bus, there was no convenient public transport option for cyclists wishing to access the area.
Bike Train is operated by a not-for-profit organisation called Transportation Options using existing VIA Rail services, adding a baggage car that can take 56 bikes, and first launched on the Toronto-Niagara route in 2007.
Since then other services have been added in the region, including North Bay, the St. Lawrence Seaway and Windsor/Essex County, with three new routes announced this month.
With Eurostar already operating a ski train to the Alps between November and April each year, could there be an opportunity for a similar service, albeit occasional, dedicated to cyclists?
Next year’s Etape du Tour looks likely to take place in the Alps - the rumoured finish is at Alpe d'Huez - and many other cyclists from the UK are likely to want to watch the Tour in the mountains and do a bit of riding without necessarily taking part in the Etape, so we reckon there would be a decent level of demand for it.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.