Cycling has hit new heights of popularity during the pandemic and now that social distancing will not be possible on TTC, that influx may continue into the cold weather.
A concerned transit rider named Victoria tweeted out a photo of the crowded Kingston Road bus on Tuesday asking TTC chair and city councillor Jaye Robinson how physical distancing is possible when people are standing shoulder to shoulder. The agency’s customer service account replied saying social distancing will “no longer be possible” on transit vehicles.
They followed up with the advice that, if a bus is too crowded, people should just get off and wait for the next one.
Mayor John Tory made a statement saying that the TTC’s response was “insensitive” but there isn’t much the city can do to help the issue either.
TTC officials have been warning riders since June that maintaining the minimum two meters wouldn’t always be possible on vehicles as the city was reopening and ridership was finally rebounding after the lockdown.
But this post still sparked controversy with people replying to the tweet saying the TTC and the city should be taking more responsibility to keep their passengers safe. This issue, among others that have come along with the pandemic has led to an increase in cycling within the city and the upcoming cold weather might not be as big of deterrent this year.
Perks of cycling during the pandemic
Kevin Rupasinghe of cycling advocacy group Cycle Toronto says the increase in cycling has proven a great way for people to stay mentally and physically healthy during the pandemic.
“But it’s also been a great way to get around and maintain physical distance, and leave more space for those that still need to take transit, for example, without crowding up on the buses, or on the subway.” Rupasinghe said.
Now with the socially distancing being virtually impossible on public transit the campaign manager and cycle advocate advised new riders and old ones to consider cycling during the winter. “It isn’t as crazy as it sounds” as long as the city commits to properly plowing and salting the bike lanes, he said.
The cycling boom
The increase of people cycling in the city has finally led the city to supply new infrastructure that advocates like CycleTO have been demanding for years. 40 kilometres of expansion to the city’s cycling network, which is quite the accomplishment compared to last years three new kilometres.
But Rupasinghe says there is still much more work to do and hopes for this cycling boom to continue so progress can continue.
Bike shops are another recipient of change due to the cycling boom.
Paul Hornak, owner of Toronto and Missuaga bike shop Pedalinx said that ever since the pandemic both locations doubled their sales from last year and have seen more people picking up cycling for transportation and exercise than ever before.
“More people just discovered that instead of waiting in line for he subway or driving to work and it’s [biking] good exercise, it’s healthy and relatively cheap,” Hornak said.
He’s expecting that more people will continue to cycle later into the year because it’s clear that COVID-19 isn’t going away and people are still going to have to get places safely and cycling might just be the best option.
“So many positives to having the general public on bikes.”Gordon Robb
Gordon Robb, owner of Parkdale bike shop, MetroCycleTO also reported doubling sales this summer because of the cycling boom, in fact at one point they only had one or two bikes left in the store.
On top of bike sales, Robb saw a increase in new customers coming into get repairs done on old bikes and new customers in coming in from all over the GTA, which for the small west-end shop was a big surprise.
Robb said he’s not convinced that the same level of sales and repairs will stay consistent until 2021 but, he doesn’t see the new craze for cycling dying out because “there is so many positives to having the general public on bikes.”
Cycling is like killing so many birds with one stone Robb said, “you’re getting exercise, you’re getting to your location, you’re taking cars off the road, and alleviating transportation issues.”
And now an extra plus is that you can do all of that at a safe distance, which apparently cannot be done on public transit.