Are Bike Thieves Getting a Free Ride With GO?

Inforgraphic by Taylor Moyle 

Are bike thieves getting a free ride with GO?

By Taylor Moyle

This isn’t a typical dandyhorse story.

This one’s for you bike thieves.

Your nearest GO station provides ample opportunity for bike theft. Why? Well, in large part because they don’t seem to be doing anything about the problem. This is good for bike thieves because there are hundreds of bikes locked up at GO station bike racks on any given summer day, and often decent ones as people have biked a fair distance to get there in some cases. Many of the bike parking stands have roofs over them, but not all have cameras monitoring them.

Of course, we’re reporting on this because we hope GO transit will actually do something about this issue. As more and more people combine bikes and transit with our train systems, we will need more secure bike parking as part of that growing system.

According to Metrolinx, in 2016, 171 bikes were reported stolen from GO stations. This is higher than 147 stolen bikes in 2015. And according to the Halton Police, 281 bikes were stolen in 2016 within the Halton Region. GO stations primarily run across Halton, as well as Hamilton and Mississauga, meaning the majority of bikes stolen in Halton occur at GO stations.

One of those 171 bikes stolen belonged to Sarah Goran. Her bike was stolen at the Oakville GO station this past summer.

“I went to the ticket booth and told them that I thought it was stolen. They gave me a number to call for GO transit concerns and also told me to call the police,” said Goran.

“If a bicycle is stolen from a GO station or anywhere the owner is encouraged to report the theft to police for follow up in the investigation,” said Halton Police Sergeant Barry Malciw.

Goran called the police, who admitted they didn’t have much hope in finding her bike. She also called GO transit and they said they couldn’t do much about the stolen bike. The best they could do was what Goran had already done by reporting it to police which is one of the only solutions GO Transit offers when your bike stolen at one of their stations. The police never did find her bike.

In 2016, Halton Police reported that 95 bikes were stolen in Oakville and 25 of those bikes were from the Oakville GO station. Out of those bicycles, 65 of them were either seized or found. This doesn’t mean all were found by Halton Police either. Malciw made it clear that some of those bikes could have been turned in by civilians.

According to Scott Money, a media relations specialist for Metrolinx, transit officers patrol multiple GO stations at a time and are working 24/7. There may not be one at every single GO station but instead one who is covering multiple GO stations, for example. Money also mentioned that the transit officers work with local law enforcement in order to make the areas safer.

There are over 70 GO stations in Southern Ontario and more than 2,800 surveillance cameras installed across all stations. GO did not specifically answer whether or not all 3,000 bike locking spaces have cameras watching them but they did say this:

In order to keep GO Stations safe, we have Transit Safety Officers on shift 24/7.  They conduct routine patrols at all hours. Metrolinx has CCTV cameras at all GO stations which do provide CCTV coverage of bike storage areas. Every GO station is equipped with CCTV cameras. There are more than 2,800 cameras across the system including GO Transit and UP Express.

Donald Wiedman, creator of Bikesandtransit.com said that since some of the GO stations have been renovated or reorganized the cameras may not be surveying all the bike locking stations on GO property.

When we looked at Union Station for cameras at the bike corrals it wasn’t totally clear if the cameras were pointing towards the bike locking areas. You can see for yourself from these photos below:

Bike rack at Union Station

Camera near the top left corner at the Union Station Bus Terminal 

According to Malciw the police can contact GO security in order to get camera footage, but specified that this is only if a large pattern is noticed, not for every individual stolen bike. He mentioned that if they notice a pattern they will get camera footage but did not talk about doing so for every stolen bike.

Despite GO Transit and police officers not doing much when your bike is stolen, GO is trying to prevent it from happening in some locations. Right now there are two secure bike locking facilities at both Hamilton and Burlington GO stations. These are indoor facilities that can only be accessed with a key card. Cyclists can pay $50 a year in order to lock up and have access to the facility.

According Wiedman the secure lock-up station is almost useless to bikers at the Burlington GO station. This is due to the poor location the station is in. It’s on the opposite side of the tracks where the GO station is and is far enough for bikers to not justify using it. In addition Wiedman also notes that during rush hour, the lock up station can be dangerous to get to as cyclists need to traverse the parking lot and the bike paths eventually end.

According to the GO station access plan for 2016 more of these facilities across the system are going to be added, including one at the Oakville GO station. The document also notes that other improvements will be added such as more regular bike locking stations as well as working with towns in order to get better routes for cyclists.

There is no exact timeline on when any of this will happen but GO transit labels most of them as “medium term” priority and all these changes are supposed to be completed by 2031.

The plan also accounts for increased cycling by 2031. “Currently only one per cent of our customer’s cycle to the GO station,” said Becky Upfold, manager at Smart Commute. In 2031, the company is looking at three to four per cent of GO transit users cycling to GO stations.

“We recognize we need to increase the cycling facilities in order to meet that target,” said Upfold.

Smart Commute also communicates with other cycling groups in order to provide improved cycling to GO stations.

As far as keeping your bike safe in the meantime, before the secure parking is available GO transit recommends to always lock your bike. (Well, duh!) They also recommend customising your bike with stickers or paint, that way it’s harder to sell, as well as taking off easily removable parts like lights.

Here are some more tips from dandyhorse:

Never lock your bike in the same spot, it will become a target.

Make your bike look junky. Put a bag on the seat. Make sure it doesn’t look too new, let it get a bit dirty.

Bring two locks. One U-Lock to go through one wheel and the frame and then a chain or wire lock for wrapping around the bike, through the other wheel.

When you leave your bike take a quick picture of you with it. That way if it does get stolen you can prove quickly the bike is yours.

Goran admits she should’ve splurged for a better lock for her bike. “I had locked it up with a regular chain lock, in hindsight I should have paid the extra $50 for a U-lock,” she said.

GO transit did not talk about how they want to keep what they currently have safer and less susceptible to bike thefts, instead they are choosing to add more things, like the secure bike shelters previously mentioned. In order to improve what they already have we might suggest a sign telling people near the bike locking areas that they are on camera. This could help curb the growing problem. The police could also employ some of the “bait bikes” they piloted at U of T.

Because, after a long day of working at the office, when you walk through the crowded streets to a stuffy and overpriced train you deserve a silver lining: Ride home so you won’t need to take the half hour bus ride instead of a 15-minute bike ride. You’ll get to feel the breeze on your knees as you enjoy that final 5-km-ish ride home -- that is, if your bike is still parked where you left it.

More stories from dandyhorsemagazine:

Green Line in Toronto

Coldest Day Bike Ride 2017

Bike Count on Bloor

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