Toronto is adding 1,850 new bicycles and 160 new stations to its existing bike-sharing network as it continues to look to new ways to help residents get around during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mayor John Tory announced the expansion during a news conference in Nathan Phillips Square on Tuesday morning, noting that the initiative will help provide more residents “with safe alternatives to get moving” in the era of COVID-19.

The expansion will see the geographic area covered by Bike Share Toronto’s network double to 200 square kilometres and will also include the creation of pilot areas in North York and Scarborough that will each feature up to eight new stations.

The total cost of the overall expansion is $11.25 million with nine million of that coming from the province as part of a previously announced commitment.

“Residents are looking for different and yet safe ways to get around the city and as we continue to respond to the pandemic and make our plans for the post-pandemic period residents want to go outside, they want to be active and they want to have those transportation alternatives. It is our job to make that happen,” Tory told reporters in making that announcement.

Bike Share Toronto charges members an annual fee and then allows them to check out bicycles for 30-minute increments from any of its stations.

While the network was largely limited to the downtown core when the city took over the service from its bankrupt owners back in 2013 it has grown considerably since then and will now cover 20 of the 25 wards in the city.

It will also feature 6,850 bikes spread across 625 stations. As recently as 2016, there were only about 1,000 bikes spread across 80 stations.

“A big part of expansion is ensuring that all corners of this city will have access to bike share,” Tory said. “It will mean that people can use the bikes to come all the way down to the core if they choose to do so or they can use it as well to get to places within their own neighbourhoods.”

The expansion of Bike Share Toronto comes as the city accelerates work on 40 kilometres of new bikes lanes as part of its wider response to COVID-19.

The city has also been closing select major arteries to vehicular traffic on the weekends in order to give pedestrians and cyclists more space.

“As the economy starts to reopen and people want to get out to their mom and pop shops and support their local businesses, active transportation is going to be a critical way to do that,” Beaches-East York Coun. Brad Bradford said during Tuesday’s press conference. “This is a 21st century approach and I think it is the perfect approach for the moment we are in right now.”