Just three days into this year’s Bike Month, a damp May 28th was host to Bike Summit 2009, a day-long conference on cycling policy co-hosted by the Toronto Coalition for Active Transportation (TCAT) and the Clean Air Partnership. International and local presenters covered everything from bike parking to economic and health improvements, sharing perspectives and recommendations that could greatly improve our city’s cycling potential. Spacing will revisit and follow up on some of these ideas, perspectives, and words of two-wheeled wisdom, in hopes of continuing this momentum and encouraging Toronto to actually reach some of the best practices presented at the summit.
How modal shifts occur is a big question here on the Spacing blog. If you build it, will they come? Although bike lanes have been the central focus of this debate, not much time has been given to the importance of knowing whether you will be able to find a safe parking space for your bike.
The Bicycle Parking Best Practices session made the issue of bicycle parking front and centre, investigating both the kinds of bike parking needed and ways of getting them used more. With over one third of the spots in the new Bicycle Station at Union Station already sold after only one month and many of Toronto’s scaffolding sights, hand-rails and fences overflowing with bikes, the city is ripe for more bike parking initiatives.
For better or for worse, the City released a do-it-yourself bicycle parking handbook in May, similar to New York’s Street Design Manuel (yes, another New York comparison) in order to empower private citizens to order and install bike parking. Whether the guide is meant to allow individuals to beat civil servants to the punch (striking outdoor workers?) or simply to help lighten their load by putting civic-minded citizens to work, it’s hard to say. Whatever the purpose, it does open up some new and exciting possibilities.
Two resources for both long-term and short-term bike parking, see bikestation.com and bicyclesolutions.com, whose products generally fit within the parameters given in the City handbook. The handbook also provides the types of materials and finishing needed for good parking, likely in the hopes that residents might take inspiration from the Parkdale and ROM bike sculptures.
Presenters at the summit also outlined policy tweaks for company managers and apartment owners that would encourage good bike parking utilization. They included:
1. ‘parking cash out’ – in buildings where tenants, employees or other users are offered subsidized parking, cyclists could be given the cash they otherwise would have saved by parking their car or other forms of travel allowances that could be used for buying biking gear
2. ‘business travel reimbursements’ – for employers who reimburse automobile mileage for business trips, they could also reimburse bicycle mileage when cycling is close to, if not just, as fast as driving
3. ‘reward incentives’ – end of year gift certificates for bike shops
4. ‘cycling events’ – bicycle-themed functions, charity rides or races
While the presenters didn’t emphasize transforming individual car-parking spaces into ones outfitted with bike racks, they did go into the importance of documenting public responses to new bicycle parking. By keeping track of the number of bikes, the frequency of use, what users think and what local business owners think, private initiatives can become ‘pilot projects’ for future city-wide policies and infrastructure.
I can think of a whole number of places in desperate need of bicycle parking and I’m sure I’m not alone. Improving bicycle parking is a relatively easy way individuals can help to encourage the modal shift currently taking place in Toronto.
To order a new Post and Ring stand is free.
Photo by Lex in the City