Reaching the Summit: Bicycle parking

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

12 comments

  1. Here’s my suggestion – many of the entry areas and mezzanines of TTC subway stations have large open spaces. Many of these are unsuitable for retail as they have no power/water access. Hang some vertical racks so that in winter/inclement weather cyclists can bring their bikes indoors. Bonus if they are covered by the TTC cctv cameras.

    Even if it was five or six bikes per station that adds up to quite a few.

  2. Errrr…. only a third of the spots have been taken???? I think that means we probably aren’t as much of a biking city as we’ve been lead to believe… or that there needs to be a bigger marketing stint put on this bike storage area… otherwise it has been setup to fail

  3. That’s a great idea Mark, hope to see it a reality one day. In conjunction with that, there should be narrow push-ramps beside the staircases so that cyclists can push their bikes up and down the exit.

  4. kam has a point.

    if you can’t take a bike on the ttc or go trains during rush hour, is it really a surprise that bike lockers at union station aren’t being used much?

    imagine what might have happened if those same bike storage units had been installed on university campuses, or at queen and spadina, or on various underused plazas at king & bay…

  5. There can be many reasons that the bike storage area is not sold out. I used to park a bike at Union station. I only got bikes from garage sale to park there, thus I would not feel too bad when it was gone (which did happen a few times over 5 years). With that kind of bike (or even a new Supercycle from Canadian Tier), it probably does not make too much sense to pay for the parking in the storage area. But the storage area might encourage people to start use nicer bikes because they will have a secure place to park. So the usage might ramp up gradually.

  6. Usage will increase gradually, because many have not yet realized how liberating secure bicycle storage can be.

  7. I work at 388 Carlaw Ave. along with over sixty other people, many of whom ride bikes. There isn’t a single post and ring around. Should be a whole line of them there. I’ve put in a phone request and will send in a fax as well. I did receive a call back saying there is a backlog of requests but that the city will try and get them all complete by the end of the summer. I don’t know how big the backlog is, but it sounds at least like there’s more community involvement. Let’s keep the pressure up!

  8. The real solution to bike parking and the amount of bike theft in Toronto is Montreal’s Bixi. Think about it: if you can ride a bike free for 30 min. and return it to any other Bixi stand, that means you don’t need to carry a lock, or worry about your own bike being stolen. Save your own good bike for longer rides.

    I am a member of Autoshare, which Bixi is something like, and love it. When I am not driving, I’m not paying, never paying for maintainance; one less thing for me to worry about.

    Now that a score of other cities are further ahead on bike and pedestrian infrastructure than Toronto, maybe critical mass has been reached for the next year to be better. Just like the Leafs, eh? Next year…

  9. My first reaction was to the idea of paid bike parking was huh?! I mean, Union Station is central and all, but I’d have to work pretty close to it in order to pay for parking my bike there; otherwise, I’d hunt for a free spot that’s more convenient, too. And if I were already using transit, I doubt I’d pay to keep a bike in Union Station that I could hop on to ride the rest of the way to work; I’d probably just catch the TTC.

    Another solution would to do what Montreal does: put in bike parking by removing parking spaces in the summer. So on the corner of my street, I now have 3 fewer parking spots, but 11 new bixi bikes and 4 bike racks with space for oh, 12 or so bikes. Let’s see: 3 cars vs. 23 bikes, sounds like a good exchange to me.

    And bixi means fewer people riding their own bikes and needing places to parking. Since it was installed here, I’ve noticed an explosion of bike riding all over downtown, le Village, le Plateau… everyone’s on a Bixi, it seems, and the beauty of the program is having so many stations, so you can get quite close to where you’re going. Yesterday, I was in Verdun and instead of coming home by métro, I took the bus. It would have dropped me downtown, except that at the first sight of a Bixi station, I hopped off and bixied the rest of the way home through beautiful Old Montreal. It was very nice breaking up the trip like that — an ordinary trip home became a sight-seeing tour :)

    Of course, there are many people that Bixi doesn’t help — those outside the neighbourhoods served, those who prefer their own bikes, those without a credit card (although you can “co-subscribe” with a member). And I also suspect that it hasn’t made a big dent in car use — I imagine most of the users would otherwise have walked or take transit. But still, it’s being used and I can’t tell you how many people ask you about it when you’re picking up or putting away your bike. It’s a real conversation starter :)

  10. There is no bike parking in my Scarborough neighbourhood. Nothing. Nada. No rings, no bike racks, and often no solid sign posts to chain a bike too. None of the cheap and greedy plaza owners provide anything solid to lock a bike to. This includes the plaza where my councillor has his constutuency office.

    There ought to be a law…

  11. Paid bike parking, not such a bad idea if it’s done right.

    1) You can rent by the hour or day, similar to pulling into a car parking area.

    2) Secure storage.

    3) Dry storage.

    This is easy to implement, go to a machine and get a card, card opens locker, put bike in locker, take card with you, When you come back, put card into machine and pay parking fee, then use card to open locker door. Probably best for in parking garages, where the system can be implemented in a similar manner.

  12. Tristou,

    if you take GO train, and work a moderate distance from Union station, park a bike at Union actually makes a lot of sense. That was what I used to do. If you do this on regular basis, the price tag for the paid parking is cheaper than TTC, and cycling is certainly much faster than TTC.

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