Bike parking takes over car parking spaces


Toronto bike riders can celebrate a “first” today: the City has converted two car parking spots into parking for a minimum of 16 bikes.

Here is a little background on how it happened.

Last year after I returned from a month-long trip to Scandinavia — where I witnessed a variety of amazing bike infrastructure projects —  I was determined to see if any of them could be implemented here in Toronto. One of the easiest things, I figured, was the conversion of a few car parking spots into bike parking. Montreal had done it a few years back and I saw other examples in cities like Vancouver, New York and Portland.

A year ago, there were six ring-and-post bike racks in front of Spacing’s office on Spadina that could hold up to 12 bikes, yet a survey conducted by our landlord, the Centre For Social Innovation, determined that 75% of tenants rode their bike to our building in the summer. That meant there was a demand for 150 bike parking spots near our building. While the landlord provided bike parking in our building for about 30 bikes, there was still a significant shortage of spots available on the sidewalk for a few blocks. Cyclists were parking to stop signs, support wires for light poles, the pipes of water mains, the scaffolding attached to our building for much of the summer, and any other thing you could fit a lock through.

I contacted Yvonne Bambrick at the Toronto Cyclists Union (a fellow tenant) and the City bike infrastructure folks and invited them to the building to survey the lack of bike parking. We discussed a variety of options and determined that our spot on Spadina was the perfect place to convert a few car parking spots into bike parking. I contacted the businesses in our building and next door (luckily, it was fully of urban planners, designers and architects) who wrote letters of support. Councillor Adam Vaughan and his staff loved the idea and went to bat for us and kept us in the loop on any developments.

This spring the City installed more ring-and-post racks that tripled the bike parking capacity. On the first day after the racks were installed I showed up at 10am only to find that every spot had already been taken. And then today, I showed up to work to find the City’s manager of bike infrastructure, Daniel Egan, surveying the just-completed conversion from car parking to bike parking. Two long, metal racks that hold 16 bikes in total (and can handle another 16 if cyclists are that desperate for a spot) are now bolted to the ground. Within an hour, all 16 spots had been filled up.

There were some hiccups along the way: the City labour strike last summer delayed any planning or consultation until the fall; some staff in the transportation department were convinced a parking bylaw would have to be changed; signs indicating that the area was now bike parking had to be made and installation would have to wait until those signs were made; temporary bollards (the white poles with red reflectors shown in the above photo) had to purchased and installed so that in winter months the bike racks can be removed for snow clearance.

After 15 months of researching how other cities convert parking spaces, numerous phone calls to Councillor Vaughan’s staff asking them to nag the City’s bike staff, and providing regular feedback to the City’s bike division, Toronto finally has on-street parking for bikes.

From my perspective, this should be the first of many parking conversions. Where else in Toronto is there such a demand for bike parking? Let us know in the comment section.


  1. The south side of Front Street near St. Lawrence Market would be nice. There is always limited bike parking there and I think the City should be encouraging more and more people to bike there, especially considering what a destination it is on weekends.

  2. Fantastic idea. They could really use this at the south entrance of Eaton Centre, the post-and-rings are often full, as are the “do not lock your bike here” tree cages.

  3. Hey Matthew,

    This is something that’s becoming more and more regular up here in Montreal, although they don’t supply nearly enough spots per parking space. Thankfully, that doesn’t appear to be a problem in the Toronto version.

    Now all we need is to transplant some of the segregated bike lanes from Montreal and Toronto would be living the cycling dream. I hope it happens soon. When I move back to TO next year, I will miss those Montreal bike lanes…

  4. According to the Toronto Cyclists Union blog post about this bike parking it is said to be a pilot project. Any insights into how this will be judged a “success” or “failure?”

    Good on you and everyone involved. 15 months to get an additional 16 spots for bikes… yikes.

  5. Excellent!
    Nassau Street between Bellevue and Augusta could really use this – the sidewalk is almost impassable due to the number of bikes trying to park.

  6. Congratulations, Matthew! It’s great to hear a success story!

  7. My office building could certainly do with converting a few parking spots to bike parking. The city can’t do anything about this (since it’s underground private parking), but just to further illustrate the need, our parking garage has about 30 spots for cars – most of which are unused throughout the day – and spots for about 30 bikes – all of which are used, and this isn’t counting the bikes that are chained up to anything other available immovable object! …and that’s not counting all the bikes that are simply left in the garage (wheel chained to frame) because there is simply nowhere else to lock them up.

    …fortunately we’re a safe, self-contained building!

  8. Seconding Kensington and St. Lawrence.

    The last time my bike was flattened after being parked too close to the street was at Grace & Harbord, next to the (perpetually bike-clogged) Linuxcaffé.

  9. I’m sure many of the downtown gym/fitness centre locations would be sold on this idea. Some locations could really use it like the Extreme Fitness on Danforth @ Pape, for example.

  10. It would be inspiring to see many of these around at least downtown. But we in Toronto have a way of adopting urban planning innovations in to only a limited extent like scrambles.

  11. I’d love to have bike parking out in the suburbs. I don’t need a car spot, I just need something solid. There is nothing solid at most grocery store parking lots. Even the liquor store (provincially owned!) has nothing to lock a bike to. The plaza where my city council has his office has almost no solid poles or bike racks.

    Some bike rings… a solid post…. anything….. ….please?

  12. Most subway stations could use more bike parking spots. People may want ride to their nearest subway station instead of waiting for the bus/streetcar. I do this often, especially in winter or on rainy days.

  13. Every subway station, and I mean EVERY subway station, should have more than the token bicycle posts/slots/or whatever you which to call them. The bicycle parking should also be as close to the entrance as possible, but also at exits as well. That means the Donlands and Greenwood new exits should also have bicycle slots as well.

  14. The entire stretch of Bloor Street from Parliament over University/Avenue and beyond … particularly Church to University.

    Great article. Good work.

  15. Matthew,

    Congratulations on a small but symbolic victory for cyclist parking outside the CSI! I noted them with pleasure & enjoyed using one of the CSI’s extra cycle rings for the Toronto Cyclist Union’s* AGM last month.

    Bike parking often gets overlooked with the higher visibility battle and polarization over bike lanes, but is equally important. What’s the point of having a bike lane network if there is no secure place to park and lock a bike at your destination in Toronto—North America’s bike theft capital!

    I agree Kensington Market, as noted in above comments is one of the worst examples of a dire lack of adequate bicycle parking in Toronto, ironic given people love cycling there in the protected bike lanes that border it along both College & Spadina.

    As a student I was amazed after taking the “GO” train an hour outside Tokyo to arrive at a Milton–like new suburb to find the “parking lot” a square block filled with 5,000 bikes which the residents used, rain or shine to access the train station—there was NO car parking!

    Around Toronto there is terribly inadequate bike parking around each TTC Subway/RT station & bus stops; GO stations, City Hall, Metro Hall & outer civic centres, all community centres, public libraries; malls like Yorkdale & Eaton Centre; CNE, MTCC*, St. Lawrence Market, Rogers Centre, Air Canada Centre, virtually all grocery stores: particularly Loblaws & Metro, big box stores like Loews, Home Depot, RONA, CostCo, WalMart… it goes on and on with nominal or non-existent bike parking but scads of car parking. I know as I’ve cycled to all of them!

    Bike parking needs to be installed  in sufficient numbers so people in tandem with a complete network of connected bike lanes can make a lifestyle commitment as we’ve seen in Copenhagen, Amsterdam & Tokyo. Bike parking in Toronto is so inadequate that it’s little more than a nominal afterthought, despite good intentions, with pitifully few spaces to secure a bike to.

    One solution, I’d like to see and champion is for the Toronto Parking Authority*, whose Mission is to support Toronto’s transportation strategies (ie. not just CAR parking) incorporate/commit to building significant bike parking spaces: not only greatly expanding post & rings on sidewalks, but in surface and off-street lots with many more CSI-like on-street spaces currently the sole domain of cars, so one day I can walk out of a TTC subway stop and weave my way through hundreds of parked bikes rather than a handful.

    Historically, the TPA has turned over 75% of net revenue to the City of Toronto, its sole shareholder and used the remaining 25% to fund it’s capital programs (eg. property acquisition, deck building/maintenance). There’s no reason why this capital can’t be used to also accelerate bike parking expansion to the benefit of local merchants and BIAs throughout the city, not just downtown, or those along Bloor street who support bikes lanes on Bloor, in a recent TCAT “Bells on Bloor” survey.

    The TPA revenue impact would be minor practically speaking and would enhance the viability of local BIAs and could even offset some of the revenue downside with future TTC streetcar track building & maintenance, which limits car access. If we’re truly going to be a Transit City, can we think of LRT without accompanying bike infrastructure?

    *Full disclosure: current or past Board member.


  16. There is certainly a need for more bike parking near St Lawrence Market. In 2011 the City and the BIA will be improving Front Street from Jarvis eastward. This might be an opportunity to add more bike parking between Jarvis and George? Also a great need near the George Brown campus – maybe take over a couple of parking spots on George or Frederick north of King?

  17. I saw this on the commute home yesterday. It sounds like a big success but I personally would not lock my bike there. That style of bike rack is not as secure as a traditional post and ring because it is difficult to lock both your bike frame and either your front or back wheel. A better design would be a rack that has rails come out, similar to the bike racks in front of MEC or the one behind the Kensington sign on Augusta and College. I’ve seen too many bikes and bike parts stolen because of poor bike rack design and inadequate locking.

  18. The Annex near Brunswick could fill a couple of these new spots (at least) on an average weekend.

  19. Great story and great result – thanks for all your hard work. It’s been great watching the transformation from barren sidewalk and haphazardly parked delivery vehicles to an Amsterdam-ian bike party. Kudos from your neighbours at 197!

  20. Great to know that some perseverance got results!

    As for privately-owned destinations, like Walmarts and Loblaws, people interested in seeing more bike parking could get together and contact the property owners to ask for it. Many of these properties are owned by a few corporations, so if one owner is convinced, we might see bike parking cropping up at several locations at once. There will be a “what’s in it for us” attitude, but with some research or sufficient names on a petition, they might realize that a lot of their customers in the city and in the ‘burbs would make use of them. Worth a try.

  21. First off, congrats Matt on a worthwhile victory for common sense.

    As to other sites, anywhere there is embayed parking (the kind that doesn’t go away in rush hour) is low-hanging fruit.

    Such a site with very high cycling demand is St. George through the U of T.

    Other sites that make sense is any area with a big trip generator and legal side street parking. I’m thinking of the side streets near Sick Kids and Toronto General (Elm, Edward, Elizabeth etc.)

    This could also fit into under-used angle parking in the inner-burbs (Coxwell, Donlands); and again maybe side streets immediately adjacent to Danforth (for now we still lose Danforth spots in rush hour).

    That’s a good set to start with! Again, my thanks for you work on this, may more success be in the offing.

  22. I think that it is a great idea, It is flexible, and can be utilized wherever needed, and be adjusted for seasonal variances. Though the Robertson Building has space on the south side that could easily accommodate more bike parking than the spots provided, which would have come at no expense to public parking.

  23. I second the suggestions to add more bike parking to both Kensington market and entrances around Eaton Centre. It’s always a hassle trying to find bike parking around those areas. Nice job on securing these racks!

  24. Josh Hind – Maybe you could pack up a few of those Montreal Dedicated Bike Lanes with you so we could enjoy them here in TO when you come back? Too much to ask? Then maybe you could find out how Montreal was able to implement such a great bike infrastructure in a little less than a few years (if my understanding is correct??) I’ve been dying to find out how they did it – just didn’t know who to contact. Maybe we could learn a thing or two from our neighbours????

  25. Nicole: Montreal has something that Toronto doesn’t: *a lot* of one way streets downtown, four lanes wide. It is much easier to implement bike lanes on a street when you reduce capacity by only 25% instead of 50% as we do here in Toronto on our two-way streets.

    And, Montreal is a lot less transparent than Toronto at City Hall. Sometimes it is easier to get things done when it is by decree instead of constant public consultation. (some argue that we do not do consultation for a sidewalk installation so why do it with bike lanes — that is just a thought that is discussed and not my personal opinion)

  26. Behind the Eaton Centre around the Church of the Holy Trinity there are a dozen or so post and rings, plus a long railing near the Labyrinth. The area is easily accessed from Dundas (between Eaton Centre and the new Ryerson building), Queen (up James St) and to the west you can cut through Nathan Philips, cross Bay and you’re there. But there is need for more racks around Yonge and Dundas.

  27. As a working artist and producer, I am amazed that Bloor/Yonge gets a very expensive makeover, and nowhere to be seen are the many, many bike racks that would aid this congested city of cars and gridlock.
    I wrote to the city via, and told them off.

    I have had no reply yet. It is ridiculous how Toronto city wants to reduce gridlock, yet they do not make it easy for people to ride a bike to as central a spot as Yonge and Bloor.

    Shame on you, Toronto!
    Congrats to you for this initiative! way to go.

  28. Thanks for that insight Matthew and to answer your initial question to us, I’d love to see more bike parking spots in front of the Martin Goodman trail. Specifically – in front of Coronation Park. I often ride my bike down there and then put my blades on to blade on the trail. There isn’t one bike ring down there! Another place is somewhere in Yorkville (maybe Cumberland – in front of the Rock?). A lot of people work in this neighborhood or just come for a stroll. There are very few rings available and the one’s that are here – are always full. In my opinion, Yorkville should be pedestrian only, like the Distillery and Kensington (but that’s another topic, isn’t it?) Continued success in the future – keep sharing this stuff with us and let us know how we can be of help!!!!

  29. Yay, Matt! Good work!

    I live near the busy and well-loved Gladstone Library. It’s always short of bike parking, even though the city has installed as many post-and-rings as the sidewalk can hold. I nominate it for another parking-spot conversion!

  30. If any building has walls that are bare, such as the Eaton Centre or the downtown bank towers, they would be good areas for the installation of bicycle racks, as a start at least.

  31. 1#
    401 Richmond St West, at Spadina Ave

    2# Spadina Ave east side from Adelaide St West, north to Richmond St West, more post and ring parking could be installed

    3 # Gladstone Hotel

  32. I am also wondering when E-Bikes , Motor Cycles, Scooters and any type of bicycle with a motor will be given designated places to park on the road. I find that anything goes with these motor-bikes parking at post and rings, or just randomly parked on the sidewalk.

  33. Great story, congratulations!

    The intersection of Charles and Balmuto (and Charles and St Nicholas, just steps to the East) really needs more biking space. At least 1,500 people live right by that intersection, and many of us bike. But there are not enough bike parking spots, so people have to lock their bike in stop signs or by the handrail of a handicap ramp. There is *plenty* of space for bike parking in the area; it doesn’t even have to take over car parking spots.

  34. The 2 cars that would have parked there would carry, on average about 1.3 people each, or 2.6 (rounded up to 3) people. Maybe at most, 4 people in each car, for 8 in total.

    Compare that with 16 people on their bicycles. Not counting little ones on carriers.

  35. I have been doing some research on this for a company in Portland actually, and I found it very interesting how popular this has been. Your article and many of the comments have been very helpful and I just wanted to say thank you.

  36. @ Matthew: While it’s true that Montreal has many one-way streets- and they take advantage of that- they still manage to build fully separated bike lanes on 2-way streets such as Berri, Rachel, Rene-Levesque, Notre-Dame, Christophe-Colomb, Cote Ste-Catherine and others.

    Bloor St. would have been an ideal location for separated lanes but there’s always some lame excuse for not doing something in Toronto.

  37. Definitely at each and every subway station.

    Also, along Harbord; there are now a number of restaurants and art galleries and nowhere to park. I was at an art event in that area about a month ago, where the owner of Momo’s made everyone (who parked along his restaurant’s fence) remove their bikes even though there wasn’t a soul in his establishment, nor on the patio. This made me think about how it’s really a “framing” issue – many people still find bikes ugly and don’t want them in their back yard.

  38. ALL public buildings in the city should have bicycle parking, it;s amazing how many public libraries do not. Part of the issue, is that for decades buildings have been required to provide car parking, based on floor area, these same buildings should be required to provide bicycle parking as well, for all new and renovated structures, as a percentage of total parking spaces, so if a building requires say 10 spots, then they should have to provide, 25% of as bicycle parking, so you need parking for 3 bicycles, one wheel chair spot and the rest (6) as car spots.

  39. Spadina between Richmond and Adelaide definitely needs more. Every year I call asking them to fix or add more parking. As soon as they do, they are immediately filled up. I’ve had to resort to locking up to the metal enclosures for the trees, which is ugly.
    Apparently we will be getting 3 more post/ring spots in the next few months at the corner of Spadina and Camden, but I’m sure those will be filled as soon as they are installed.

  40. This is great and exciting!

    I second that the south end of Eaton Center needs more, as well as Kensington Market. Specifically Nassau and Bellevue.

    The south end of Trinity Bellwoods Park might be in need as well.

  41. I found your piece interesting but was dismayed by the amount of work it took to make something happen. I spoke with someone at City Hall a year or more ago about increasing bike parking at the Christie Subway station. Currently a rusty bike rack holds 8 bikes (down from 10 because one post broke off). As with your location, cyclists are forced to lock to every signpost, tree, plastic pole in ground they can find. Cyclists ride down from St Clair or below to park at the subway. By my count, the station needs at least 30 spots, even on weekends. Between the city and TTC, nothing has been done. I suspect other subway stations have similar bike parking issues.

  42. Sue: To be fair, this on-street parking conversion is the first of its kind in Toronto. There were a few departments it had to go through to get to the final stage.

    As for TTC stations: the TTC needs to work with the City’s bike staff to better address the shortage. We’ve only recently seen them take an interest with the St Clair W bike shelter.

  43. I do not know Toronto, but think that this is a very good idea. In Heidelberg, germany, you have two parkings for cars, 10 for bikes, and we have dedicated Bike lanes. Result: People do not use cars in the city, but bike, and save the environment. Go ahead!

  44. I’ve been advocating for “protected bike lanes” for ages, since they have them in New York City and I notice by this picture at Queen/Spadina the city does have flexible poles. But they are protecting bikes that are parked.
    Since they have started building the Jarvis St bike lanes why don’t they put up those flexible polls along the side of the bike lanes to protect the riders with people on the bikes? I was suggesting on my BLOG that we need the full cement barrier but this would be a nice compromise. The city appears to have them, what is their reason for NOT using them to protect human riders?

    Daniel .. Toronto
    Get my take on Bike lanes in Toronto ..

  45. Seeing 44 comments on this thread, I was expecting a big car/bike flame war. Instead, it’s full of urban planning suggestions. How nice.

  46. believe it or not… yorkville! cumberland street can be tricky to find bike parking in summer months.

  47. This is really great! I hope the concept catches on and spreads. However, will there be enough parking spaces in the winter when the racks on the road are removed!? I’ve noticed an increase in fellow winter bike commuters, so I’m concerned about the racks being removed for the winter. But then you’d need to be concerned about snow being plowed or shovelled in to the parking area.

  48. While I agree with other comments citing subway stations, shopping centres, Kensington and St. Lawrence markets as lacking adequate bicycle parking.. public schools are another source of concern. Most schools provide limited parking spots for bicycles. At my daughter’s high school there is a rusty and inadequate bicycle rack which only allows for wheel locking. Her bicycle was stolen in early September, though she had an excellent U-lock ( Abus ) and had her wheels fixed( though no pinheads at that time) . She came out to find her wheel and lock attached to the bicycle rack, there was a pile of bolts and her bicycle was gone. Reportedly 10 other bicycles met a similar fate. We have since obtained special permission from her Vice Principal for bikes to park along a section of the fence ( less than 8 bikes can be accommodated) and installed pinheads on her new bike. If schools are to be cycle friendly, there needs to be adequate bicycle parking for students, staff, parents , visitors and community members who use TDSB buildings, yards for recreation after hours.

    I would welcome suggestions as to how to advocate for bicycle parking at TDSB schools.


  49. Better bike parking is badly needed at U of T’s St. George campus, especially around busy buildings like Robarts and Gerstein Libraries, and Sidney Smith Hall. The new bike parking area on the west side of Hart House is amazing (about 40 new spots) but already nearly at capacity daily.

    Now how about some covered bike parking? Rain makes for rusty chains and wet bums. I love the bike parking pavilions at some GO Stations (check out that neat logo/bike thing on top! cool – It would be really nice to be able to keep my bike relatively dry. Some people DO bike in the rain and it sucks to have to leave it outside all day in some places.

  50. sarah wrote: “believe it or not… yorkville! cumberland street can be tricky to find bike parking in summer months.”

    So true. Yorkville really needs more bike parking. Maybe the Bloor-Yorkville BIA could do something about that.

Comments are closed.