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.