January 05, 2018

Ring the Post on Bike Parking

The first thing that comes to mind for many people regarding cycling advocacy is bike lanes. But what use would a connected bike lane network have if you don’t have a safe place near your work, school, or errands to lock your bike? The lack of bike parking is a challenge many Torontonians face, as do cities around the world. Let’s look at where Toronto stands with bike parking and what lessons can be learned from elsewhere.
Toronto's iconic ring-and-post bike parking
Despite ongoing challenges, Toronto fares well with short term parking (less than 24 hours) and has its own iconic ring-and-post (or post-and-ring) bike parking design. With more than 17,500 of these simple yet elegant posts as of 2016, Toronto could be viewed as a North American leader. These ring-and-posts are compact, can accommodate two bikes, and allow both wheels to be locked to reduce “wheel bending”. While the original ring-and-post design is prone to damage and theft, the newer sleeved rings are more durable. Alternatives to ring-and-posts include inverted U’s which take more space and artistic designs which can make using U locks difficult.
Wave style bike rack (via Adrian Currie)
In areas where multiple bikes need to be parked, the ring-and-post may not be the most space efficient; instead requiring racks or corrals. A rack taking up a car parking space (5.5 metres or 18 feet long) can fit as many as 14 bikes , while some of them may have shelters to protect bikes from the elements. (e.g. Artscape Youngplace, GO Transit) Racks can take on numerous forms such as vertically staggered, wave, spiral, triangle, or a group of U’s.
Vertically staggered bike racks have a risk of wheel bending
Drawbacks include the inability to lock both wheels leading to wheel bending, thinner materials increasing theft risk, and certain corrals being removed in the winter. Of course, the newer racks are far more useful than those vertical slot racks and floor racks, which are impossible to lock to bicycle frames.
Older vertical racks don't allow locking to bicycle frames
Toronto has some catching up to do with long term parking. There are only two secure bicycle parking stations which accommodate 240 bikes at Union Station and another 52 bikes at Victoria Park Station. The fees to use these secure facilities are $2.15 per day, $21.53 per month, and $129.14 for one year. Bike lockers are also available at selected transit stations and other parts of the city for a fee. Bike parking is increasingly being included in new developments and some older buildings have also been installing them. However, these facilities pale in comparison to those offered in the Netherlands, Denmark, and Japan where they have entire parking garages which accommodate thousands of bikes!
Bike parking garage in Tokyo (via Arthur Kilmowicz)
Right now, Toronto is developing a bike parking strategy, as well as a bike parking app for people to send bike parking requests. I first heard of the bike parking app at CivicTech in June 2017 thanks to some members of Cycle Toronto’s bike parking working group. This week’s CivicTech meeting video confirmed the app will be called BikeSpace and bicycle users will be asked to fill out a survey later this year. (stay tuned) You can watch this YouTube video of the meeting explaining the app’s development, which includes mock ups at the 23-minute mark.


However, there are several other issues which remain out of scope of current plans. These include bike parking in residential areas, workplaces, and special events.
Sheltered bike racks at GO Transit stations
For single family homes, it may not be practical for people to bring their bikes inside or they don’t have access to a garage or shed. Maybe one or two parking spaces can be removed on each street for sheltered corrals? Existing apartment buildings may not have underground parking to install bike racks, so maybe a basement room with accessible ramps could work? Workplaces can experience difficulties if there isn’t any underground parking or enough sidewalk space for outdoor corrals. A major expansion of secure bike parking stations could help fill this gap in downtown. Finally, the City should expand on Cycle Toronto’s bike valet program to cover more events.
Cycle Toronto's bike valet at Field Trip 2016
Identifying all areas where Toronto lacks bike parking could take up several posts. However, several Cycle Toronto Ward groups have done bike parking audits and Business Improvement Areas (BIA’s) requested the City for more parking, though a backlog of 1000 ring-and-posts remains. For a bike related New Year’s resolution, perhaps the City and cycling advocates can step up their game on bike parking in addition to the ongoing push for bike lanes?

For further reference, Bill Eadie has a website exploring different kinds of bike parking.
Lock it up!
Rob Z (e-mail)

6 comments:

  1. Great post. Definitely a need for more secure bike-parking solutions, especially at transit stations, which are major theft targets today. If you don't feel comfortable leaving your bike there, you're not going to bike to the station.

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    1. Couldn't agree more. There have been a lot of reports of bike theft posted on the "Toronto Stolen Bikes" Facebook group, which underscores the need for secure bike parking.

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  2. good summary, Rob! Any update or timeline for the City of Toronto's "bike parking strategy" ?

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    1. Thanks, Bill. Unfortunately, I haven't heard anything about the bike parking strategy timeline. Will have to look into this.

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