How Toronto Can Expand Bike Parking
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How Toronto Can Expand Bike Parking

With a few ideas from our friends in Strasbourg.

Public Works looks at public space, urban design, and city-building innovations from around the world, and considers what Toronto might learn from them.

Cycling is a big deal in France’s seventh largest city. Strasbourg boasts 560 kilometres of bike lanes and 19,000 bike parking posts for a population of just over 275,000 in the city itself and around 768,000 in the metropolitan area. By comparison, Toronto has slightly more than 400 kilometres of bike lanes (including both protected cycle tracks and off-road trails) and 17,000 “post and ring” parking stands on sidewalks and boulevards.

One of these is not like the other.

The success of cycling infrastructure in Strasbourg is a result of partnerships between the city and other transportation agencies. Parcus, the city’s arms-length parking authority, manages parking lots throughout Strasbourg and incorporates bike parking as part of its facilities. Parcus provides free, supervised bike parking at five different parking lots across the city. Parking attendants are even equipped with repair kits and bike pumps.

In Toronto, the City’s Transportation Services Division is responsible for sidewalk bike parking as well as other short- and long-term bike parking facilities. Although Toronto is not yet home to automated underground bike storage, Transportation Services manages several other solutions that allow for a higher volume of bike parking and a greater level of security.

Bike corrals are seasonal bike racks that are placed in street parking spots during the warm weather. They are removed before the snow ploughs come through but allow up to 14 bikes to park in the space otherwise used by a single car. Bike corrals were introduced in 2010 and by 2014 there were eight placed downtown.

The City of Toronto also operates bike lockers and bike stations at municipal buildings and transit hubs. While bike lockers provide enough space to store a single bike and gear, bike stations are secure indoor parking areas with key card access. Both bike lockers and bike stations require users to register and pay a monthly fee. There are currently 19 bike lockers, primarily at TTC and GO stations, as well as two bike stations, at Union Station and Victoria Park Station.

Jacquelyn Hayward Gulati, Manager of Cycling Infrastructure and Programs at the City of Toronto, says that increasing bike parking at rapid transit stations is a priority. New bike stations are planned along the planned Eglinton Crosstown LRT as well as at Finch West station.

Hayward Gulati sees tremendous potential to encourage a culture of active transportation as public transit expands in suburban areas. Describing the habit of commuters coming into the city from communities north of Steeles, Hayward Gulati explains: “We know a lot of people want to bike to Steeles and then use the TTC.”

One of the challenges for bike parking in Toronto is that, in her words, “historically there hasn’t been a lot of strategy.” However, that could soon change. The 2016 Capital Budget included funding to develop a citywide bicycle parking strategy. The strategy will take about 18 months to complete and will build on the findings of the Queen Street West Bicycle Parking Strategy [PDF].

In the meantime, the City of Toronto will continue to work with retail and public sector partners to ensure safe, convenient bike parking that meets local demand without cluttering sidewalks. Strasbourg keeps sidewalks clear by concentrating bike parking at transit stations. There are 21 bike parking areas at bus and streetcar stations throughout the city. Strasbourg’s high-speed train station is also home to the largest free bicycle parking lot in France with 468 spots.

According to Hayward Gulati, combining bike and car parking “can work really well, depending on who is managing the lot.” In Toronto, one potential partner is the Toronto Parking Authority. The City-owned corporation is responsible for 20,000 off-street spaces in Green P parking lots and also manages 12,500 parking spots at TTC stations. Although the TTC is selling off parking lots, future bike stations at transit hubs are the product of partnerships with the TTC and Metrolinx.

The Bloor Street bike lane pilot is another opportunity to try out a new form of bike parking and respond to demand from the 3,350 cyclists who travel between Shaw and Avenue Road each day. Although much of the route will be sheltered by car parking, Hayward Gulati says that the pilot will also experiment with placing bike parking in the buffer between bike and car traffic.

Strasbourg shows that providing bike parking enables commuters to combine cars, bikes and mass transit. As Toronto becomes a city of fewer parking lots and longer bike lanes there are many opportunities to build partnerships and add bike parking to ensure that both the journey and the destination encourage active transportation.