Good news: More Torontonians are cycling than ever before! Bad news: There’s nowhere for them to park. Here are some solutions.
Tell me if this sounds familiar: You’re cruising down College Street on a weekday night, looking for an open spot to park your three-speed. You pass the row of posts at Bathurst, near Manic Coffee, but they’re all taken. You cross the street and pedal towards Palmerston, but there isn’t an available space in sight. Bikes are chained to trees, parking signs, and anything slender but sturdy enough to handle a U-lock. Every reasonable space is occupied. Eventually, you park your bike several blocks away from your destination.
Toronto needs more bike parking, and we’ve known it for a long time. You’ve no doubt seen lone bike posts bent like a twig and stripped of their rings—this is the mark of a thief armed with a two-by-four. The City began rolling out its new generation of post-and-ring parking stands recently, and they’re a breed impervious to prying lumber.
Toronto’s Coordinated Street Furniture program budget includes funds for 1,000 new post-and-ring stands each year (the new ones cost $78 to make, $86 to install) but half of this allotment goes towards replacing old, broken posts instead of adding new ones. The City currently has over 16,000 of its iconic bike posts lining the streets, and will roll out 500 new, unbreakable posts by the end of 2012.
Residents can email email@example.com * if they believe their area could benefit from additional posts. After reviewing each application, a City inspector assesses the area’s bike-parking capacity and determines whether new posts can be installed according to City specs. From application to installation, the whole process can take up to six months.
Street furniture, such as post-and-ring stands, must be installed according to the City’s Vibrant Streets Guidelines set forth in 2006. According to the plan, sidewalks must have a 46-centimetre “edge zone,” and at least 1.7 metres for pedestrians. Between these is the “furnishing and planting zone.” That’s where the street furniture goes. This includes things like info pillars, garbage cans, bus shelters, and bike posts.
Some areas of the city (the Yonge Lawrence Village BIA and the ROM, for example), have their own unique “art posts.” These specialty post-and-rings are not installed by the City; the businesses in each area have sourced their own rings, paid for the installation, and accepted responsibility for maintenance. All they have to do is fill out an application with the City to gain permission to do this.
Thankfully, increasing the number of post-and-rings lining downtown sidewalks is only part of the solution to Toronto’s bike parking problem that doesn’t involve street signs and young trees. Here’s a survey of the City’s other options:
Number of corrals in Toronto: 3
Total number of bike parking spaces: 60
Locations: Augusta just north of Nassau, Spadina north of Queen, St. Clair West Station
Bike corrals provide an excellent way for many bikes to park in a small space. The downside is the sacrifice of significant sidewalk or road space. But there are a number of streets in the city that make good corral candidates.
“On key roads like College Street, we have a ton of cyclists in the neighbourhood. Those are ideal spots because while they are taking away parking spots, they’re taking bikes off the sidewalk and making a nicer pedestrian domain,” said Councillor Mike Layton (Ward 19).
Layton contends that corrals could even be a seasonal solution. Many cyclists put their bikes away during the winter, reducing the frequency of corral use. Removing them for the winter months could be beneficial.
Cycle Toronto is currently on the hunt for more areas where bike corrals would be useful. Their recommendations will be given to the City.
“We don’t have any proposed at this point, but we generally do it in response to request from councillors,” said Dan Egan, manager of cycling infrastructure. “Given the increasing demand of bike parking, I think you’ll see more bike corrals next year.”
Number of lockers in Toronto: 232
Total number of bike parking spaces: 232
Locations: There are 19 locations with bike lockers. For a full list, go here.
Cost: $10 +HST per month for a minimum of four months. Payments must be made at the East York Civic Centre by appointment only.
You’ve probably seen these beige, cubical lockers before. Many of them are located at major transit hubs like Finch Station or City facilities like Metro Hall. The bike lockers primarily service those who cycle as part of their daily commute—riding a bike to the station, parking it in the locker, and continuing their journey.
At a mere $10 a month, locker rentals are light on the wallet. The only caveat is that payment and key pick-up must be done at Coxwell Station by appointment, which can be an inconvenience for some. When filling out a locker reservation form, you choose three preferred locations, and the city assigns them on a first-come, first-served basis. If none of your choices are available, they put you on a waiting list.
The lockers are large enough to fit most standard-sized bikes. But if you have a cargo bike, you won’t be squeezing in.
Number of stations in Toronto: 2
Total number of bike parking spaces: 132
Locations: Union Station, Victoria Park Station
Cost: A one-time registration fee of $26.91, and $21.53 for one month, or $64.57 for four months. You can also pay $2.15 for single-day use with no registration fee.
These exclusive bicycle garages offer members 24/7 key card access and camera surveillance. This makes them probably the safest way to park your bike other than leaving it locked up at home.
Toronto only boasts two locations at present, but there are more to come. The revitalized Pape Station will have a Bicycle Station when it opens in 2013. A City Hall Bicycle Station is in the works, and the future Finch West Station will also have one.
If you cycle routinely as part of your everyday commute and don’t mind the fee, Bicycle Station membership can be a smart investment if there happens to be one near your home or work. Membership uptake has been slow so far, so if you’re interested, there could be a parking space with your name on it.
CORRECTION, SEPTEMBER 20, 2012: The original version of this article referenced a post-and-ring application form that the City of Toronto no longer uses (even though it’s still live on their website). The City recommends emailing your request to the address stated above.