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Monday, May 10, 2010

Toronto needs more Bicycle Racks

CANADA - Toronto is experiencing a cycling renaissance.

I am not kidding. Just ask your local Toronto bike shop and they can confirm that new bikes are flying off the shelves, business has never been better and they are desperate for sales staff and experienced bicycle mechanics.

And if you go downtown on a work day the chances are likely you will have difficulty finding a spot to lock up your bicycle. Its been happening regularly to me lately that I can't find a spot to lock up easily so I asked a few friends and they all responded with the same assessment: Toronto needs more Bicycle Racks.

However getting funding to install more on a large scale is tricky at times, because it means Toronto's City Council will have to find the funding somewhere.

Daniel Egan runs pedestrian and cycling infrastructure for the City of Toronto.

I recommend concerned cyclists contact him and encourage more funding for bicycle racks. There are huge gaps on major streets (even Yonge Street) where there are no racks at all and bikes are locked to trees, street signs, gas pipes, etc. Contact Daniel Egan or some of his staff at:

Pedestrian and Cycling Infrastructure
Transportation Services Division
22 East, City Hall
100 Queen Street West
Toronto, M5H 2N2
Email: bikeplan@toronto.ca
Tel: 416-392-9253
Fax: 416-392-4808

In May 2009 Toronto opened a $300,000, 180-bike indoor Bicycle Station at Union Station, a major regional transit hub. The city plans to add a 400-spot station at Toronto city hall and more stations at subway stops. Bikes are stored in two-tiered racks.

Apart from parking, the first Bicycle Station "includes a change room, a mechanic stand and a variety of tools for customer use as well as a vending machine with emergency bike necessities such as tubes, tire levers, patch kits, energy bars and refreshing beverages," according to the city of Toronto website. "Security measures include a 'man-trap' door system to prevent people following others into the station, 24-hour video surveillance, as well as staffed hours during the day." Users pay $25 for "lifetime membership" and then extra fees for parking. Toronto didn't invent parking stations. Other cities have been doing this for years.

The extra parking at City Hall and subway stations is a start. Ideally Toronto could create more smaller versions of this around the city. Say a tenth the size, but build ten of them near major intersections that are frequently trafficked by cyclists. And then survey bike shops to determine the rate at which Torontonians are buying new bicycle (a Bicycle Consumer Rate) and then use that rate to dictate what percentage the city should contribute to new bicycle racks in the future in an effort to keep pace. (The same rate could also help determine need for bicycle lanes.)

After all we don't want to reach the point that Japan has reached and we need to take extreme measures. See Bicycle Parking in Japan.

Or alternatively just be more proactive about street "accoutrements". ie. I feel the city could also use more benches to sit on, more greenery, trees, potted plants, lamp posts and drinking fountains. After all why should Yonge, University and Bloor be the only streets which receive the red carpet treatment? Would it be that hard to create stainless steel benches that has a bike rack built into the rear? Or lamp posts with bike racks at the base? No, not hard at all.

I am sure with a bit of ingenuity we can come up with designs which are beautiful and functional.

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