In 2013, 59% of Torontonians said that a lack of secure bike parking was the primary factor that dissuaded them from cycling. Both cyclists (at 88%) and non-cyclists (at 80%) agreed that there is a “shortage of secure bicycle parking in the city.” Enhancing bike parking options is a crucial component of the City’s efforts to increase cycling mode share, and in 2016, a City of Toronto report recommended exploring how non-governmental organizations (NGOs) could be involved in addressing this gap. Over the past year, TCAT has undertaken a study, Toronto Bike Stations and Lockers: Options for Non-Profit Operations, to determine the feasibility of this model in Toronto.
The bike racks and ring and post options that are seen most frequently around the City are managed by Transportation Services’ Public Realm section, and anyone from the public can propose a new location by putting in a request. While convenient for short-term stays, this type of infrastructure offers no weather protection, and limited security, particularly overnight. The Cycling Infrastructure and Programs unit also offers 234 bike lockers located in groups across the City, and two bike stations, with a combined 292 spots. The demand far outstrips this supply, however, and bike lockers at popular locations have long waiting lists.
In some cities in Canada and the US, NGOs, as well as for-profit organizations, have begun offering long-term bike parking in partnership with local municipalities to meet this demand. Often located in transit stations or within bike shops, these bike parking stations are key-card accessible indoor spaces with amenities such as showers, lockers, and bike tools. They can offer an opportunity for non-profits to expand their programming with social and educational events, such as community rides and bike maintenance workshops.
TCAT researchers, Michelle Kearns and James Scott, conducted a scan of best practices for running these types of facilities, and interviewed two organizations: the Bicycle Cellar from Arizona, and Bike Hub, from California. They also looked at the current operational model in Toronto and talked to local NGOs to gauge their interest. Their findings point to significant potential benefits from an NGO-municipal partnership, and outline a number of factors that would contribute to the success of this model in Toronto.