By Ryan McGreal
Published June 05, 2008
this blog entry has been updated
The city just unveiled a new secure bicycle parking facility on the first floor of the York Boulevard Parkade, and plan to open a second facility in the Convention Centre parking lot in late summer.
Funded by Metrolinx and implemented by the public works department, the new facility is 12 by 20 feet and can house 40 bicycles.
It's great to see the city taking more initiative in supporting cycling. The work of alternative transit advocates in the public works department is starting to bear fruit.
I'd love simply to celebrate this as a great initiative, but its present incarnation poses some drawbacks that could undermine its uptake and use.
First, most cyclists place a big premium on dor-to-door convenience, the ability to lock up right in front of - or even inside - their destinations. This is especially true downtown, where there's no shortage of light standards, signposts and parking meters in front of every building.
To put it bluntly, the marginal cost in effort to park one's bike a block or two away from a destination may be higher than the marginal return of increased security compared to a bike lock around a pole.
To make up for this, the city would have to go out of its way to make the facility as accessible, convenient and easy to use as possible. Instead, they've piled on an additional burden: you need to buy a permit to use it.
Yes, the city is charging $40 for a permit that will last the rest of 2008. (You can purchase a permit by calling the city at 905-546-2424 x1437.)
How many cyclists will be willing to pay for parking when they can already park for free just about anywhere downtown?
I could see this appealing to a few city employees working at the City Centre with really expensive bikes. However, the fee eats into one of the biggest benefits of cycling - its sheer affordability compared to driving.
I ride a "beater" to work specifically to make it less valuable to potential thieves, and from talking to other bicycle commuters, I know I'm not alone.
I fear that the city may be implementing a good idea (investing in cycling infrastructure) such that it ends up counterproductive. I'm afraid of the day that council throws up their hands and says, 'Well, we tried, but people just aren't interested in cycling,' the way Councillor Lloyd Ferguson has already done with regards to the scarcely-usable bike lanes on Golf Links Rd.
It's the same with the bike lanes that the city has timidly added in a few places - most recently along York Boulevard west of Dundurn St.
Granted, the York Blvd bike lanes are a dramatic improvement. they're wide enough to provide a space buffer from vehicular traffic, and the slower speed limit (plus single lane in each direction) has made the stretch much less intimidating.However, much as the York Blvd bike lanes improve on the previous arrangement, a line painted on the street does not a bike lane make.
Real, working bike lanes that get lots of people out of their cars are grade-separated behind a curb or other barrier, painted in bright colours, and above all continuous. Again, I applaud steps in the right dirction but isolated bits of bicycle infrastructure are useless until they connect across the city.
If the city wants this to work, it needs to:
Update 2: It's not just the subheading. I wrote this piece from a negative point of view, as several commenters have correctly observed, and it really needed some rewriting to reflect more accurately the positive work that has been done by cycling advocates inside and outside the city government.
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