Special Report: Cycling

Hamilton's Bike Parking Gaps: An Opportunity for Change

Hamilton is ripe for an expansion of our current infrastructure, and several examples already in place could serve as a launching point for future implementation.

By Dave Heidebrecht
Published October 03, 2013

Thank you, Hamilton! In fewer than two weeks since I launched an online project to address Hamilton's bike parking deficit, I've heard from dozens of people on Twitter and had great feedback on Raise The Hammer. Most recently, the project was covered by CBC Hamilton.

The Dundurn Fortinos. One small rack for bikes, hundreds of spots for cars.
The Dundurn Fortinos. One small rack for bikes, hundreds of spots for cars.

Based on the simple premise that Hamilton needs more bike parking infrastructure, which came to me in response to an out-of-touch report recommending the need for more car parking in the core), I asked fellow cyclists and non-cyclists alike to use the #BikeParkHamOnt hashtag to let me know about places throughout the city that could use better bike parking.

While my first blog post on the issue gave some background on the idea and some of the benefits that such infrastructure improvement could bring, this post is dedicated to highlighting some of the great feedback that I've heard throughout the first two weeks.

After highlighting some of the deficits that have been sent to me, I'll look ahead to next steps I'm taking to follow up with others who are working on this issue throughout the city.

An Idea Waiting for a Spark

While I hoped I'd get some good feedback in response to my query, I've been blown away - not only by the number of responses, but also the depth of engagement and conversation that has taken place. Based on some of the ideas highlighted below, it seems such simple and cost-effective change (relative to other high-cost infrastructure) is well overdue.

Current bike racks at McMaster Innovation Park, where response has noted the need for
Current bike racks at McMaster Innovation Park, where response has noted the need for "looped" racks that provide more security (Photo Credit: Basmah Ahmed).

Key deficits in Hamilton's bike parking infrastructure include:

This is just a summary of the feedback I've received so far, and though I've attempted to highlight those areas that were specifically identified, a more detailed summary will be compiled in the coming weeks. With some more thought and discussion, it seems, many of these gaps could be easily addressed.

Leading By Example, Best Practices in Hamilton

Secure bike parking facility built by the City of Hamilton (Photo Credit: Craig den Ouden)
Secure bike parking facility built by the City of Hamilton (Photo Credit: Craig den Ouden)

As this conversation continues, there are some great examples right here in Hamilton (and beyond) that we could learn from and apply to next steps, including:

As I've quickly learned, Hamilton is ripe for an expansion of our current infrastructure, and these examples above could serve as a launching point for future implementation. As they show us, the capacity to design, build, and maintain these spaces already exists within our city borders.

Moreover, we could also take from the work of other municipalities who are developing their own bike parking strategies. Already I've been sent links to a Request a Bicycle Rack page on the City of Edmonton's website, and also heard from a friend in Waterloo Region (one of the more forward-thinking municipalities in Canada) who shared an article published this week about Waterloo's own bike parking strategy.

The following Streetfilms video on the safety benefits of on-street bike parking was shared by a commenter on Raise The Hammer. Thanks Jason!

Building the Foundation for Change

So what's next? Guided by these examples (and the many more that I couldn't fit into this post) and based upon the energetic response to this project so far, I'm in the process of arranging some meetings with a variety of people and organizations that have already been doing some work on bike parking needs in Hamilton.

As often seems to be the case, there are already a number of people working on this very issue, and I hope that this growing conversation can eke out the political space needed to support some change in the coming months.

Ranging from local grassroots organizations, to research groups, and importantly to city employees and councillors, I'm looking forward to gathering a broad perspective on where we currently stand, while being part of a consensus-building exercise to see how we can best move this issue along.

I'll plan to share these outcomes in an update later in October or November, and will hope that the momentum gained so far can help catalyze the movement of the various pieces that are needed to start addressing the gaps noted above.

In the meantime, I encourage local business owners and community groups to start thinking about potential win-wins for your area, and as always, feel free to use the #BikeParkHamOnt hashtag or send me an email when an idea arises.

Thanks again to all of those who have contributed to this process, your feedback and ideas have made this project what it is. I look forward to sharing more updates soon.

First published on Dave's website

Dave Heidebrecht is the Manager of McMaster University’s Office of Community Engagement.


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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 03, 2013 at 09:38:05

To elaborate on the Main West grocery store, their bike parking is always crowded around by whatever outdoor shopping shelving they have at the moment - gardening, pumpkins, whatever. Normally this is merely a small inconvenience - a bit tight and hopping a curb... but when pulling a heavy bike trailer (like the one I have my daughters in) the curb between the road and the racks is excruciating.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted October 03, 2013 at 14:22:35

Maybe if you’re going to convince people there is a lack of bike parking pictures of empty bike racks and lock ups isn’t the way to do it?

I don’t dispute the author's claims, just noting that the supporting visuals of this article are pretty bad.

dozens of bikes often end up chained to fences or parking posts.

Go take a picture of that.

Comment edited by Kiely on 2013-10-03 14:23:02

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted October 03, 2013 at 15:44:03 in reply to Comment 92896

Actually the pictures are pretty clear.

The first one shows how for an entire supermarket, the bike rack can fit only 3 bikes comfortably - compared to this Loblaws in Toronto it's pretty pathetic.

The second one shows that although there is a huge bike rack, its not very well used because it actually only has a few where you could conceivable lock your bike frame to it. Locking your wheel is kind of pointless because anyone with a wrench can have it off in 30 seconds.

Besides all that, anyone who reads RTH will know that almost every article that has to do with transportation and streets design includes a picture of a Hamilton street, and wherever you see a current picture of a Hamilton Street you know it is an example of a street where bike parking infrastructure isn't that great because it isn't that great.

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted October 07, 2013 at 08:36:21 in reply to Comment 92898

And of course the shining example of doing it right has half a dozen bikes parked where there is room for maybe a hundred.

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By value for dollar (anonymous) | Posted October 07, 2013 at 10:54:01 in reply to Comment 92964

Whereas your shining example of transportation planning is having billions of dollars worth of highway-width roads being empty 12 hours a day, sparsely travelled 10 hours a day and moderately busy two hours a day?

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted October 07, 2013 at 09:49:53 in reply to Comment 92964

Good catch. obviously that picture was taken during peak hours at that supermarket. How could I be so dumb?!

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted October 04, 2013 at 13:22:30 in reply to Comment 92898

Actually the pictures are pretty clear.

Exactly my point. Clear enough that they will not convince anyone who disagrees with the article that the problem as highlighted exists.

The first one shows how for an entire supermarket, the bike rack can fit only 3 bikes comfortably

And yet there is room for two more. So what are you trying to show? If it is a "lack of bike parking" than show it. None of these photos do that.

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By Dave (anonymous) | Posted October 05, 2013 at 13:49:03 in reply to Comment 92914

Appreciate the feedback Kiely. I was using images for this article to highlight a few of the locations and issues mentioned within. The image of the lone bike rack (with two open spaces as you've noted) juxtaposed against a sea of car parking is meant to give an example of the imbalance that currently exists in many places. The rack at MIP shows an example of a well-intentioned bike rack that could be improved. Finally, the image of a city-installed secure rack is an example of another option.

Overall, my intention was to highlight opportunities for change (as noted), though I do take your well-explained point that to show areas where bikes are locked to fences, parking meters, etc. would be of benefit to readers. In future posts I'll keep these comments in mind in terms of providing an overall picture and do appreciate your feedback.

Thanks for contributing.


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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted October 04, 2013 at 15:33:50 in reply to Comment 92914

This does not constitute a 'point by point rebuttal'.

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By biker (anonymous) | Posted October 03, 2013 at 14:43:15 in reply to Comment 92896

Angry Kiely is angry

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted October 04, 2013 at 13:17:32 in reply to Comment 92897

Trying to help this forum preach to more than the converted does not make me angry biker.

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By biker (anonymous) | Posted October 05, 2013 at 01:02:57 in reply to Comment 92913

No it's your anger that makes you angry

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By soooooo helpful (anonymous) | Posted October 04, 2013 at 16:06:18 in reply to Comment 92913

Wanna be helpful? Write up some articles. God, you're the worst armchair editor on this entire site.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted October 04, 2013 at 22:53:30 in reply to Comment 92923

Whatevs man.

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By I don't make monkeys I just train them (anonymous) | Posted October 07, 2013 at 09:32:11 in reply to Comment 92929

I know you are but what am I? INFINITY


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By RobbieK (anonymous) | Posted October 03, 2013 at 15:46:34

Kiely is completely correct. Remember, bikers are in the vast minority. To convince someone that more of something is needed, then you best be ready to prove what currently exists is inadequate. While the description in the article makes sense (that bike racks are in the wrong place), the pictures simply show "there aren't enough bikes to fill the racks we already have".

Show the empty bike rack followed by the over consumed chain link fence two blocks away that WOULD have a bike rack overflowing if only it existed.

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By Mark-AlanWhittle (registered) - website | Posted October 04, 2013 at 09:35:01

Almost every school have bike racks. Grocery stores are private companies, perhaps going to them directly, with a petition, might improve the situation.

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By LindsayG (registered) | Posted October 04, 2013 at 10:34:04

I applaud this initiative and the excellent suggestions, rationales and photographs Dave has put forward so far. As Dave begins to meet with City staff, other bike-advocacy organizations, etc in the next couple of months, I would like to remind him of the power of the grassroots and the community to support this projects, not only in identifying bike parking needs, but in reaching out to those very groups and people with the power to make this happen.

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By Conrad664 (registered) | Posted October 04, 2013 at 15:17:06 in reply to Comment 92912

I totally agree with you Lindsay if peoples would know all about those bikes racks they would not be only 2 to 4 bikes on them !

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted October 05, 2013 at 13:56:40

The reason there is only one bike in the bike rack in figure two is that it is impossible to lock one's bike securely to this type of rack using standard U-locks. The bike in the picture is locked insecurely by its wheel.

Three years ago I first encountered this unusable rack when it was installed at the back of City Hall. I tried for five minutes to figure out how it was supposed to be used securely, and failed. I wrote to Daryl Bender about it, giving details of the design failure (because he said he had used it without problems) back in December 2010:

"I was at an evening meeting at City Hall on Monday and noticed some shiny new racks outside the back door. They looked like bike racks, but despite trying for five minutes I couldn't figure out a way to lock my bike to them using a regular U-lock (the gaps between the bars are too narrow to fit a wheel through). In the end I gave up and locked my bike to the hand railing. Are these bike racks? If so, they aren't like any bike racks I've seen and don't seem to be usable (have you used them?). Could you please ensure the City installs regular bike racks (like the ones at McMaster, or the ring style). Having unusable bike racks doesn't send the right message ..."

Daryl replied saying he was able to use the rack (I'm not sure how), but that they would install loop racks in the front of City Hall in Spring (2011). I'm not sure if the loop racks were installed or if the rack at the rear were replaced with functional ones.

Any cyclist would know immediately that the style of rack in figure 2 is not usable if you actually want to lock your bike since you can't fit a wheel through and lock to the bike frame.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2013-10-05 13:59:40

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By Rimshot (anonymous) | Posted October 07, 2013 at 17:04:39 in reply to Comment 92936

Maybe Mr. Bender flipped the script and fitted it sideways, locking the crossbar to the rack span.

Two bikes per rack: Executive-style!

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By Dm (anonymous) | Posted October 05, 2013 at 18:01:55

The majority of bike parking should be offered by private businesses. These are the people that you need to lobby for bike racks.

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By Joshua (registered) | Posted October 05, 2013 at 20:21:03

The problem is partly a lack of bicycle parking but it's more a lack of lanes for bicycles. You can lock your bike up to whatever's handy, for the most part, be it a street sign or a railing or around a sturdy tree, if that's what's handy. The crazy part is cycling along, hugging the curb, breathing in everyone else's petroleum fumes, and waiting for cars to press the pressure plates on side-streets so the lights can change. Parking's half the issue; the other half's getting the infrastructure in place so healthier modes of transportation are actually workable.

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By High School Confidential (anonymous) | Posted October 07, 2013 at 00:17:57

You'd be surprised how many Westdale Secondary students (the one's who dare to bike) lock their rigs at MIPS, MFP on Main or other nearby spots because there's nothing decent to bolt to at the high school.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted October 07, 2013 at 11:37:31 in reply to Comment 92956

Schools should be among the first facilities to have proper bike parking!!

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 07, 2013 at 11:41:16 in reply to Comment 92972

When I was a kid it was common knowledge that schools were notorious for bike theft. I doubt that's changed. I could see finding another, more distant rack just to ensure that 100% of the bike was still there when I got back to it.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted October 07, 2013 at 23:01:47

Who on here works for Loblaws?

Want a bike rack at Fortino's, then have a family member, friend, acquaintance, etc, who works for Loblaws email Galen Weston Jr. - http://www.loblaw.ca/English/Careers/why... and ask for one.

Seems to me, like that would work best.

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