Covet: Bike Rack Birdhouse by Dimini

Love the look of this birdhouse bike rack by Toronto-based Dimini.

Facts Behind the New Vertical Stagger Bike Racks

This past year a new bicycle rack design began landing on Toronto streets. You’ll find these racks in the bicycle shelter at the St. Clair West TTC subway stop and scattered around the Evergreen Brick Works awaiting permanent installation.

Made by Peak Racks, a San Luis Obispo based company, I really like how these racks separate locked bicycles keeping them from scraping against each other. Their staggered “up and down” design is to allow for a more efficient use of space and the thin, but sturdy, metal contact points make using smaller u-locks far easier than with post and ring bicycle racks.

The racks are made from recycled materials and I look forward to seeing more of these across the city.

Learn more at Peak Racks.

How to Get Better Bicycle Parking for Your Condo

Urban Garden & a half-stolen bike

I was recently contacted by a BikingToronto reader, Ian, in need of contact information for bike rack suppliers in Toronto. He told me that he had recently moved into a newer condo building near Bloor and Spadina. The building has bicycle parking, but after speaking with other residents and noticing the mess of bikes in their outdoor racks it was clear that his condo building needed better bicycle parking.

Part of why living in a downtown condo building is appealing is the ability to free yourself from needing a car to get everywhere. Ian’s building is near a TTC station and is a comfortable cycling distance from his office. He owns several bicycles and is concerned about keeping them in good condition and free from theft for as long as possible. The current set up in his building doesn’t satisfy both of those conditions. While the most accessible outdoor parking is covered, it is in an alleyway that anyone can walk down. The racks are also cluttered and that means his bicycle is going to get scraped and bounced around in addition to possibly being stolen.

If this sounds familiar, Ian’s story and how a cycling committee in his building approached the board of directors may help you get better bicycle parking for your condo.

While condo builders are adding amenities such as rooftop pools, bowling alleys and fitness centres it seems that bicycle parking isn’t a top priority when space is defined and the building begins. Bicycle racks are often placed in out of the way areas that are hard to access, feature inappropriate racks or simply do not exist at all.

Recent amendments to Toronto Zoning By-laws have added more information on bicycle parking guidelines, yet these focus mostly on quantity of available spaces and less on quality of space provided.

Here then is how to get better bicycle parking for your condo.

Your first point of contact is your condo board. Find out if others have approached them about available bicycle parking. In Ian’s case, a bicycle committee was formed to determine the bicycle parking needs of tenants and to propose improvements.

Bicyles Will Be Removed

The committee then surveyed the building by distributing a questionnaire to determine the current state of bicycle parking as viewed by tenants. Below is a sample survey:

1. How satisfied are you with the current bike parking/storage arrangement?

2. How many bicycles does your household have (write the number 0, 1, 2…9 in each of the spaces provided):

_____Adult-size _____Child-size (small bikes) _____Tricycles (very small child) _____Electric Bikes _____Other

3. Where are your unit’s bikes currently stored? (please indicate the quantity of bikes in each location)

_____Outside – racks at back of building

_____Outside – post and rings in front of building

_____Ground floor “Visitor Bike Parking” room

_____P1

_____Storage locker

_____Balcony

_____Apartment

_____Other location: _________________________

4. Do you have a car parking spot?

5. Would you be interested in having a bike rack mounted to the wall behind your car?

6. How much would you be willing to spend (rack + installation) ? $_________

7. Please rank your preference (1=first choice; 5=last choice) of where you’d like to store your bicycle(s):

_____Outside – racks at back of building

_____Ground floor “Visitor Bike Parking” room

_____P1

_____Other location: ________________________

_____Bike rack mounted to the wall behind my car

8. Would you be willing to pay for an indoor reserved bike parking spot? qYes qNo

9. This question is about how often the people in your unit ride. If you don’t ride in the winter, just ignore the winter months. How many people in your household ride:

daily (4+ times per week) …….. _____

weekly (1-3 times per week)…. _____

monthly (1-3 times per month). _____

less often than monthly………… _____

10. Have you had any bicycles or bicycle parts stolen from in or around the Condo?

11. Have you registered your bike with the Toronto Police? qYes qNo (http://www.torontopolice.on.ca/bike)

12. Please share any other bike parking or storage ideas:

___________________________________________

___________________________________________

___________________________________________

If you do not currently store a bicycle in the building, please make sure to return this survey with “No”

checked below. This is important for the committee to understand the needs of the building residents

and to evaluate the survey response rate. Thank you very much for your participation.

Does someone in your unit currently store one or more bicycles in or outside the building?

Optional:

If you provide us with your name & contact information, we will be able to contact you as soon as more

bike parking & storage options become available.

Your answers on this survey will be used only to guide us, not to commit you to anything.

Name: ______________________________________________ Suite #: ________ Parking Spot #: ________

Phone: ________________________ E-mail: ____________________________________________________

Please contact me as soon as more information is available Yes No

we meet again

Ian reports that the survey was well-received by tenants in the building and the response was more than enough to help guide them in creating an improved bicycle parking proposal for the condo board.

Using the survey results you’ll be able to identify problem areas and find out how much parking needs to be added and where residents would prefer the parking be located.

In Ian’s building it was determined that the outdoor parking was not properly laid out and created a cluttered and potentially bicycle damaging situation when using the racks. Indoor bicycle parking was limited and the racks did not provide secure locking options. Space was identified for additional parking in the underground parking lot of the building yet access and security both posed problems requiring passing through multiple doors which can be difficult with a bicycle and parcels.

Secure bicycle parking means racks that are permanently anchored to the ground or wall with enough contact points to lock both a bicycle frame and wheel. Racks should be spaced to allow for many sizes of bicycles and allow for clearance between them to assist in parking and removing a bicycle.

A bicycle user group for the City of Toronto recommends these bicycle rack manufacturers and models:

Cora Bike Rack Ltd.
www.cora.com
Tel: 1-800-739-4609
Model: Expo Bike Rack

Trystan Bike Racks
www.trystanproducts.com
68 Swan Street
Ayr, ON N0B 1E0
Tel: (519) 632-7427
Fax: (519) 632-8271
Model: TD1

Bike Rack Co.
www.bikerack.ca
395 Signet St.
Toronto, ON M9L 1V3
Tel: (416) 927-7499
Model: The lock up 1 and lock up 2

In order to make your bicycle parking proposal a professional one, be sure to contact suppliers as well as potential installers and determine the full costs of purchasing, shipping and installing. I’d also recommend contacting someone who can help you adhere to fire codes when determining where to install the racks.

Ian told me that after approaching his condo board they have been approved to make changes to the existing parking and a budget was given. The final move now is for the board to act on the recommendations of the cycling committee and put the plans into action.

If you’re disappointed in the current state of bicycle parking in your condo, then now is the time to do something about it.

Additional link: City of Toronto Guidelines for the Design and Management of Bicycle Parking Facilities

Photos via the BikingToronto Flickr Pool

Secure Bike Locking for Any Budget

DSC_3353

There’s a fantastic post on the Toronto Cyclists Union web site about how to help prevent bicycle theft. You should go read it here: “Bike Theft: Still An Issue In Toronto – Tips on Prevention

But how can you follow these tips and not spend more on bike locks and parts than you did on your bicycle itself?

The good news is that you have options. Here are a few recommendations to help you save money and still secure your bicycle:

1) The bike messenger chain: What may seem to be an exceptionally heavy belt on the courier who just left your local coffee shop is actually their bike lock. A chain lock allows you to secure your wheels and frame to racks and posts and you can adjust the length for a snug fit. Lock manufacturers like ABUS and Kryptonite sell versions of the heavy chain and lock combo.

ABUS Catena 685 Shadow http://www.abus.de/us/main.asp?ScreenLang=us&sid=798488795201352040820109925440120&select=0104b02&artikel=4003318203626Kryptonite New York Chain https://www.kryptonitelock.com/products/ProductDetail.aspx?cid=1001&scid=1002&pid=1193

These lock and chain combos start at $100 and can cost more than $200 for high end models. While heavy to carry, chains are effective theft deterrents. To save yourself a little money, head over to a hardware store and purchase a sturdy steel chain by the foot and pair it with a strong lock.

2) U-lock and cable combo: U-locks are the most recommended lock style for preventing theft. Used properly, one u-lock can be enough to deter a thief.  However, to secure your wheels and frame, a cable and u-lock can work together to make your bicycle a less-appealing target.

Kryptonite Series 2 and Flex cableOn Guard Mini with cable

Higher end cable and u-lock combos can cost upwards of $200. However, MEC has a similar style for just $27.00. I own one of these and have had zero problems with it, but a friend of mine dropped theirs and the entire lock body disassembled into a dozen pieces.

3) Anti-theft Skewers: In the early 90s everyone wanted quick-release skewers. I remember being lured by their simplicity, looking down on anyone who couldn’t quickly adjust their seatpost or remove their front wheel. Then my seat was stolen. Since that day, I’ve sworn off quick-releases and have been replacing the ones on my bikes. Skewers can be easily swapped out and replaced with regular ones with nuts on either end. However, a simple wrench can remove these too. That’s why several companies have introduced anti-theft skewers that require special tools to remove, something not carried by your average bicycle thief.

Pinhead Skewers http://www.pinheadcomponents.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=35&Itemid=56&lang=en50-6685-NCL-SIDE

Higher-end skewers by Pinhead cost around $100 for a set. MEC also sells a set of front and rear anti-theft skewers for $29.00.

It’s important to remember that a bicycle lock is only as effective as the locking technique used. Always try to eliminate dead space between your bicycle and what you are locking to. Increasing the number of components that can’t be removed easily is also a great way to keep your bicycle with you much longer.

Not sure what bike lock style is right for you? Head over to your local bike shop and see what they recommend.

The Challenge of Bixi Thriving in Today’s Toronto

Bixi station at Mount Royal Metro Stop photo by Duncan H

What can you learn about bicycle sharing and cycling infrastructure over just one weekend?

I was recently in Montreal to attend the Osheaga concert in Parc Jean-Drapeau. We rented a car and drove from Toronto. A collision backed up traffic on the 401, effectively setting us behind by 2 hours. One closed down lane and all forward movement halts.

We checked into our hotel and took the STM (Montreal’s public transport system) to the event. Our transit ride was free when we presented our paid for tickets to Osheaga.

You see, I had no intention of discovering Montreal’s cycling infrastructure or even riding a Bixi bike. I was in town for a concert, I had access to free transit to and from the event, why would I even consider riding a bicycle?

Had this event been held in Toronto, a bicycle would not have presented itself as an option. Our morning plans involved walking to a restaurant for brunch and then hopping on transit to the event. Montreal is a stunningly beautiful city. The hills provide grand views and the unique architecture is certainly worth seeing on foot. As we stepped out of our hotel and began our morning walk we saw a couple people riding Bixis. We soon passed one Bixi station, located in a spot that once provided parking for 3 cars. Next to the station was a bike lane and on the opposite side of the street there was a bike corral for non-Bixi bikes.

We continued our walk, passing another street with a Bixi station, more bike lanes and sharrows. As we walked up avenue du Parc we passed by a completely separated bike path, one with bicycle specific traffic lights, sharrows through road crossings and dotted with several Bixi stations.

I hadn’t planned on biking in Montreal, but cycling soon became an attractive option.

We stopped at a Bixi station to look at the large city map on display and figure out where we were heading. From the distance we’d already walked we discovered we’d be late if we kept on going by foot. And this is when Bixi grabbed us and said, “Here’s the better way.” The map showed us a Bixi station near our destination, the map also indicated that there were bike lanes along the entire route.

While the Bixi system isn’t designed specifically for tourists, it is exceptionally easy to use even if you’re unfamiliar with the city and bike sharing. A quick swipe of my credit card and I had access to two Bixi bicycles for the next 24 hours. A code is provided for you to unlock a bicycle and when you reach your destination you simply return your Bixi to a station and walk away.

Sure, it sounds simple, but this concept is almost completely foreign to North Americans (and elsewhere I imagine) when it comes to personal transportation. We’re familiar with having to return to the same vehicle and to find and pay for parking or locking space. We’re tethered to bicycles and cars, never wanting to stray too far from them as we know we must return to where we left them. Bixi cuts the strings associated with personal vehicles. Bixi is hailing a taxi from anywhere and not worrying about where the cab will go next. Bixi is hopping on transit and not having to care if the train keeps on moving. Bixi is public transit, personalized to you and your destination.

Still on our way to brunch, now on Bixi bikes, we had an idea of where we were going but couldn’t quite remember the French street names. From the map we knew we’d encounter bike lanes, but we didn’t realize what we would encounter.

In Toronto, bike lanes exist, but if you’re standing at an intersection, you probably wouldn’t know it. Bike lanes here often end many metres before intersections and there’s almost no indication that they will start up again on the other side. This isn’t true of all intersections, but the majority of bike routes in Toronto are this way.

You can imagine my surprise when I saw bright yellow sharrows indicating that I should turn left at the approaching intersection to connect to a bike path. You can imagine my surprise when this bike lane was separated from moving traffic by parked cars and bollards. You can imagine my surprise when this bike path became a contra-flow lane on one way streets, when bright yellow sharrows took me around bends and guided me to the next part of the bike route. You can imagine my surprise when I was able to get to my destination on cycling infrastructure without having to cut through parks or find recreational paths.

Bixi Sharrows Separated Bike Lanes Montreal

After brunch we found a different Bixi station from the one we dropped our first bikes off at. A quick credit card swipe and we had 2 new codes to unlock our Bixis. We followed the bike path in the opposite direction aided along by clear markings on the road and signs. I noticed that one separated bike way was only temporary, removed during the snowy months to allow for snow removal. We crossed a rather dramatic section of avenue du Parc with little concern, simply following the traffic lights and sticking to the path.

avenue du Parc bike path crossing

So thrilled with our morning Bixi experience, we opted to skip the free transit ride to the show and get there by Bixi. We twisted and weaved throughout downtown Montreal, guided by ever present cycling infrastructure including sharrows, on-street bike lanes, separated bike paths and even a few stretches where the sidewalk doubles as a bike lane. We were never left high and dry by a bike lane ending when a street narrowed. We did get sidetracked at one point by a detour, but were able to find our way back to the bike lanes that took us over Jaques Cartier Bridge and to our destination within Parc Jean-Drapeau. At the venue entrance a Bixi station awaited us, attendants on hand to manage the influx of bicycles and keep a few docks open at all times.

Separated Bike Way Montreal

We’d take the free transit home from Osheaga but we’d use Bixi again throughout our trip. It was where we were and where we wanted to go. $5 for 24 hour unlimited use (in 30 minute intervals) was less expensive than repeatedly taking transit or taxis. We saw more of the city than we planned. We enjoyed Montreal as tourists, through the aid of Bixi.

This brief experience in a city embracing cycling as a form of transportation and not just recreation has me looking at Toronto’s plans to launch Bixi in May, 2011.

Learning to use Bixi is easy. I saw a few tourists mulling over the bikes at one station. They were adding up prices in their heads. They wanted to take the bikes out for a few hours and were trying to calculate how much it would cost. Having only used the system for a day, my girlfriend and I explained that it would cost them only $5 (plus the $250 deposit placed on your credit card). They simply couldn’t imagine just riding the bike and leaving it, then getting another when they were ready to ride again. We don’t interact this way with personal transportation. Even car sharing requires you return the car where you picked it up.

Bixi in a Business Suit

Bixi works not only in accessibility but also in connection with Montreal’s infrastructure. The planned Phase 1 of Toronto’s Bixi system is in an area devoid of continuous and intuitive cycling way-finding. Certainly, there are some bike lanes already in use downtown Toronto and there are plans to add a few more in the area, too. But as it stands these lanes are a hodge-podge and require you to find the connections between them. For example, if I take the bike lane on Simcoe street from Queen’s Quay and head north to Front, I’m left without any indication of where to go next to keep heading north. If I take the bike lanes along St. George from Bloor and head south I’m abandoned by our current system at Queen Street, a destination for sure, but if I want to go further south I’m on my own.

That said, these are not impossible infrastructure challenges to overcome. Routes can be extended and connected with sharrows and contra-flow lanes that require little more than paint. Bixi has the potential to get many more people using bicycles on Toronto’s streets, but are our streets ready for more everyday people on bikes?

You can learn more about Bixi in Montreal here. Support the launch of Bixi in Toronto by registering here. Support the growth of cycling infrastructure in Toronto by contacting your city councilor.

All photos by Duncan H.

Green P Pedal ‘N Park Locations Throughout Toronto

Earlier, I told you of my recent discovery of sheltered, well-lit bicycle parking in a Green P lot in Yorkville.

Yes, the Toronto Parking Authority is in fact also providing parking for bicycles.

Even better, there is absolutely no cost for using these spots. Simply lock and go.

I contacted the TPA and they’ve provided a list of all Green P lots that currently have bicycle parking. Click on the lot name for maps and more information from the Green P site:

Carpark 1 (20 Charles St.)
8 stands (16 spaces) at the West and NE part of the Garage

Carpark 5 (15 Wellesley St. E.)
2 stands (4 spaces) at the NW Walkway

Carpark 15 (37 Yorkville Ave.)
6 rings (12 spaces)  at the  west wall

Carpark 26 (37 Queen St. E.)
1 stand (2 spaces) adjacent to the NW elevators

Carpark 51 (365 Lippincott St.)
2 stands (4 spaces) near the SW corner of the parking lot

Carpark 52 (40 York St.)
1 rack (7 spaces) outside York St. entrance

Carpark 58 (9 Bedford Rd.)
2 stands (4 spaces) near the TTC generators, West edge of the carpark on Bedford Rd.

Carpark 68 (20 St. Andrew St.)
2 racks (14 spaces) outside southern entrance on St. Andrew St. –  7 stands (14 spaces) southern corner

Alleged Bike Thief Foils Bad Lock Job

I certainly don’t want to pour salt on anyone’s wounds with this post. Having your bicycle stolen is a painful, soul-crushing experience that leaves you feeling helpless and probably pissed off since you must now walk or transit home, the two things you were trying to avoid by riding your bicycle in the first place.

Below is a cell phone photo of an alleged bicycle thief holding a Globe Roll bicycle with dubious bell placement.

Alleged bicycle thief http://ow.ly/i/2JjB

And this is the dubious bell placement:

Crotch placed bell

Ummm… you ring that how (or with what)?

And here’s the “opportunity” this alleged bicycle thief chose to exploit and obtain a new, albeit single-wheeled, bicycle:

Kryptonite and the wheel

And here’s the end result:

Just a wheel and a lock http://twitpic.com/275j04

Of course, if you’re the inventor of the wheel (and comb) you’ve got your ride home. If not, you’re left with a painful reminder of the ride home that could have been.

If you see this Globe Roll with a spoiled blue/grey colourway then be sure to alert the proper authorities.

And, to be constructive, you can get away with locking just one wheel and not return to have in your possession one locked wheel. Bike thieves look for opportunities. A thin coil lock is an easy target if you have wire cutters. If you’re out thieving with just a wrench, you look for nuts you can unscrew. While you can never completely “thief-proof” a bicycle, here’s how to prevent this type of theft by locking through the rear triangle:

Final photo via commutebybike

Alleged bike thief photo via Twitter.

City Wants You To Create Art We Can Lock Our Bikes To

Kensington I

In the latest issue of Cyclometer (#167 July 2010) the city has announced a call for “Artistic Bike Parking” to be installed along the new multi-use paths currently being installed in Toronto. Here’s what they are asking for:

Call to Artists for Artistic Bike Parking

The City of Toronto is developing new multi-use off-road trail projects in hydro and former rail corridors.  Street furniture such as benches, bike parking and pedestrian scale lighting will be installed to help transform these corridors from industrial spaces, into spaces for public transportation and recreation.

Based on the City of Toronto’s 1% policy for public art on capital projects, a contest is being established for the design and fabrication of artistic bike parking as part of these projects.

Details on how local and national artists or artist teams may submit resumes and proposals to the Toronto Culture office are also available online.   Submissions must be received by Friday, 13 August 2010 at 4:00 p.m.

The city is no stranger to bike parking design contests. In collaboration with Ryerson University, a call for bicycle rack designs to be installed in Mount Pleasant Cemetery resulted in this unique winning submission:

More photos of the winning design and the runners up can be found here.

And another design competition was held at OCAD in 2009, yielding this winning concept:

Submission by Justin Rosete (second-year Industrial Design) and Erica Mach (second-year Drawing & Painting).

You can see the rest of the submissions that made up the top 10 designs here.

Lead photo of the Kensington bike rack via BikingToronto Flickr Pool

A Bike Corral on Spadina!

Bike Corral on Spadina by joshstuart

Photo of a new bike corral just south of 215 Spadina Avenue by joshstuart

Really hope to start seeing more bike corrals like this in Toronto. What’s one less car parking space when you can fit a dozen or more bicycles?

Here’s a short video of how these work in Portland:

Incorporating Bicycles into Exterior Home Design

Saw this bike rack as part of a very “put together” front yard in Little Italy. While driveways and garages are the zenith of ugly home design, the creation of dedicated bicycle parking spots like this is certainly something I’d like to see more of:

Bike Parking Front Yard Toronto

Custom Bicycle Rack at Front of House Toronto

Front Yard Bicycle Parking Toronto

What I really like about this setup is how prominent the bicycle becomes on this property. It’s an equivalent to a driveway, but you won’t see the bricks cracking, sinking and getting stained with motor oil. The placement of a bike rack out front allows for easy access to a bike, a quick way to take to the streets without having to go into the shed or through a gate. Of course, this access could make the bikes parked here more vulnerable to thieves as well as being exposed to the elements, but hey, I think it looks pretty good.