Bike corrals appear downtown

Bike corral on Fort St.
Bike corral on Fort St.

For those that bike downtown, there is a welcome new sight: more bike parking. The Downtown Victoria Business Association has been partnering with the City of Victoria, Bike to Work Week Victoria, Capital Bike & Walk, and the Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition to test out “bike corrals” — essentially bike racks bolted straight into the pavement with a few concrete and plastic barriers (DVBA press release May 27th- PDF). Cheap and easy to setup, bike corrals are perfect ways to add more bike parking quickly, so it is not surprising that they are used all over the world. Closer to home, the Portland city government has been rolling them out as fast as they can in response to business demand.

Here in sunny Victoria there are currently just two in commission: one (in the picture to the right) is in the 700 block of Fort St. by Shavers Hobbies, just east of Douglas and the in the 600 block of Johnston St. across the road from MEC, east of Government. Both seem to be fairly well used over the past few weeks, so I expect to see more appear very shortly. After all, over 30 businesses expressed interested in removing a car parking spot in front of their business to adding bike parking (DVBA press release April 14 – PDF).

But don’t just use them. The DVBA and their partners are looking for feedback, so email them and tell them how much you love them.

Bike parking on the Avenue

At tonight’s Committee of the Whole meeting, the council discussed the addition of covered bicycle parking to the avenue. Apparently instigated by the Mayor, this is long overdue recognition that bike parking on the Avenue is sub-par. Currently there are no covered spots anywhere on the Avenue and even the few racks that do exist are substandard, such as the ancient metal rack at the corner of Fairway Market closest to the Municipal Hall.

The plan presented at tonights meeting initially called for the removal of two parking spots on Wilmot on the eastern side closest to the Avenue. Councillor Herbert mentioned that there is a lack of handicapped parking on the Avenue and these two spots might make a good location for them and the bike parking could be moved to the north end of Wilmot right by Theatre Lane. Thankfully Tara Ney suggested that rather than moving them further away from the Avenue, the lawn of the Municipal Hall might make a better place, between the small information stand and the building itself.

As for what they will look like, there were two examples given, one from in front of the MEC building downtown:
mec bike shelter complete

This is quite a modern design. There is also this much older design seen around UVic:
uvic shelter 101

(Both photos credit John Luton of Capital Bike and Walk and more recently a Victoria City Councillor. He has an excellent set about Best Practices and another, Bike Parking 101.)

Estimated at around $20,000 for purchase and installation, the question of where the money will come from came up. A recent change to the Local Government Act allows municipal governments to take money out of their parking funds and put it into funding alternative forms of travel: walking, biking and transit. As such, Oak Bay is apparently going to be setting up an Alternative Transportation Infrastructure Fund, although no money has yet been moved around.

As the money will likely come out of the parking fund, Council decided that the Business Improvement Area who represent businesses on the Avenue, should be consulted on any spending of the parking fund on things other than parking. I am a little worried we’ll get some classic old-school 20th century thinking from them, but we will see.

Overall, I am hopeful that the bicycling community here in Oak Bay may not have to fight tooth and nail for every scrap of bicycle infrastructure. I was also heartened that during the nearly hour long discussion of the the traffic problem at the corner of Cadboro Bay and Bowker, several residents mentioned that bike lanes in the area is something they would like to see, even at the expense of parking. All in all, 2009 should be a good year for biking here in Oak Bay.