There's been a flurry of alarm among cyclists after this last week's Public Works and Infrastructure Committee meeting, that a vote on harmonizing of street by-laws seems to be banning cyclists from parking their bikes to anything in the public realm, unless authorized by the General Manager. If something is locked for more than 24 hours then it may be removed (it's not clear from the the text if the 24 hours applies to post and rings as well as "illegal" parking.
It's not clear if the alarm is justified or not, though understandable given the anti-bike bent of those in control of city committees. Councillor Mike Layton was frustrated by the vote:
As part of the streets bylaw, PWIC voted to make it illegal to park a bike anywhere but a bike post. How much bike parking will this lose?
Though city staff have said that in practice things won't be as bad as cyclists fear. Christine Bouchard of of Transportation Services said on Facebook:
This by-law harmonization will consolidate existing by-laws which are still in effect from the seven pre-amalgamation municipalities. Its purpose is to allow for the removal of "things or articles" locked to City property which create a problem for pedestrians, like A-frame signs, shopping carts, and abandoned articles. Abandoned articles may include derelict bicycles. The interpretation that the purpose of the bylaw harmonization is to remove locked bicycles which are in good working order from City streets is an incorrect interpretation of the harmonized bylaw. The level of actual service by bylaw enforcement is not changing. Transportation staff will develop wording to clarify this for when it goes to Council.
Perhaps it's not as bad as we thought, or at the least no worse than things are currently for finding places to park our bicycles. In practice, bylaw officers only go about removing derelict bicycles once a year, tagging such bikes and returning a week later to remove those that still remain with the tag. This practice is currently not backed up by law, so this proposal will give the City a better defence against claims made by people who've lost their bikes to the City.
As another City staff person noted, post and rings being used as "bike storage" instead of parking takes away an opportunity from other cyclists. The larger problem of fairness, he notes, "involves the overall structural deficit of bike parking on private property - renters/condos with no room to store inside turn to the post-and-ring as their only convenient solution - one that appears totally legal to them: locking a bike to a bike locking ring paid for by their tax dollars." This by-law may put a bit more squeeze on cyclists, but the solution cannot be found in allowing cyclists to park anywhere, but in vastly improving parking on private and public property. Incredibly, Toronto is actually a leader in providing on-street parking, or at least we were.
As a side note Bouchard also mentioned that it is now the "public realm group" who is handling post and ring stands, since they're considered "street furniture". The application process is the same (you can use this online form), but now requests go to the public realm group.