The Financial Case for Bicycle Parking at City Hall

Doug Ford calls the proposed bike parking station in the City Hall parking lot "gravy". That makes him precisely wrong. Bicycle infrastructure offers the cheapest solution to two very difficult problems that threaten Toronto's future prosperity: the increasing cost of health care, and transportation gridlock in the GTA.

A recent documentary on PBS claimed that obesity adds ten thousand dollars annually to the health care costs of everyone who suffers from it. Even those who doubt those figures agree sedentary lifestyles lead to a constellation of symptoms similar to the effects of tobacco addiction, with similar effects on health care costs and absenteeism. Urban design plays a critical role in encouraging or discouraging physical activity. Assuming the proposed bicycle facility lasts for ten years without a major overhaul, it will cost about $200,000 per year, including the maximum estimates for the cost of foregone parking revenue. If this facility attracts only twenty new bicycle riders, or seven percent of its designed capacity, it will pay for itself in savings on health care costs alone.

A break even load factor of 7%: transportation investments don't get any sweeter than that. For the physical, transportation, and financial health of this city and its taxpayers, let's get this facility approved and built.


I find it interesting that Rob Ford is so envious of Chicago. Yet where Chicago built their bike station, he ignores that. Even when the Toronto bike station would hold more bicycles that Chicago's and at one million dollars less.

I would add other locations for bike stations at the Mount Dennis Station and Kennedy Station on the Crosstown LRT. Maybe even one at the Pioneer Village Station (Steeles West next to York University) on the Spadina HRT extension.

Toronto budgets $160,000,000 to road repair annually
The economic impact of traffic congestion in the GTA is estimated at -$6,000,000,000 annually
There are studies that show $1 invested on cycling infrastructure translates in a $1000 savings in healthcare costs

So, 1,200,000 to build 380 safe & secure bike parking spaces, with showers & and repair facilities isn't that big a deal

Our money talking Mayor and his brother ought to know better

I'm actually riled at both sides on this. If we really ask cyclists what facilities we/they want, odds are they'd say "more bike lanes", which don't have to cost millions per km to install, and we need to have a useful wider network first, right? And for me - looking at years to decades of crash and harm stats - take a guess, where would I put $1.2M of bike lane?!! We could both revive the Ford-cancelled EA for Bloor/Danforth bikeway, AND repaint the entire length of the B/D subway in something that could effectively expand the subway as load would be shed. And there'd still be a batch left over.

Sure some don't like painted bike lanes, and in an ideal world, we'll move to upgraded ones. But to put in a batch of costly ones in the core as rebuilds while removing others - it's a foul-up, and that includes some of the advocates. Why are we putting in costly bike facilities at City Wall when it is out on the streets that we need the expenditures and political will?

As for the Fords, they are hypocrites, and carist to boot. Why not focus on the other $50M of the revamp of City Hall square as waste? What about the over $600M for the Gardiner repairs and rehab, when that could go a Looong way to start up a downtown core subway, a Queen St. subway being approved by voters in 1946! Penny wise; Ford foolish...

Health care costs aren't borne by the city, though - that's a provincial level cost. So I doubt citing health care savings will do much for the Fords.

The Fords want to keep bicycles out of his sight, away from the roads, in the river valleys.

I would be all for putting in bike paths in the river valleys, such as along the Garrison Creek, Russell Creek, or Taddle Creek for a start?

Might be a bit of a problem. For example, Taddle Creek runs through the Eaton Centre. Most of those creeks are now buried or converted to sewers.

So why not put them along the neighbouring streets, like Queen Street, Young Street, Avenue Road, etc.? Still, a little bit of a problem.. for the Fords.

Hamish: I agree with you, except I don't get any sense we or the councillors proposing this can get a trade. I see no evidence the Fords would agree to spend the money on bike lanes if they didn't spend it on bike parking. For myself, I want to see both.

Seymore: to tell the truth, while I think we need to make this argument, Doug Ford's comments make it clear that he's appealing to identity politics. Members of 'Ford Nation' don't ride bikes.

John G. Spragge
Mariner, cyclist, pilot

Under-used bike parking won't save any lives or prevent injuries. The advocates and alleged "progressives" really need to get their priorities straight. Why do cyclists lives matter less than those of motorists? The fixes I'd be fairly happy with are readily done to start with, with paint!
Cheap paint, yes the cars would likely wear it off...
But we are soo world-last, even our politicians.
I just heard CBC radio news of 7 charges against a motorist who ran a red light last night and killed a cyclist up in Scarborough...Are they the right charges? Enough of them?
Caronto the Carrupt....

As presented in this post, the financial and public health benefits of cycling are significantly underestimated. The author appears to have failed to use the latest information from The City of Toronto, Toronto Public Health and Torono's Medical Officer of Health. I refer specifically to the report on the cost of the deaths and injuries caused by car drivers poisoning the citizens of Toronto at:

And also the report that quantifies the health benefits of active transportation at:

We see from the first report that, by way of their lethal poisons:

*Car drivers in Toronto poison and kill 440 people every year.
*Car drivers in Toronto poison and injure 1,700 people in Toronto so seriously every year that they have to be hospitalized.
*The health care costs due to people being poisoned by car drivers in Toronto are $2.2 billion per year.

Cycling is one of the solutions to this problem. Even at the existing low rate of cycling in Toronto, due to inadequate spending on our crappy infrastructure, to quote from page 26 of the second report issued in April 2012:

"Over the next five years, $9 million of the City’s capital transportation budget will be allocated to cycling infrastructure and projects each year. At the same time, cycling is expected to prevent 49 deaths each year, for an annual value of $54 million to $200 million."

I could write more, such as the effects upon children of being poisoned by vicious car drivers, but this is so heart-rending and I am in no mood for such sorrow now.

Kevin Love

Building a bike parking facility does not mean that staff at city hall aren't also interested in building cycling infrastructure.
But in these Ford days you do what you can - and in if that means building secure parking instead of bike lanes then so be it; but nobody traded one for the other.

If the prevailing concerned IS that City Council doesn't care enough about cyclist's safety then I'd suggest the agent for change is public policy by way of their respective constituents; because dumping on bureaucrats doesn't advance the cause in any sense.

Im sorry guys but this is a waste of money. Almost all commercial office buildings have secure bicycle parking for their tenants. Some even have showers - and these facilities charge $20.00 / month.

There is no reason to have this facility at City Hall.

If the City wants some bike parking for their employees (which I'm sure they already do) then that's fine. My building has recently taken out 2-4 parking space to accommodate the growth of cyclists. You don't need to take our 28 parking spaces. If they want showers, then put them in the basement of City Hall. This should be a $200,000 project max - but the City finds ways to make this a 6 banger. And they say there's no gravy to be found... most people on this forum wouldn't know gravy if they swam in it.

You are confused, bikey-drivey-man. Too many Sun editorials, maybe?

Look at the details what the money is for and then reword your critique. And if the employers around City Hall all saw benefits in providing safe bike parking why should the City as an employer not do the same. By the way, parking at city hall is "in the basement", in case you didn't know....

Hamish, you focus on making things safer is admirable. But I have three quibbles:

  1. There is no reason to believe that this money would otherwise be spent on painting bike lanes.
  2. Why focus just on the bike station? Any capital money spent at City Hall could theoretically be spent on painting bike lanes. Making it real is the tough part.
  3. A cycle track on a major arterial street has much greater benefits for safety than just a painted bike lane. Hamish might prefer marginal improvements over a wider area but that is constrained by political will and doesn't provide as much as a safety benefit for that street. I say let's get it right the first time: cycle tracks are both much safer than painted bike lanes and people prefer them over just paint. The study showed a painted bike lane provides lower risk of injury but not nearly as much as a cycle track. They used a major arterial street with parked car with an risk of injury ratio of 1 (a baseline with which to compare the risk to cyclists on other infrastructure). A major street with parked cars and a bike lane was 0.69. A major street with no parked cars and a bike lane 0.54. A cycle track on a major street: 0.11. That's a big difference.

We do need more bike lanes, no question. But we also need bike parking once we get to our destination. All through the downtown I see bikes tied to anything that can hold them. No parking signs. Trees. I think the bike station is a great idea. We have to have something for those who already ride and plan to ride. It is not an either/or situation we need both. An antiquated idea in the Ford era is City Hall is a force of change. It helps lead the way. I hope these new bike spots are filled and people are complaining there aren't enough of them this time next year.

I get the meaning of your first sentence Herb, despite the glitch; some thanks.

I've done *plenty * of deputations going beyond the small points of painted lines. This includes a 6 year effort to deflect the $255M Front St. Extension. Ever fought a road project??? and won?

When the 1996 factoid in the Globe appeared - citing Vancouver finding a $2700 subsidy per year per car - it was circulated to pols then, and it's ongoing too.

With 2. "making it real is the tough part" - I **do ** go beyond the blah-blah-blah-ging one eg. being last week tilting against the $600M Gardiner repairs, and just yesterday agin Casino. When was the last deputation you made Herb?

  1. We really need a connected network first, and given the slowness here in Caronto to do much of anything, And it's a BIG urban area; and I'm also mindful of the embodied energy and resource of the roadworks, so we don't really have enough Escarpment/gravel to rebuild it all, plus money, so why not start with paint? and remove a big stumbling block for some tight politicians, and also, maybe, minimize maintenance issues and costs? Yes, in an ideal world separations would make a bigger difference - so why has the Cyclists' Union pushed for mere re-dos (for the most part) of existing bike lanes where we don't have so many problems. Like why not put in separations along College St. eastbound east of Spadina? And did Cycle Toronto push to put in 12M of separations where Ms. Morrison was killed? The purported "fix" to that corner leaves the tight corner and other road geometry in place, and I think the added stoplight may be in the wrong place vs. Dundas and College, and the money for all of that is coming out of the bike budget I believe. The money totals about $170,000 - that could give us daycare to daycare bike lanes including along much of Bloor St.

My choices of what to push for can be based on logic - like crash stats - and eventually, when I found it - old planning studies. Having Jarvis bike lanes thinking that we'll have a velotube down Mt. Pleasant sometime is a costly fantasy, one of the costs maybe being Ford as Mayor.

I really don't think the lack of cycling infrastructure has anything to do with a lack of money, and Cycle Toronto (the then Bike Union) pushed a recent campaign called "Paint the Plan', the purpose of which was to install all of the approved bike lanes.

Public Policy is all it takes to change the ways of City Council - any other strategies are bound to fail, and have.

It is time to stop pointing fingers and arguing about this.

If you want to make a difference:
1. start or join a Ward Group
2. solicit and engage your community around the needs of cyclists, and
3. tell the Councillor, and apply gentle pressure.

The Bike Union was founded on this concept.

Seymore: right on.

To make it clear: I did not write this analysis to bolster a claim that bicycle parking at City Hall makes the best possible use of funding or political effort. Nor did I men to attempt a full accounting of all the costs of car dependence. Nor did I claim that City Hall always builds and contracts in the most honest and efficient manner possible. I simply meant to emphasize that like most economic argument against bicycle infrastructure, the argument made by Doug Ford wholly lacks economic rationality.

Debates about where to place our effort and how best to press for usable bicycle infrastructure matter. We should address these issues. I just didn't propose to start, or contribute to, that discussion in this one web log post.

John G. Spragge
Mariner, cyclist, pilot

For me, I've been looking at the crash stats for a decade or so, albeit with a core focus, as that is still where many cyclists are, and it has been taking so long to get less done, a shift in focus to the more suburban regions isn't yet possible.

Given how cheaply Bloor St. in the core could be made far safer for bikes with a repainting eg. $200,000 (or less depending on what might happen in the Yorkvile area), it's kinda galling to see oh soo many people/advocates/politicians line up for the costly things when we still don't have a good, smooth, straight, network, especially in the west end, where the streetcar tracks and the road grid really inhibit easy and cheap solutions.

Having suggested Bloor St. in the Bike Plan consults, the Bike Plan is a bit of a cop-out, with only the bit of Bloor between Sherbourne and Church St. actually getting in. So IF there is such a big interest in painting the Bike Plan, where's the push to spend $20,000-ish to fill in that bit of Bloor St.?

At times, I'm thinking that many pro-cycling types are part of the problem in not being thoughtful about what they push for, compounding what the Fordkers are doing in blowing bucks for the 1% in the core, and promising huge amounts for off-road facilities in suburbs.

The three things that will change how we manage our cycling infrastructure: Public, Policy, Public Policy & Public Policy.
A short list of things that will not, include: money, virtue, safety, and assigning blame to those who give of themselves to make Toronto a better city to cycle in.

If the City wants some bike parking for their employees (which I'm sure they already do) then that's fine. My building has recently taken out 2-4 parking space to accommodate the growth of cyclists. You don't need to take our 28 parking spaces. If they want showers, then put them in the basement of City Hall. This should be a $200,000 project max - but the City finds ways to make this a 6 banger. And they say there's no gravy to be found... most people on this forum wouldn't know gravy if they swam in it.

From Canada' oil and gas dominant city, Calgary:

Right in front of Calgary City Hall is the municipal bike parking outdoors but under roof and caged bike area with bike racks inside, a bike stand, pump, tools AND several public pool bikes for employees to cycle to other municipal workplace sites within 5 km. The caged bike locker area works and accommodates up to 160 bikes. It was expanded last year to accommodate 25 more bikes. In spring to fall it is full. Winter time is less but still there are some hardy cyclists.

If we do the math, 1 car parking spot can fit 6-10 parked bikes.....

Municipal bike cage is right by the front door of City Hall. This is not ordinary fencing, it's uber strong thick steel narrow posts.

Come on, Toronto get on with it and get the bike parking your cycling program and infrastructure leadership..NOW. Forget about Ford leadership and mistakes. The guys are only in office...temporarily.

And Calgary has worse cycling infrastructure than Toronto. I should now, I worked and cycled in Toronto for 14 years.

In today's Toronto Star.

A bike station is supposed to be built in the City Hall parking garage, but plans hit a road bump when it was learned that the station would take up 24 parking spaces that would have potential revenue of $70,000 annually.

By: Patty Winsa News reporter, Published on Wed May 01 2013

The city spent $650,000 on a bike station under Nathan Phillips Square before the project was quietly shelved by staff in 2011, a decision some councillors say should have come back to council for approval.

“That seems very strange,” said Councillor Paula Fletcher. “The scope of work for the Nathan Phillips Square revitalization is part of a pretty public restoration. That should have been reported out.”

The station, with secure parking for 380 bikes, was a signature element in the revitalization and would have been one of the biggest in North America.

Council approved $1.2 million in funding for the station in 2010. The $650,000 was spent on design as well as electrical and mechanical servicing. The remaining money, $550,000, is still sitting in the budget, said city spokesperson Natasha Hinds Fitzsimmins.

The project was revived last month at a government management committee meeting.

Both Mayor Rob Ford and Councillor Doug Ford have said they will try to kill it when it comes up for approval at city council this month. They say the facility — complete with four shower stalls — is a waste of money and deprives the city of revenue-drawing parking spots. (The staffed station would charge fees for users but not earn a profit.)

“The Ford brothers should actually look at the drawings,” says Andrew Frontini, a member of the architectural team who won a design competition for the square.

The showers are made of concrete blocks and finished inside with the “most economical porcelain tile you can get but that you can still clean,” said Frontini. As well, the storage area for the bikes is basically a metal cage.

“We had more expensive versions,” he says, but the final design was “certainly not a cathedral to cycling. It’s basic infrastructure.”

Initial plans called for the station, which would accommodate 150 bikes, to be located underground on the east side of the square, but it was decided that getting bikes up and down using an elevator was too unwieldy for users.

It took months to draw up a new plan so that the facility, now with secure parking for 380 bikes, would be closer to the Queen St. W. entrance ramp into the parking garage.

The design was complete and drawings were ready to be tendered when transportation services became aware of a road bump in 2011.

The station would take up 24 parking spaces in the Toronto Parking Authority garage below City Hall, which would otherwise have potential revenue of $70,000 annually. All city departments had been told to cut 10 per cent from their budgets, and transportation services decided to defer the station until it could justify paying the parking authority the lost revenue, according to city staff.

A report from the city manager’s office done in 2012 at the request of Councillor Joe Mihevc says transportation services felt the bike station could be reinitiated if it was economically viable. But the department would wait to see how new bike stations coming online in the next two years fared before making a decision.

Mihevc said he only became aware the bike station wasn’t being built after talking to construction workers on the revitalization project.

“Everyone assumed (the station) was going in, and to find out how it somehow got cut is totally unsettling,” Mihevc says. “When I pursued the questions with staff, that’s when I found out it was cut.”

The division head “had the authority to defer this project to a future year without requiring city council approval,” city spokesperson Steve Johnston wrote in an email. “The project was not cancelled, just deferred and plans for the revitalization do not preclude the implementation of the bike station in the future.”

The bike station came back into play Monday after the committee passed a motion to waive the $70,000 potential revenue loss and direct transportation services to begin building the project.

The decision goes to council for approval on May 7.