Parking at Queen and Portland: is the city taking bike parking seriously?

The new Loblaws, Winners, Joe Fresh at Queen St West and Portland have been open for a few months. In the inscrutable ways of the City, the stores opened with absolutely zero bike parking. The sidewalk was finished, trees were installed out front but no one felt the need to install bike parking anywhere surrounding the building. I like trees but wouldn't it have been even more important to install bike parking? Now we've just got people slowly killing the trees by locking to the trees.

I followed up with planner Lisa Ing of Street Furniture at the City, the area which is now in charge of post and rings (you can email your bike parking request to them). They are still figuring out how they will deal with post and rings. Lisa Ing told me about this location by email:

The post-and-ring locations were approved as part of the Site Plan Control process for this development. Our staff are typically not involved in this process. However Forestry and Urban Design staff do take into consideration bike parking issues.

I do not know the reasons why post-and-rings were not identified on Queen Street West as part of the site plan process. I am presuming there may be other street elements proposed or it could have been for aesthetic reasons.

Anyways, we can list this location in our database for future review.

So it's not just Street Furniture making the siting decisions, Urban Design and Urban Forestry Services are also involved (I think that's what Ing means by her phrase "Forestry and Urban Design"). It leaves me wondering how the City determines bike parking needs and how they prioritize it with competing interests for space.

I also sent a note about this to Councillor Vaughan and the Queen West BIA. Jennifer Chan, assistant to Councillor Vaughan followed up and responded:

Hi Herb,

Thanks for your note. I've been looking into the issue of bike parking in the area.

The developer of the Queen and Portland building, Riocan, was required to provide on-site bike parking in their underground garage, so there are 13 bike posts located on two different levels, in addition to 23 spaces for condo residents on the residential parking level.

I spoke with the Street Furniture staff a couple of weeks ago as well and they are planning to add more bike parking around the new sidewalks, but this will not take place until the Spring as the contract for the company that installs bike rings for the City is complete for the season. I did a site visit this weekend and saw that there were markings on the sidewalk on Portland for future installations. The Queen St West BIA recently commissioned and installed a number of artist-designed bike rings in the area. A BIXI station was also recently moved to the corner of Queen and Portland to support demand in the area.

In the meantime we'll be looking to see if there can be some protective guards installed to prevent the young trees from being hurt.

Feel free to contact me with further questions.

All the best,
Jen Chan

Jennifer Chan
Constituency Assistant to
Toronto City Councillor Adam Vaughan

I should be thankful that bike parking has been / is being installed. But we've still got a ways to go. When walked around the building looking for bike parking I didn't see any evidence that there was parking indoors. Having bike parking far from the storefronts - on Richmond, Portland and inside - are poor substitutes for parking directly in front of the stores.

You may have heard about "desire lines" (or social trails), the worn paths that are the most desirous since they take the shortest or most easily navigable route between an origin and destination. Planners nowadays generally try to work with desire lines because people often find a way to subvert the official path by overcoming barriers to use the desire line again. Something similar happens with bike parking. If planners try to force people to park too distant from their destination they will instead just lock to anything nearby, whether it be tree trunks, guy wires and gas meters. In the meanwhile their unpopular bike parking will useful for gathering rusty, abandoned bikes. I'll call this concept desire parking.

Councillor Vaughan's office is working on getting some tree guards so there at least be some desire parking on Queen. According to Dandyhorse, on Roncesvalles the merchants are actually encouraging cyclists to lock to the tree guards. They look secure enough, if only it was legal.


There's zero bike parking at street level at the other new Loblaws downtown, at Maple Leaf Gardens. How can these things get through zoning changes - eg a new set of traffic lights for the underground parking at MLG - and yet the stores open, and the 'bike parking instal season ends' without a few ring-and-posts. How is that possible? Toronto is SO INCREDIBLY under serviced for bike parking right now, and to let these new developments happen and leave bikes an afterthought? Ahem. #fail.

Sounds like the process needs to should be included from the start in the plan...and there should be a formula for the minimum number of bike and posts on a block based on the population number and type of zoning...just like there is for parking...likewise all condo units should be mandated to have a certain minimum number of public, and a certain minimum number of private bike racks based on the size of condo...also the contract should be year round...

Also...aesthetic reasons are an amazing excuse not to have bike racks...imagine if we did that with parking lots or roadside

The lack of bike parking at the start shows that bicycles are very low on the priority list for the Ford regime. Hopefully, it will be rectified soon, for both the bikes and trees.

The picture above says it all. I made several installation requests along Danforth two years ago. Until now, I was under the impression that the Ring & Post re-design was the reason for the delay. The absurdity of all this is further evidence of a "dark period' in Toronto's support of bicycle infrastructure, we are surely mock-worthy by other like cities.

Well, planting trees are very important. I think they should have done both. Biker need a place to park their bikes and there could have been plans in the design for both to coexist.

I think that Toronto is becoming the "control group" in a way. Well not really, more of a way to show people in the future if we had gone the other way. With cities all over the continent going in the direction of active transportation we have one city trying to continue along the old private motor vehicle route. In ten years if the other cities have any doubts if they had done the right thing can simply look to Toronto and the mess it'll be in and be assured that they had.

Vancouver looked at the post and ring design along with many others but in the end picked this rounded A shape. They've been popping up all over town the past few years. Very nice to have. I was recently in a suburb and had to go very far to find a place to lock up.

I noticed the same thing at the downtown Loblaws. Other than twig-like trees, no bike parking anywhere in sight. I asked the greeters inside. Two told me it was outside while another said bike parking was in the basement. I went downstairs and the staff there said they'd never seen any bike parking. Eventually I found an empty rack in the far corner of the parking lot. It's inconvenient, and a hidden (safe?) location. It might work for people that work there but customers aren't going to want to peddle groceries up a steep crowded ramp. Major locations should have posts.

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