British Columbia

Cycling advocates call for safer bicycle parking options in the bike theft capital of Canada

Cycling advocates say bicycle theft is a large barrier in the city that keeps many would-be riders from strapping on a helmet and hitting one of the city’s many bike lanes.

Vancouver has zero public, long-term bicycle parkades that include end-of-trip facilities

As Vancouver continues to see the highest rate of bicycle theft per capita in Canada, advocates call for more secure, city-built, long-term parking options. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Over the years, Vancouver has established itself as a cycling city.

It's a title that lines up with Vancouver's Transportation 2040 Plan, which aims to have two-thirds of all trips made by walking, cycling or transit by 2040.

But cycling advocates say there is still a large barrier that keeps many would-be riders from strapping on a helmet and hitting one of the city's many bike lanes — and that's theft.

"Often, this is one of the reasons that people are not cycling often because they worry their bike won't be secure at their destination," said Navdeep Chhina, the director of campaigns and inclusion at HUB Cycling.

Vancouver continues to have the highest rate of bicycle theft per capita of any major Canadian city. In 2020, 334 bicycles were stolen in Vancouver per 100,000 people.

In a news story two years ago, Jordan was interviewed about his bike parts collection as part of a story on bicycle chop shops. He told CBC News he's fixing bikes for fellow Vancouver downtown eastside residents, not dealing in stolen bikes and running a chop shop. (Eric Rankin, CBC)

But Chhina says one way to both increase cyclists and decrease theft is to invest in more long-term, secure bicycle parkades that include end-of-trip facilities.

Safer parking options

These parkades are far from a simple cage and many include secure entry, lockers, showers and bicycle repair stations.

"All new buildings require bike parking and it all kind of varies depending on the type of building," said Paul Storer, director of transportation with the City of Vancouver.

He says most new commercial buildings are required to include bicycle parkades and end-of-trip facilities, while new residential buildings must provide secure bicycle parking rooms designed to deter theft.

But Chhina says bylaw requirements are only one piece of the puzzle, adding that the city should also be investing in public, long-term bicycle parking infrastructure.

"The city should lead by example. They should show how this can be done," he said.

Right now, there are no city-built, public long-term bicycle parking stations.

Instead, the city relies on TransLink which has 11 bicycle parkades at different stations throughout Metro Vancouver with the capacity to hold around 560 bicycles. However, these parkades only offer the basics: four walls and bicycle stands.

TransLink has 11 bicycle stations that are accessed by a user's Compass card. (TransLink)

As well, one city-owned EasyPark lot in Gastown offers a secure bike cage that can hold 30 bicycles and costs $20 a month.

Vancouver trails other cities: advocate

"If we were to look at the cities that are leading by example, we are nowhere close," said Chhina, referring to cycling cities in Europe and Japan.

Take the city of Utrecht, Netherlands, for example. In 2017, it opened the world's largest parking garage. It's a three-storey structure next to the city's main train station and can house up to 12,500 bicycles. Parking is also free for the first 24 hours.

In Tokyo, buried under its streets, sits the Eco Cycle automated storage system, which functions much like a coat check at a bar. A rider simply drops off their bike and it is swiftly stored underground.

And while both those options seem like lofty goals for Vancouver, there are much more attainable examples here in Canada, like the four long-term bicycle stations in Toronto.

"It was focused on the need for commuters to have a safe place to lock their bike and to facilitate comfortable bicycle commuting," said Becky Katz, manager of cycling and pedestrian projects for the City of Toronto.

"We face the same challenges as Vancouver in terms of bike theft and the need for more end-of-trip facilities."

Two of the city's public parkades also include end-of-trip facilities such as showers, lockers and even towel service. The parkades are accessed with RFID keys by users who pay a monthly membership fee.

And Katz says the parkades have been a hit with riders searching for safer options.

 "The secure parking is focused on security ... on having the confidence that where you put your bike in the morning or the evening, that it stays there," she said.

The bicycle station at Nathan Phillips Square opened in 2019 and can accommodate 170 bicycles. (City of Toronto)

And while she admits the parkades are long-term investments, Katz says that, for the City of Toronto, they were worth it.

But when it comes to Vancouver, Storer says it's not currently on the to-do list for the near future.

"We've had discussions with various big building owners over the years and have gone as far as feasibility studies, but we haven't had anything land on the ground yet," he said.

Instead, the city said in a statement "it plans to continue to advocate for the expansion of TransLink's bike parkade facilities and may partner with other organizations in future to help expand the number of public secure bike-parking facilities available."

CBC Vancouver's Impact Team investigates and reports on stories that impact people in their local community and strives to hold individuals, institutions and organizations to account. If you have a story for us, email impact@cbc.ca.  

 

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