The Rise of the Bike Valet

The Rise of the Bike Valet

Cycling is growing more and more popular in Toronto. The city’s cycling network is slowly but surely expanding, Bike Share use is breaking records, and more and more are realizing that it’s the most reliable way to get around an increasingly congested city.

The rise in the number of bikes on Toronto’s streets has come with some growing pains, however. Most notably, in certain areas, it can be almost impossible to find a secure place to lock up a bike. Most who ride a bike regularly know the frustration of reaching your destination only to find a full bike rack, or even no rack at all. Wandering around looking for a spot can be the worst part of a bike ride. Not to mention, the exasperating process of trying to find parking is one of the many reasons many cyclists avoid driving. Plus, with many examples of bike parking being difficult to use or unsafe, well-designed bike racks are often even busier.

Cities with a larger share of cyclists have historically struggled to keep up with the demand for bike parking, and thus have experimented with various innovative methods of mass bike storage like the underground bike vaults in Tokyo and the underwater bike garages in Amsterdam.

(Bike parking outside of Amsterdam Centraal Station. Image: New York Times)

Until Toronto experiments with more imaginative solutions, more traditional bike parking is needed around the city, and most critically at destinations where bike racks regularly overflow. Destinations like parks, sporting venues, and transit stations need better capacity to fulfill the demand. 

However, in the meantime, the modest “bike valet” is attempting to fill the gap. Bike valets are a simple concept with huge potential. Not only do they solve the problem of a lack of bike parking at certain destinations, but they also guard against bike theft. 

Think of them like a coat check: cyclists hand their bike off to an attendant who stores it in a secure area and looks after it all day until it’s picked up. Bike valets are getting more and more popular in cities across Canada and the world. They usually cost a small fee or are completely free. From the perspective of an event organizer, having secure bike parking onsite can significantly reduce automobile traffic, makes parking easier for those already coming by bike, and offers red carpet service to those who choose cycling to get there.

Interested in trying out a bike valet service this summer? In order to make enjoying the waterfront easier, from July 5th to 15th the Waterfront BIA is offering a free bike valet at Rees and Queens Quay. Bikes can be dropped off anytime from 8:00 am to 10:00 pm. Hopefully we will continue to see more permanent bike parking built by both the private and public sectors. But in the meantime, check out a bike valet!

(Participants check their bikes into a bike valet at the 2024 Big Toronto Bike Ride. Image: Jun Nogami)

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