Special Report: Cycling

Addressing Hamilton's Bike Parking Deficit

How good is our bike parking infrastructure? Could addressing this challenge help encourage people to bike more and drive less?

By Dave Heidebrecht
Published September 27, 2013

Over the course of an incredibly successful Supercrawl weekend earlier this month, held along James Street North (the epicenter of Hamilton's increasingly visible cultural renaissance), I was inspired to take part in a number of compelling conversations on the direction the city is headed.

James Street North filled with people enjoying Supercrawl on Saturday September 14, 2013
James Street North filled with people enjoying Supercrawl on Saturday September 14, 2013

These dialogues ranged from a passionate talk given by former Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy to public discussion panels with local artists, and also included personal conversations throughout the weekend. Each of them focused on where Hamilton is coming from, where we are currently, and where we may (or may not) be headed in the future, depending on decisions we make going forward.

I came away from the weekend enlightened to see so much positive energy around city-building based on community, despite the many challenges and growing pains that this might involve.

More Parking Needed Downtown?!?

It was to my shock and dismay then, to wake up on the Monday morning as if from a dream, as a CBC Hamilton story shared news that a report to Hamilton's Planning and Economic Development Department was recommending that downtown was in need of more (yes, more) parking spaces.

After a weekend where a hundred thousand people found their way downtown to celebrate urban renewal, open streets, and the prospect of building community spirit through such events as Supercrawl, this report came as a cold splash of reality to the face.

An immediate response on RTH made excellent points as to the ridiculousness of such a report, including a map providing an overview of surface parking lots that currently exist across the downtown and often sit nearly empty.

Tom Murphy had noted just days before that surface parking lots are the killers of urban renewal, as we here in Hamilton know all too well.

Thankfully, a vote in council days after the report was published declined even to consider exploring a public-private partnership to build two new parking garages (as the report recommended).

Our councillors also thought the report was out of place, and turned down any ideas of spending public money on such a plan.

What kind of parking do we need in Hamilton? Bike Parking

Though I own a car and don't fault others for driving - after all, we do live in a decades-old infrastructure built to promote just that - I do use my bike as often as possible to get around and encourage others to do so, especially on short trips of five to ten kilometres throughout the Hamilton area.

This got me thinking: how good is our bike parking infrastructure? Could addressing this challenge help encourage people to bike more and drive less?

Given the changing culture in City Hall and across the city to developing a more people-friendly multi-modal transportation infrastructure, I thought perhaps there might be places in Hamilton that could benefit from more bike parking.

Improved bike parking would be a win-win for a number of reasons:

Considering these points, the thought of building another parking garage in a core filled with near-empty surface lots makes even less sense. More bike parking on the other hand? It makes a lot of sense to me.

Seeking Input

To find out about the current situation, I decided to ask fellow Hamiltonians about existing gaps in our bike parking infrastructure, hoping to start a conversation on potential parking changes that actually make sense with respect to the direction our city is headed.

To get started, I decided to connect with Hamilton's Twitter community - an ever-growing, and increasingly powerful voice in the city - by using the hashtag #BikeParkHamOnt. Several tweets, retweets, and replies later, and I was amazed at the conversation that had developed after only a few short days.

Based on this feedback, I'm currently compiling the ideas and photos that have come through to me from people across the city, and will be sharing the outcomes next week.

Are There Parking Gaps in Your Hamilton Cycling Experience?

In the coming days, I'm hoping that others who read this who may not have shared their #BikeParkHamOnt ideas so far will do so. Do you know of a specific place at home, work, or anywhere in between that could use a bike rack or two?

I've had many suggestions for locations downtown, and welcome more, though hope to also receive feedback from places in all directions beyond the core. While I'm hoping to learn about major gaps, I'd also love to hear about any places that have done a great job addressing bike parking as examples we can learn from.

To share your ideas about Hamilton's bike parking infrastructure, send me an email at dwheidebrecht [at] gmail.com, find me on Twitter @DaveHeidebrecht or use the hashtag #BikeParkHamOnt, or find me on my Facebook page.

First published on Dave's website

Dave Heidebrecht is the Manager of McMaster University’s Office of Community Engagement.


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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted September 27, 2013 at 07:41:22

Bike parking in Hamilton? I honestly never even think about it. My default assumption is that I'm going to have to search for something to lock my bike to, given how few bike racks there are in this city.

Lucky for me, there aren't too many other cyclists shopping by bike, so I don't have much competition for the street signs and lamp posts.


Ok: sarcasm aside ... this seems a worth and pretty affordable little goal for the city: provide more bike racks, both to make shopping by bike easier and to raise the profile of cycling as an option.

I've noted over the past few years a slow increase in the number of bike racks at West-end grocery stores. But the Westdale Metro and the Dundurn Fortinos both overflow the available bike parking quite often.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 27, 2013 at 08:52:42 in reply to Comment 92690

The Main West fortinos is the subject of constant frustration for me - they cut off their bike racks from the curb ramp with their garden displays. Ever try to get a bike with a Chariot trailer containing 60lbs of kid up a curb? It sucks. I can never get my stuff locked up without a plethora of non-kid-appropriate language.

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By Kevin Love (anonymous) | Posted September 27, 2013 at 19:33:53 in reply to Comment 92691

It is truly bizarre the "we hate customers who get here on bikes" message that is sent out by the Main West Fortinos. And it is a very consistent messaage.

It starts when trying to get to the store from the Rail Trail. Customers are forced onto a narrow sidewalk - nasty! Then there are the bike racks carefully placed outside the overhang to ensure we get wet in the rain. The same bike racks are not attached to anything, so an entire rackfull can be stolen at once.

And the bike racks are up a curb in order to exclude anyone with children, a cargo bike or a disabled person with a hand cycle. Gotta make sure those disabled people are kept out of the store!

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 27, 2013 at 19:42:33 in reply to Comment 92723

To be fair, they don't seem to like pedestrians either. There's no sidewalk leading from Main Street to the storefront. Which is normal, I guess... but most of the time a parking lot stands in front of a store, there's less-active parts of the parking lot to walk up. At Main West, you walk up the main driveway. It's... weird. The sidewalk doesn't even end at an accessability ramp, it just dead-ends.

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted September 27, 2013 at 09:07:32

I worked with a couple of other Beasley residents on a Participatory Budgeting proposal to have more bike parking downtown (well, lock-up rings for bikes and other mobility devices, since the idea came from a resident concerned about scooter-user who felt they couldn't go places downtown). The idea was for a series of rings to be combined with those cool display/poster boards you see around downtown, so it would be parking and community events/news.

Unfortunately staff couldn't wrap their heads around the idea and it got split into two proposals, one for display boards, the other for bike rings. Double-unfortunately, the bike rings didn't make it on to the compromise budget, but the display boards did.

Anyway, FYI, in speaking to community members who use bikes and mobility devices, the following locations were identified as needing more secure lock-ups:

(1) James St. N @ Cannon St.; (2) Barton St. E & Mary; (3) King William @ Hughson; (4) Ferguson @ King St. E (5) Beasley Park, SW entrance (Mary & Cannon); (6) Gore Park.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted September 27, 2013 at 10:01:13 in reply to Comment 92693

A motion for The 2007 Transportation Master Plan wants 15% of daily trips to be made by bicycle by 2037.

In order to encourage this, the City can lead by 1/6 of all city parking lots to secure cycling lock-ups.

That gives you facilities at City Hall; King & Locke; King & Hess; King & Bay; King & Ferguson; King & Jarvis; Bay & Cannon; Mulberry & Severn; Hughson & Robert; James & Wilson; John & Rebecca; King WIlliam & Mary; King William & Wellington; Catharine & Hunter; Jackson & Hunter; Barton & Caroline....

A multi-level structure like the York Boulevard Parkade would devote its requisite share at street level.

If you include underground garages like the Summers Lane in the mix, the lock-up would be designated on the level closest to grade.

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By Keith (anonymous) | Posted September 28, 2013 at 01:15:15 in reply to Comment 92697

The York Boulevard Parkade cycling cage is under utilized. Secure parking bike cages are a good idea, but they don't meet the new of the irregular rider who doesn't want to buy into a longer-term commitment which ends up happening at most secure facilities.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted September 28, 2013 at 08:12:42 in reply to Comment 92726

Utilization may be tied to visibility. I would venture to guess that the YBP lock-up isn't well-known by most of the able-bodied public -- it isn't terribly visible from the street and the city has not exactly gone out of its way to promote it.

With secure bike pens in high-visibility locations every municipal lot (and, I would hope, a public awareness campaign to drive adoption), that might change. I counted 18 lots in the above post in downtown alone. Membership would reach city-wide. The commuter/consumer calculus might shift if the city decided to truly back the option. (And that's not even including the parallel convenience of bike-sharing infrastructure.)

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted September 28, 2013 at 08:01:23 in reply to Comment 92726

Use of the York Boulevard Parkade cycling cage -- paid for by Metrolinx, AFAIK -- costs, but as cages multiply the cost would presumably remain constant, not compound.

Everyone will have to make their own cost rationalizations, but $40 or so per year for peace of mind over a riding season does not strike me as a huge longer-term commitment.

Assuming you bike downtown once a week the six months of optimal weather, if you rode once a week over the six months of optimal weather, you'd be looking at less than $1.70 per lock-up. That's about the hourly rate for parking, but drivers are obliged to pay that minimum for most off-street spots, even if they only require a fraction of it.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted September 28, 2013 at 13:30:25 in reply to Comment 92731

I had no idea that parkade had secure bike parking until reading your comment. Had one bike stolen from in front of the farmer's market, so now I use the secure lockup at the GO station and walk over. Now that I know there's secure lockup in that parking garage I'd love to use it.

AC outlet for charging an e-bike while parked - even with a small surcharge - now that would be the cat's meow!

You are right that it's not visible or promoted enough - I'm on google trying to figure out how to register, so far have not found a website with the procedure or contact info.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted September 28, 2013 at 13:48:15 in reply to Comment 92741

In my civic generosity I may have misconstrued what a pass entitled you to:

"Passes are available for a small fee of $50.00 per year and guarantee you a parking spot at one of the parking facilites for the year."


Also, City employees apparently enjoy twice as many enclosed bike parking options as the general public.

"ENCLOSED bike parking - provided by both the City of Hamilton and private employers. In addition to the following information check out Smart Commute Hamilton.

for the PUBLIC:

The City of Hamilton, with the financial assistance of Metrolinx, provides ENCLOSED bike racks at the following locations. These facilities are for anyone to use, but note there is an annual fee. Click here for more details.
1) in the York Boulevard Parkade (32 York Blvd.) near the Vine St. access
2) at the Convention Centre, Hamilton Place and the Art Gallery of Hamilton in the underground parking garage on Summers Lane (80 Main St. W.)
3) at City Hall in the rear parking lot (71 Main St. W.) on the east side of the lower level garage.

The City is planning additional locations, so please give us your ideas.


The City of Hamilton has ENCLOSED bike racks at four locations for the benefit of City employees - the three locations that are also available to the public (described above) and a fourth location at 330 Wentworth St. N. For the Wentworth St. N. facility contact Tarquin Adams x.6386 for details.

The Government of Canada building (the Federal Building on Bay St.) has ENCLOSED bike racks for staff in a controlled access area.

Hamilton Health Sciences has ENCLOSED bike racks for staff (free) at their following facilities:

1) Chedoke Hospital - near the Wilcox Building,
2) Hamilton General Hospital - by the parking garage,
3) Henderson Hospital - by the parking garage,
4) McMaster University Medical Centre - near the front entrance.

For staff to arrange access to these facilities, they are to contact Krista at MUMC Security x.76447

McMaster University has bike lockers and ENCLOSED bike racks that are available to staff, faculty, and students. Click here for more details.

Mohawk College has ENCLOSED bike racks at the Fennell Campus that are available to staff, faculty, and students. For more information and to purchase a pass, click here."


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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted September 28, 2013 at 14:21:51 in reply to Comment 92743

Thanks for that info Fred!!

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted September 28, 2013 at 13:51:04 in reply to Comment 92743

Correction: *Public* employees may enjoy twice as many enclosed bike parking options as the general public.

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By Conrad664 (registered) | Posted September 27, 2013 at 10:52:48 in reply to Comment 92697

As far im concern every parking lot in this city can give 3 to 4 parking spots for bike raks

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 27, 2013 at 10:48:13 in reply to Comment 92697

Do you mean literally converting parking spaces into bike racks at a ratio of 1:6? That seems like overkill, since a single car parking space could provide many bike parking spots. Also, I worry that there's a good reason why we always see bike parking spots on the sidewalk - is it difficult to anchor a bike rack to asphalt?

But on the other hand: I absolutely agree that every municipal parking lot should be leading by example and providing bike racks - enough to cover a substantial fraction of their visitors being on bikes. And from a cyclist's perspective, locating them in the lot itself does offer some advantages - lugging a heavy trailer up a curb sucks. But on the other hand, locating them at the street/sidewalk or in a lock-up room offers better security than in a less-visible and less-protected parking lot.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted September 30, 2013 at 11:56:50 in reply to Comment 92703

Do you mean literally converting parking spaces into bike racks

I hope not. I don't want to have to find a municipal parking lot when I'm shopping by bike. Other cities have plentiful bike parking on sidewalks (e.g. Toronto's ring-posts, they are literally everywhere and it works quite well). With the scale of a bike v.s. a car and the difference in how long a typical trip is, it doesn't make sense to lock your bike in a parking lot. Of course, it is pretty reasonable to have bike-racks in every municipal parking lot..but that is not a solution to making parking your bike easy.

Comment edited by AnjoMan on 2013-09-30 11:57:42

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted September 30, 2013 at 20:29:51 in reply to Comment 92784

I viewed the 1/6 conversion as a starting point, not an end in itself.

Sidewalk fixtures are needed too, and not incredibly expensive. Toronto's new bike rings cost about $80 per, so you could probably plant one every 20 feet on both sides of King from Wellington to Queen for $20,000.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted September 27, 2013 at 11:13:18 in reply to Comment 92703

I imagine that would be an opening gambit, and the ratio would be debatable. I just chose 1/6 because of the 15% target. Admittedly, there's grey area in terms of riders, but it would demonstrate municipal commitment toward active transportation.

I think that the basic premise is reasonable and workable. Municipal lots are presumably located in sites that are in-demand and familiar to motorists,a and they would constantly be reminded that alternatives are available, viable, safe and attractive. In terms of shifting people out of cars, it seems like a pretty straight line, and one of the least contentious supports for cycling that I can imagine.

Plus the City is in the driver's seat, as it were, so it's not like ornery private lot owners are blocking process toward that goal. No EAs are needed, AFAIK. If they can identify the funds for racks and/or fencing they can make it happen overnight.

Oh, and summon up the political will. Tick, tock.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted September 27, 2013 at 11:25:43 in reply to Comment 92705


2,999 spaces in downtown municipal parking lots/garages. Under the 1/6 ratio, roughly 500 City-owned spaces would be devoted to cycling storage.

If they're feeling bold, the City could always apply the same conversion ratio to its 1,138 on-street parking spaces downtown.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted September 27, 2013 at 10:08:53 in reply to Comment 92697

Slipped away from me. Meant to type:

"A motion for consideration by Councillor Farr would immediately devote a share of city-owned parking to cycling infrastructure."

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By CareBear (registered) | Posted September 27, 2013 at 10:00:22

I wholehearted agree on the need for secure bike parking in Hamilton. There have been times where I have chosen not to ride my bike for fear that it will have been stolen from its locked spot. Bike parking is poorly managed in Hamilton and often suitable bike parking is unavailable or completely full. The choices for bike parking where they exist (like the Locke Street shopping district) are insufficient for the number of bikes that are, or could be used in the area if more parking was easily available.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted September 27, 2013 at 11:44:22 in reply to Comment 92696

I wholehearted agree on the need for secure bike parking in Hamilton. There have been times where I have chosen not to ride my bike for fear that it will have been stolen from its locked spot.

My wife sometimes refuses to bike to some places downtown for the very same reason.

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 27, 2013 at 10:10:00

Glad to hear someone pushing for this. I've pretty much given up. Sent in a lot of requests for bike corrals (which in my opinion are superior to the rings which only accommodate 1 or 2 bikes). There's always a reason why corrals can't work on Locke, James, Augusta, York, King, Barton, Ottawa, Cannon etc.... (amazing that we have the skill to build a flyover freeway viaduct and flying squirrel passageway through a nature valley, but we can't plop down some bike corrals in the city).

As a side, you may have noticed that the very few spots that do have bike corrals in Hamilton, are ALWAYS well used - John N, 2 in front of the market/library, McMaster campus, MIP and on Hunter in front of GO.

I met someone on Locke the other day and had to walk a full block to find an empty pole to lock up to.

Very simple, cheap and easy concept to install all through the city. Kudos on continuing the charge:


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By jason (registered) | Posted September 27, 2013 at 10:15:15

I would love to see some parklets+ bike corral solutions on some of these streets that are perfect candidates: Locke, James N & S, Augusta, King William, King, Barton etc..... I know a couple of business owners on Locke who would love a parklet, but the running joke on the street is "who wants to call the city?" Short answer: nobody. They know the answer they'll get. So, businesses with great and simple ideas to further improve the quality of life in Hamilton's neighbourhoods don't even attempt because they know the nightmare that will unfold, having already dealt with the city to open their business in the first place.

That's a really sad commentary on how business-friendly city hall is IMO.

Imagine this on James, Concession, Ottawa and Locke: http://bikesd.org/wp-content/uploads/201...

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By Henry and Joe (anonymous) | Posted September 27, 2013 at 10:19:18

Augusta Street lacks adequate bike parking. If it is a busy night, people use the rails along the steps of local businesses, which is not a suitable solution in the long run. On some occasions, there is literally no where to lock your bike on the block. The sidewalks are narrow, so perhaps we could sacrifice one car spot, so we could park a dozen bikes or so. I like Farr's motion, but to be honest, I don't know if parking bikes in a lot with low pedestrian traffic is the best idea. I would think that theft is best deterred if the bike rack is in the most visible high traffic areas.

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By Jay Robb (anonymous) | Posted September 27, 2013 at 13:00:27

It's not just more parking for bikes. But secured parking areas that cyclists would pay for and thieves couldn't get at. Without that, not sure how many folks will pedal downtown and leave their bikes chained up on James or King for more than 5 minutes.

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By Thefft (anonymous) | Posted September 27, 2013 at 16:44:06 in reply to Comment 92711

The worst is Fennell and West 5th. So many shiftless kids and psych patients. It's absolutely terrifying.

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By Cultosaurus (registered) | Posted September 27, 2013 at 15:41:26 in reply to Comment 92711

Pretty much the same way people do it in Toronto, where the chance of theft is much higher.

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By Cobalt Connects (anonymous) | Posted September 27, 2013 at 18:48:45

Through our Expressing Vibrancy work we've actually counted all the car parking and bike parking spaces in the 8 areas we're studying. It's shocking how few spaces there are for bikes. Would the data on these areas be useful to anyone working on this issue?

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By Dave (anonymous) | Posted September 29, 2013 at 15:07:48 in reply to Comment 92720

Would definitely be interested in learning more about your work in this area. Will send you an email and perhaps we could connect from there. Seems as though this is an issue that has been looked at from a number of angles, and glad to see the conversation grow. Cheers!

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