Friday, August 12, 2011

Bike Parking and Comox Nautical Days

Through the month of August, Pedal Forward is in and out of the beautiful Comox Valley on Vancouver Island, about 100 km north of Nanaimo. The two largest communities here are the twin cities of Comox and Courtenay.

On the first weekend in August Comox hosts both the Filberg Festival and Nautical Days. The turnout and events were all very impressive and it was great to see so many individuals and families riding their bikes to the events. Street closures and large crowds meant heavy traffic and long walking distances for those that arrived by auto. This, combined with a very lovely summer's day, meant that hundreds of bicycles converged on downtown Comox.
This year we went to the marina near downtown Comox for Nautical Days. There were bikes locked up everywhere: street posts, temporary fencing, tables and benches. It appeared that organizers had completely overlooked the need to accommodate cyclists by providing secure bike parking. With no quality bike parking facilities provided, those who chose to arrive by bike faced an increased risk of bike theft as they left their bike locked up for hours while they enjoyed the day's events.
People are become smarter about their transportation options and are cycling more, especially to large public events where driving is impractical. Event organizers need to keep pace with these changes. Furthermore, secure parking for today's cyclists must accommodate more than the traditional two-wheeled cycle. As the diversity of those cycling grows so do the bikes they ride. For example, trikes and cargo bikes are increasing popularity. Secure bike parking must be made for those riders as well.
It is beneficial for event organizers to provide secure bike parking primarily because it helps reduce congestion. If a cyclist know that there is a secure spot waiting for them they will be more likely to ride their bike. Fewer cars means less congestion and fewer traffic problems.
Inadequate parking facilities are one of the most common deterrents to bicycle transportation. Seeing bikes locked up to fences and trees, it was obvious that Nautical Days needed secure bike parking. Events such as Nautical Days require parking with a degree of security that will allow cyclists to safely store their bikes for hours at a time.

There are three general options that I recommend event organizers consider for event parking. 

1. Portable bike racks such as those shown in the images below. These racks are simple, take up little space, and offer two solid points of contact for a bike.These racks are generally heavy enough that they do not need to be secured to the ground for temporary events. The main advantage of portable racks is that they are compact and look provisional. High cost and lack of availability are the main disadvantages. In most places there is a lack of supply of racks for rent. Therefore it is recommended that this option is used for smaller events where the number of bikes is estimated to be less than 100.

2. The second option we recommend is light-weight pedestrian barriers to double as bike parking. When using this fencing for parking solid bar infill should be used instead of welded mesh. The welded mesh does not allow the handle bars of the bike to fit through. 
Source: Transportation for London
The main advantage to using this option is that pedestrian barriers are cheap and widely available. They are also easy to setup and secure a bicycle at two points of contact. Pedestrian barriers are not as aesthetically pleasing as bike racks. As well, specific and highly visible signage is important so that people know they can park their bikes there.

3. The third recommendation is for a professional bike parking service. A bike parking service such as The Bicycle Valet offered by BEST will set up a secure bike parking at events and provide staffing and security for the duration of the event. Patrons check their bike, are given a stub and when they a ready to leave present their stub and their bike is returned. Many local cycling coalitions are now also offering this service. 

Cycling is a very practical means of transportation to large public events. There are many benefits for event organizers to include bicycle parking as part of their planning. Event organizers will encourage more people to cycle and reduce traffic problems. Depending on the size and type of event many practical options are available to provide safe and secure parking for increasing numbers of people that are choosing to cycle. 

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