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Bike Parking: The good, the bad, the ugly

Whether you’re a new or experienced cyclist, you’ll know the importance of having somewhere to securely and safely park your bike – whether at home, work, the shops, a café, a park or elsewhere.

Bicycle parking comes in all shapes and sizes. Here, our Senior Program Manager, Stewart Slaymaker, ranks different forms of bike parking from worst to best.

Unclassified – non-existent bicycle parking

We’ve probably all seen it – the improvisation of a bicycle locked to a tree, signpost or some kind of pole. This typically happens when there is no bike parking around, or if there is, there isn’t enough of it.

Parking a bike like this isn’t great. What you’re locking it to isn’t designed for bicycle parking and could make your bike more susceptible to damage, theft or even removal by a property manager.

This ‘type’ of bicycle parking gets bonus negative points for the times when there is plenty of car parking nearby!

Figure 1: Using a lamp post as makeshift bike parking. Photo by Adam Birkett on Unsplash

9th place – ‘The wheel bender’

‘The wheel bender’ can be found all over the place. Maybe it’s because they are cheap and easy to install?

However, they aren’t great for your bicycle. They encourage your bike to be locked by its wheel, rather than through the bicycle’s frame, which increases the chance of a thief making off with the rest of your bike, leaving just a lonely wheel locked in place.

Also, hence the name, ‘the wheel bender’ provides no support for your bike other than through its wheel. So, if your bike starts to fall over, all that pressure will pass through the wheel and can bend it. Now your wheel will rub on your brakes as you ride.

In summary, these are great if you want to turn your bicycle into a unicycle or into a wobbly-wheeled bicycle.

Figure 2: The dreaded wheel bender. Photo courtesy of Stewart Slaymaker
Figure 3: A variant of the wheel bender – a ladder style rack. Photo courtesy of Stewart Slaymaker.

8th place – the vertical bicycle rack

These are often found in underground car parking in apartment or condo buildings. They are great for saving space.

However, they sometimes have moving parts, which slide through the wheels of your bicycle to hold it in place. These moving parts aren’t lubricated so don’t move easily. These vertical racks are also often bolted onto a wall so close together, that you must uncomfortably and awkwardly squeeze between bikes to unlock your bike.

Finally, they these types of rack aren’t great if you don’t have the strength or ability to lift your bike up into a vertical position.

Figure 4: Vertical bike rack. Photo courtesy of Stewart Slaymaker.

7th place – The wave

The wave is one of those bike racks that looks nice, but in reality, is not the most functional for locking a bike to. By balancing your bike up against the width of the tubing that makes up the wave, this rack does not provide much support for your bike, and only offers minimal locking points for both your frame and wheels. Due to its shape, and depending on which part of the wave you are locking your bike to, a bike must also be lifted up and placed over one of the wave’s troughs to get it through the rack into a locking position.

Figure 5: Example of ‘the wave’ bike parking. Photo courtesy of Stewart Slaymaker.

6th place – ‘The bangles’

I think these look a bit like a row of bangles hanging up. The circular nature of the rack provides good support for your bike, but as with many single unit bike racks, the spacing between each section is often not enough to easily park and lock as many bikes as is intended. Sometimes, the horizontal bar of these racks isn’t high enough either, creating issues for people whose saddle or handlebars are too tall to be accommodated by the rack.

Figure 6: Example of ‘the bangles’ bike parking. This wooden stump is also not doing this bike parking any favours! Photo courtesy of Stewart Slaymaker.

5th place – The double decker bike rack

These types of racks can be super popular in places where there is high demand for bicycle parking, but not much space to provide it in. You’ll find these at places like rail stations in Europe.

If you are lucky enough to get a lower space, all is good. If you have to get your bike up onto the top deck, even with the rack’s mechanisms helping you, this can be a challenge if you don’t have the strength or height to do so.

Figure 7: Example of double decker bike parking. Photo by Jordi Moncasi on Unsplash

4th place – ‘The toast rack’

I can’t help but look at one of these bike racks and picture slices of toast lined up at a hotel breakfast, but maybe that’s just my European upbringing!

Like the dreaded ‘wheel bender’, these are probably cheap and easy to install, as all the racks are welded together into one unit.

Unlike ‘the wheel bender’, ‘the toast rack’ at least provides decent support and locking opportunities.

However, they lose points for when the rack is installed too close to a wall, which prevents your bike from snuggly fitting in the rack; not sufficiently spacing the vertical parts of the stand ; and for sometimes having a design which is difficult to use by not providing decent locking points for your bike.

Figure 8: Example of toast rack bike parking

3rd place – The artistic design

We’re into the top three here, so things are starting to get serious.

Scraping into third place is the artistic design. It’s understandable to not want a bicycle rack to ruin the aesthetic of your street or building. So, you might see the odd bicycle rack around that looks more like a piece of public art than something functional to lock your bike too.

These designs can often work well, providing that they offer support for your bicycle and suitable locking points to lock your bike to it. Of course, you can always tell when more thought has been put into the art than the functional design, when locking your bike to one of these becomes a hassle.

The artistic design can also combine with ‘the toast rack’ above to produce the spiral, which not only looks nice, but is quite functional too.

2nd place – The post-and-ring

These are prevalent across Toronto, the rest of the GTHA and other cities like Ottawa. So why aren’t they first?

In my opinion, with the post-and-ring only having a small area to lock to, they aren’t always the easiest to lock bikes of all shapes and sizes to, especially if you have a rigid, but secure, U-lock.

They don’t always provide the right support for your bicycle either. When you lean your bike up against a bike rack to lock it, you want your bike to stay in place. But the relative narrowness of the post and ring allows a bike, especially if it has a heavy pannier bag on the back, to pivot around the rack and try to fall over before you’ve had a chance to lock it in place!

However, they generally work well, which secures them second place in this list!

Figure 10: Example of post-and-ring bike parking. Photo by Dylan Passmore is licensed under CC BY 2.0

1st place – The Sheffield stand

It’s the one you’ve been waiting for, and possibly one you’ve never heard of, because I’m sure it might just be a British name…

In first place is the Sheffield stand. I’ve no idea why it’s called that – maybe because it was first found in Sheffield, England – but generally these come in the shape of a wide, lower case ‘n’, or some variant of that.

These racks are great. Their wide style provides ample support for your bicycle, but also multiple locking points for the frame and wheels of your bicycle.

If installed properly, they can be spaced so that there is enough of a gap to get to your bike if another bike is parked opposite on an adjacent rack.

I wish there were more of these in Canada. Perhaps they need a new name to catch on here, based on a random Canadian city. Anyone for the Saskatchewan stand?

The only downside of installing these compared to the ring and post is that they require two points of contact with the ground, compared to the one of the post-and-ring, which potentially increases installation costs.

Figure 11: The Sheffield stand bike parking. Photo by Rob Brewer, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Bonus – Bike cages, shelters, rooms and lockers

For increased security, bicycle cages, rooms and lockers all take bicycle parking to the next level!

Bicycle cages and rooms are typically found at workplaces, and require someone to have a pass to access. A good example of bicycle lockers are those found at some TTC subway stations, each holding one bicycle and cycling gear. These all provide protection from theft, damage and inclement weather.

Figure 12: Bike lockers. Photo by Richard Drdul, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Figure 13: Example of a secure bike lock up area. Photo courtesy of Stewart Slaymaker

These facilities aren’t always possible, so an alternative is a bicycle shelter that offers protection from inclement weather.

If you are a workplace, and you are looking to install or upgrade your bicycle parking, get in touch. We can help workplaces become more bike-friendly and encourage more employees to take up cycling through the Smart Commute program.

You can also check out the City of Toronto’s Guidelines for the Design and Management of Bicycle Parking Facilities.

Good quality bicycle parking can really encourage your employees and visitors to cycle, by providing a facility that protects their bikes from damage, theft and even from the weather.

Do you agree with our rankings above? Have we missed any bike parking that you think should have made this list?

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