Ask Pat: bike lockers?

Pamela asks—

Are there bylaws requiring bike lockers in new developments?

Yes. Kind of. But they may not be as useful as you might like.

The City has the weighty tome called the Zoning Bylaw that regulates pretty much every aspect of new development. If you want to build an apartment building, row of townhouses, office tower, curling rink or shopping mall, there are all sorts of regulations in there to dash your architect’s dreams. Included in those requirements are requirements for bicycle parking (Section 155, to be precise).

Before we get too deep into it, we need to define our terms, because I often park my bicycle leaned up against a parking meter, so all “bicycle parking” is not created equal. The Bylaw differentiates between Long-Term Bicycle Parking (“means a space designed for the parking of one bicycle by permanent users of a building, such as employees and residents”) and Short-Term Bicycle Parking (“a freely accessible space designated for the parking of one bicycle, available for public use during the business hours of premises in the building”). It also differentiates between a Bicycle Locker (“for the storage of one bicycle and accessible only to the operator of the bicycle“) and Bicycle Storage (“an area providing two or more long term bicycle parking spaces“).

Let’s put the short-term parking aside, because installing a couple of racks on the sidewalk is pretty straight-forward. The number of designated long-term bicycle parking spots depends on the type of development. New multi-family buildings require 1.25 bicycle spots per unit (regardless of whether that unit is a studio or a three-bedroom), and office buildings require 1 long-term bicycle space per 8,000 sqft of office space. For comparison, the City requires between 1 and 1.5 vehicle parking spaces per residential unit (depending on the number of bedrooms) and 1 parking spot per 31-50 sqft of office space.

Long-term bicycle storage must be at least 20% in the form of bicycle lockers, which must be solid-walled (not metal cages) and secure. The rest can be in a bike storage room, which must by law be painted white(!), include space for no more than 40 bicycles per room, and have secured access by key for fob.

The Bylaw is silent, however, on how those bicycle parking facilities are distributed among the residents of the building, so those decisions are made by the Developer, the Marketer, and (eventually) the Strata Board. I can find no rule that makes it mandatory to provide access to one or more secured bicycle parking spots to any specific suite, nor is there anything limiting a developer from charging for access to those secured spots. It is possible that, once built, the “bicycle storage” area could be converted to general storage, and I suspect that is what happens in many buildings.

Do you have storage lockers in the basement of your high-rise? Nothing in the Zoning Bylaw that I could find mandates their existence, and it is possible those are converted bicycle storage, if your building is a recent build. People who bought suites may have paid for access, or may have been guaranteed access, but it is, unfortunately, a buyer-beware market. Of course, the same is true for automobile parking spaces. The City designates there must be, say 1.4 per suite, but we do not dictate which suites get one spot and which suite gets two, or how much residents are required to pay for buying/leasing/using them.

As for Office buildings, we simply do not require enough in our zoning bylaw. One spot for 8,000 sqft of office is ridiculous. However, we also do not have any rules around end-of-trip facilities in commercial buildings, and this will limit uptake of cycling more than the threat of having to lock your bike up outside. If you work for a large organization like TransLink with a 150,000 sqft office (18 bike spots required!), it is easy to justify end-of-trip change rooms and showers for your several-hundred staff – actually, they are likely to demand it if your staff includes professionals under the age of 40. But if you are a smaller office tenant, leasing 2,000 square feet for your 5 employees in the same strata building, it is not viable for you to build those same amenities, and you can only hope the Owner and/or Strata see the benefit of these as a “common area” amenity.

So to answer your question, Yes, we require bicycle storage. However, we don’t do enough to make sure that storage is useful for people who want to use it.

5 comments on “Ask Pat: bike lockers?

  1. Silly question maybe, do these rule/regs apply to new institutional builds in NW? Specify do they apply to the new royal Colombian Hospital buildout? Thx.

    1. Not a silly question at all. The Answer is yes. In section 155, it includes requirements for institutions like hospitals (1 long-term bicycle storage space per 25 employees on the busiest shift, and 6 short-term spaces per public entrance). However, I’m not sure how enforceable our Zoning Bylaw is for senior government institutions. I suspect they will honour the Bylaw unless it causes them a true hardship. Also, recognize that pretty much every aspect of the Zoning Bylaw can be waived by Council through the granting of a variance, and most developments do include minor variances.

  2. Sadly, most bicycle storage in condo buildings quickly devolves into a bike ghetto where people dump their two-wheeled possessions, never to see the light of day again. There’s no space allowance made for people to be able to clean and maintain their bikes. I have seen some enlightened developers in places like San Francisco offer bike lounges as a building amenity, with secure, civilized storage for bikes, lockers for gear like helmets ad shoes, a workstand or two, and even a sitting area where cyclists can trade their stories of the road. Now that would be sweet. Meanwhile those of us who value and care for our bikes are left to secret them into our suites, sometimes under the glower of neighbours who think there’s a bylaw against such a deviant act when really there isn’t 😉

    1. You are speaking my language, Jay, and my bicycles were a big reason I moved out of a condo and into a house a decade ago. However, developers just build boxes that people buy, what happens inside those boxes pretty much belongs to the Strata Council. When I lived at 10th and Royal, we had to rally the Strata at an AGM to agree to install simple racks in their white-painted bare-wall concrete “bike room”. We also agreed to develop some rules about tagging spaces so that abandoned bikes could be discarded (while bikes getting dusty from lack of use were still permitted to stay, as long as the owners were still residents). Storage facilities for shoes / helmets and a rack and emergency tool kit would be cool as well, but it would again be up to the Strata to approve these types of things, and rules around keeping things clean would be important. Maybe all your Strata needs is a champion with some good ideas (hint hint)?

  3. What can be done if your building is found to not be complying with the bylaws? Even forgoing special exemptions made for mine (affordable housing), the “bicycle lockers” are actually storage lockers made of mesh that could be snipped with wire cutters more easily than the cheapest padlock. The inside width measures the required 0.6m but the design makes the effective entrance 5-6cm narrower, meaning the e-bike I had carefully measured doesn’t fit 🙁 even with 20 min of manipulation trying to make it work.

    There’s also suddenly no visitor parking and 19 other suspect things about this building and its management, but first I need to park my bike. Haha.

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