Bike parking at work: The good, the bad and the ugly

When it comes to parking your bike at work, it can be hit or miss for employees in Ottawa-Gatineau.

In early May, as part of the discussion surrounding Bike to Work Month, CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning asked listeners and social media followers to share how bike parking works at their place of employment.

Since dissecting and sharing all the various situations would be as challenging as climbing the Champlain Lookout in a fully loaded cargo bike, we have selected three stories from listeners to highlight the good, the bad, and the just plain ugly of parking your bike at work in Ottawa-Gatineau. 

The good

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Will O'Neill pedals downtown daily from the east end and never, ever has to worry about where to park his bike.

To hear him describe parking in the Manulife building at 55 Metcalfe St. is like watching an expert cyclocross rider smoothly dismount over a barrier.

"I just go down the ramp into the parking garage, I swipe my access card, it's very secure," he said. "There are bike racks in a couple of spots taken from the car parking, and then I can use the showers and change rooms they provide."

O'Neill says the facilities are a factor for him — and several of his coworkers at the Standards Council of Canada — when considering whether or not to bike to work.

"In my office we definitely talk about it a lot," he said. "It's one of the things we mention to new staff as part of their orientation."

Best of all, the secure bike parking is free for employees, something O'Neill says is justified.

"It's good for the city. My bike to work is one less car on the road and one less person on a very crowded bus service right now."

The bad

Over in Hull, John Leefe can only hope to one day enjoy the comforts provided to O'Neill and the tenants at the Manulife building.

Upon arriving at work at Terrasses de la Chaudière, Leefe says it's a constant struggle to find a parking spot for his bike.

There are bike racks on the grounds, but they're located in alleyways between buildings, they're fully accessible to the general public and they're often overflowing with bikes.

"When I get here it's sometimes difficult finding a place," Leefe said. "Unfortunately I had a bike stolen here in 2016, a really nice one too."

Giacomo Panico/CBC

Leefe says he asked around and discovered others too had had their bikes stolen at Terrasses de la Chaudière — so he starting keeping track.

In late 2016, he wrote to the building's management team decrying the situation and pleading for secure bike parking.

"We were told that some indoor parking facility would be done in connection with renovations and work at the connecting hotel," he said. "That's almost three years ago. We've gotten a couple of updates but nothing specific."

"We're still waiting patiently for secure bike facilities."

Leefe says if it comes down to it, he's willing to open his wallet to get some peace of mind.

"For a good, secure facility, I'd certainly be prepared to pay a nominal fee," he said.

The ugly

Giacomo Panico/CBC

If John Leefe is looking to lift his spirits, he could take a stroll around the C.D. Howe building along Queen Street between Bank and Kent streets.

The situation here falls into the ugly category.

On many days when the weather is nice, the sides of the federally owned building are dotted with fully packed bike racks.

Jennie Henderson started working there 18 months ago. After enjoying secure bike parking at her previous job, her new situation was a shock. 

"When I started, I asked about bike cages and they said, 'You're not allowed in the garage and you just have the racks that are outside,'" Henderson said.

Despite boasting an underground parking garage, the C.D. Howe building bans people from bringing their bikes into the garage, something Henderson says is unfair.

"If this was a car and there was no car parking in the building, we'd be having a slightly different conversation," she said. "It's how I get to work. It's a vehicle too."

Henderson says the situation at C.D. Howe isn't in line with what employees have come to expect from property managers in 2019.

"The building is well managed outside of this," she said. "But it does affect employees and [secure bike parking] would send a clear message that biking to work is something the federal government supports."

Some buildings pose challenge, PSPC says

Like Terrasses de la Chaudière, the C.D. Howe building is owned by Public Works and Procurement Services Canada (PSPC). 

PSPC declined an interview but did provide a written statement. 

It says the department is committed to supporting workplace wellness and active transportation.

But some buildings present challenges including the amount of available space, security, health and safety, and the number of cyclists who ride to ride to work. This can limit possibilities for the provision of bike racks, and sometimes make their installation impossible.

In the case of Terrasses de la Chaudière, a garage renovation project will see 355 indoor bike parking spots added by May 2020. 

For the C.D. Howe building, PSPC did not reveal any plans to allow bicycles in the underground parking garage.