Heather and Alex MacLennan are frequenting Victoria’s core more than they used to, thanks to the City of Victoria’s bike valet service.
“We would never come in with our bikes before,” Alex said. “We’re really hoping it’s not going anywhere and it stays through the winter, because we definitely come down more.”
But the service — launched as a pilot project on June 24 — is set to close down Nov. 6 for the winter. The city said it will work with its partners to evaluate and reassess the program for the spring season.
“We’ve seen continual growth each and every month and we’ve also seen a nice diversity of users,” said Sarah Webb, active transportation specialist for the city. “People that are there for 20 minutes, people that are there for four hours and people that are there for nine hours.”
Roughly 8,000 bikes have been parked at the free Centennial Square valet service since it opened, Webb said. About 30 per cent were oversized bicycles like cargo, electric, adapted and longtail bikes.
The $160,000 bike valet project was funded as part of a $500,000-multi-year enhanced bike parking portfolio allocated by Victoria council in 2021. Other projects include a bike parking retrofit at the Yates Street parkade and six new bike shelters.
Created through a partnership between the City of Victoria, Capital Bikes and BEST’s Bicycle Valet, the service providers have been receiving feedback from users via a QR code at the parking area’s front desk.
“We’re hearing that people are coming downtown, parking their bike, going to events, going to restaurants, they’re running errands and they’re going to work,” Webb said. “People can leave their panniers attached to their bicycle. They can leave their helmets attached to their bicycle.
“It’s also about that bigger convenience, particularly for older adults [and] people with young children,” she added. “We’re seeing that it’s really providing that holistic experience in terms of comfort.”
The Downtown Victoria Business Association has supported the bicycle parking service since its inception, said Jeff Bray, the group’s executive director. He considers the service to be a contributing factor in a “successful return to pre-pandemic activities” for retailers, restaurants and other downtown businesses.
“Whether it’s bus lanes, or bike valets, anything that helps people come downtown in a convenient way, or way they like to, we’re very supportive of it,” he said. “We would be very supportive of additional spaces opening up.”
The bike valet’s hours are extended for special events, such as the upcoming municipal election. Webb urged cyclists to try out the service before Nov. 6.
“As the pilot project is coming to an end … we encourage people to come out, try it, give us their feedback.”
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