Infrastructure
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Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Victoria’s free bike valet pilot returns for another year

Longer summer hours with service expected to go until Dec. 23

By Michael John Lo
March 17, 2023
Infrastructure
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Victoria’s free bike valet pilot returns for another year

Longer summer hours with service expected to go until Dec. 23

By Michael John Lo
Mar 17, 2023
Victoria's free downtown bike valet will be returning for another year with funding first approved by Victoria city council in 2021. Photo: Michael John Lo / Capital Daily
Victoria's free downtown bike valet will be returning for another year with funding first approved by Victoria city council in 2021. Photo: Michael John Lo / Capital Daily
Infrastructure
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Victoria’s free bike valet pilot returns for another year

Longer summer hours with service expected to go until Dec. 23

By Michael John Lo
March 17, 2023
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Victoria’s free bike valet pilot returns for another year
Victoria's free downtown bike valet will be returning for another year with funding first approved by Victoria city council in 2021. Photo: Michael John Lo / Capital Daily

Victoria’s bike valet service pilot in Centennial Square on Pandora Street will resume this Friday and continue until the end of the year on Dec. 23. 

“Last year was truly the first time—toe in the water—to see if this works and will people use it,” said Sarah Webb, city manager of sustainable transportation planning and development. “The answer was a resounding yes.”

The service is free for anyone with a bike, scooter, or other active transportation device and it will be available Monday through Thursday from 7:30am to 6pm, Fridays from 7:30am to 8pm, Saturdays from 10am to 8pm, and Sundays from 10am to 5pm. 

In the summer, the valet will extend operational hours by another two hours from Wednesday to Saturday, with another extra hour on Sunday.

The new opening times were decided based on usage trends from last year’s pilot program, which found that people wanted to stay out later but often left early on Sunday, said Webb. 

The pilot program previously ran in 2022, storing around 11,000 bikes in five months.

“What we saw was a huge diversity of people coming to the valet—people with children, people with shopping bags, and people who came down to go for appointments,” Webb said. “The idea is that you can stay for 15 minutes or a few hours.”

The costs for this year are $260,000 with the city once again partnering with Capital Bike and the Vancouver-based BEST (Better Environmentally Sound Transportation). For its first year of operation, the city spent $146,000 for the program. The pilot program funding for both years comes from $500,000 of federal money that Victoria council set aside in 2021 for initiatives to improve secure bike parking in the city. 

This year will also bring some improvements for valet employees. Previously, attendants only had a small electric heater for warmth. There’s now going to be a heated shed on the premises for staff in addition to the pavilion out front.

“We’ll be upping our game this year to give them a little bit more protection from the elements and also to stay warm in between customers,” Webb said. 

The bike valet system is a great complementary initiative to the infrastructure that Victoria is rolling out to support multi-modal transport, she added. 

A number of city infrastructure upgrades this year will also benefit cyclists. The Kimta Road connector is nearing completion and will open in early May. Improvements in James Bay are under construction. The city is about to start on improvements further up the Fort Street corridor, putting in 2.7 kilometres of bike lanes between Cook Street and Foul Bay Road. Gorge Road will also see a major transformation in the next two years, said Webb. 

“For every person who decides to leave their car at home and hop on their bike, it frees up space for somebody else who wants to or needs to drive,” Webb said. “If more people are going to be riding more often, they’ll want to have end-of-trip amenities.”

But it’s important to note that these aren’t infrastructure projects specific to cyclists, she added. Of the $4.3 million spent on recent improvements to Government Street, 9% of it was dedicated to cycling infrastructure. The two biggest line items were road paving and replacing underground utilities, which came in at about 47% and 17% respectively, according to Webb.

“It’s about renewing our streetscapes with asphalt and upgrading our traffic signals. It’s really about that kind of comprehensive approach,” she added. 

Though federal funding has covered the bike valet program thus far, new sources of funding will be required beyond 2023. “We are open to partnerships, third-party advertising, reduced service hours—-different kinds of approaches on how to make it work,” Webb said. “But we’ll assess that as we continue through 2023.”

“We’re a growing, changing city,” she said. “Giving people safe options, no matter how they want to get around, is what we’re focusing on.”

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