Kelowna, like many other North American cities, has ramped up efforts in recent years to make bicycles a favoured means of transportation.

The City of Victoria is one step ahead as it’s gears up to expand last year’s free bicycle valet parking service with an extended season starting next weekend.

“As we’ve been building out our all ages and ability network, we saw more and more people get on their bicycles,” Sarah Webb, Victoria’s manager of sustainable transportation planning and development, told “But, as equally as infrastructure is important on the ground, we also want to have end-of-trip amenities and facilities.”

Safe, secure and dry bicycle parking is one of the key amenities that cyclists need and last year’s pilot project proved that.

Victoria city council budgeted $500,000 in 2022 to boost bicycle parking throughout the city. That includes free covered bicycle parking in all five City of Victoria parking lots and a bike lock lending program at five community centres.

A big part of the funding, $140,000, went to the valet parking pilot project that ran from June through October. Bicycle parking was provided in a covered, secure, outdoor area next to City Hall in the core of downtown Victoria and attracted more than 11,000 users.

A survey of participants found 77% said they were cycling downtown more and 82% said they were staying longer.

The storage area, which is staffed through a contractor, has space for 150 bikes and, with turnover, often accommodated up to 250 bikes in a day.

People putting on special evening events in the downtown core also rented the facility for patron use.

Riders get a ticket from the attendant like a coat check then leave their bikes, helmets, skateboards, scooters or even strollers and mobility scooters.

“About 30% of those 11,000 bikes were oversized bikes,” Webb said. “They were long tailed bikes. They were bikes with trailers or cargo bikes to transport children.”

There were not a lot of commuters since they often have secure bike parking where they work. A lot of users were tourists, shoppers or people out for a meal.

This year, the service is expanded to run from March 17 to Dec. 23, seven days a week, opening at 7:30 a.m. weekdays and running to 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. Evening weekend hours will be extended.

The cost will climb to $260,000 this year.

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So, how does that price tag sit with motoring, taxpaying Victoria residents?

“The average cost of building a parking stall in downtown Victoria is about $50,000,” Webb said. “If you would like to build a parkade underground, you could go up to $70,000. For every person who is getting on a bicycle or getting into a transit bus or sharing a ride or walking, we’re actually helping to manage demand and keep our compact community vital and safer.”

It’s not all about tax dollars.

“Part of it is thinking about the broader value that comes with it,” Webb said. “We know, for a lot of people, a bicycle is a mode of transportation that’s affordable. Here, in a city with a high cost of living, everything we can do to help people out by giving them more transportation options to reduce their cost of living is a good thing.

“We also know that cycling is so important for community well-being and community health. That’s not a numerical dollar that the City of Victoria is getting a benefit from. The Province of B.C. benefits when we have a healthier community overall.”

The City of Victoria had been actively building its non-motorized transportation network for many years.

“When we first started building protected bike lanes in 2016 there was lot of scepticism,” Webb said. “Fast forward six years where we’ve built a network that connects our community – it connects schools and parks and business centres and our village centres – and, all of a sudden, you start to see so many more people out on their bikes. It’s really been an interesting transition. Where the idea once was: ‘I don’t know about this new infrastructure,’ it’s gone to: ‘I can’t wait for the next route to be built.’”

So, is this on the City of Kelowna’s radar?

“Safe bike parking is a critical requirement to get people to ride their bikes,” Cameron Noonan, transportation planner with the City of Kelowna, told

“It’s something that we’ve heard quite a bit about from residents – that it’s a barrier to getting people out biking more. We’re exploring a number of ways to add more safe bike parking to downtown and other key destinations in the city and have had some early discussions on valet parking as well.”

Noonan wasn’t aware of the Victoria free bicycle parking system but is keen to learn more.

Find out more about the City of Victoria’s cycling initiatives here.

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