'Bike valets' might be the missing piece for Kamloops, Okanagan cyclists | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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'Bike valets' might be the missing piece for Kamloops, Okanagan cyclists

Trisha Kaplan and Matt Hopkins at the Penticton Farmers' Market.
Image Credit: Submitted/Matt Hopkins

Fear of bike theft is clearly a deterrent for many people who want to cycle to events.

A Penticton cycling group is trying to change that by providing a free bike valet program, which also serves to support its lobbying efforts for more safe bike routes.

That model was followed on Canada Day in Kamloops but has yet to catch on in other Okanagan communities.

“The people who use it absolutely love it,” Matt Hopkins, one of the founders of the program in Penticton, told iNFOnews.ca. “It gives them an opportunity to ride their bikes and, I find, when people ride their bikes, it makes them happy. It puts a smile on their face.”

Hopkins is the Urban Cycling Director for Penticton and Area Cycling Association that launched the bike valet program at the Penticton Farmers’ Market in 2018.

Last Saturday it wrapped up its fourth season (having missed some time because of COVID). It parked 962 bikes this year in an area roughly the size of three vehicle parking spaces.

Over four years, they’ve secured 3,567 bikes at the market.

“We’ve never had a bike stolen,” Hopkins said. "We’ve always been able to return everyone’s bike to them. That’s a key thing for us. We do really want to encourage people to use a bike but, obviously, theft is an issue and it prevents people from even doing it in the first place.”

The Kamloops Cycling Coalition used volunteers and a City of Kamloops tennis court to do the same during that city’s Canada Day celebrations in Riverside Park. The service was used by more than 125 cyclists.

“Kamloops Cycling Coalition hopes to be able to staff more bike valet parking venues in the future and encourages everyone in Kamloops who has a bike to join the group,” the Transition Kamloops Network says on its webpage. “Some folks even imagine a regular downtown drop off facility.”

A Vancouver company called Bike Valet provides a similar service in three Lower Mainland areas and one Victoria location but it’s a rare option elsewhere.

The Penticton cycling coalition was inspired by the Bike Valet model.

“How this started is, four or five of us here in Penticton really wanted to push this idea of a lake-to-lake bike route,” Hopkins said. “It’s now under construction but, back in 2018, people would go: ‘No one is biking. Why spend any money on bike infrastructure?’”

READ MORE: Why Penticton’s lake-to-lake bike route may be delayed

The Downtown Penticton Association even launched a petition drive against the bike route.

“We thought this bike valet idea was pretty easy,” Hopkins said. “It's easy to get off the ground. We just need people there. We can buy a bunch of racks for $300 a rack – like they’re not cost prohibitive – and we could just sit down at the farmer’s market and see what happens.

“We basically leveraged that as an example of: ‘What you said to us about planning for bikes because no one cycles isn’t true.’ All we did was sat and watched people’s bikes all day and people came in droves. It was something simple that 4 or 5 of us could do without much money to show that, yes, people in Penticton would like to bike if we made it easier.”

Initially launched as a volunteer effort, the City of Penticton now funds it with a grant of $2,500-$3,000 for the season so a couple of volunteer college students can be hired and trained to work every Saturday to cover the 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Farmer’s Market for 17 weeks from May through August, Hopkins said.

But, since the cycling coalition is volunteer-run, it’s logistically difficult to expand the program further, as much as he would like to.

As he understands it, Bike Valet in Vancouver is paid, for example, by the Granville Island businesses to provide the service. Hopkins doesn’t see organizations in his city being able to take on a similar role.

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There are also more issues than bike lanes behind the effort.

“The massive physical footprint of car-centric planning has disastrous effects on housing availability and affordability, walkability, traffic, and pollution,” he said in a news release. “Yet we stick to extremely cost-intensive parking mandates which limit housing and force-feed us more parking and car dependency at $40,000 or more per space, whether a buyer or renter wants it or not. “

He calls on the City of Penticton to join other municipalities in reducing their demands for parking in new housing.

“They severely limit new home construction, drive up the price of rent and, in many cases, make new home construction cost-prohibitive, while reducing the economy of scale on the ones that do get built,” he wrote.

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