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McGill weighs options for safer bike parking

McGill Planning Office asks student cyclists whether they want bike lockers

The McGill Office of Planning & Institutional Analysis is considering the installation of bike lockers and higher security bike parking across the downtown campus next fall, depending on response from student cyclists.

According to U3 Geography student and Planning Office employee Asa Bergman, McGill plans to study what bicycle security measures other universities have implemented, as well as conduct a survey to learn whether students would be interested in a more secure form of bike parking on campus.

“The goal of this is to present a few alternatives to the Planning Office and then they can decide what to implement,” Bergman said.

She explained that, according to some early feedback from students and some statistics, bicycle theft remains a problem on campus. Although it is hard to determine exactly how widespread theft is, Bergman said that security concerns were definitely one of the biggest deterrents to student cycling.

Radu Juster of the Office of Planning & Institutional Analysis explained that this project is part of McGill’s agreement with the City of Montreal to pursue sustainable development.

McGill’s commitments included installing additional bike racks through the end of 2009 and improving infrastructure to encourage the use of bicycles by students, as well as the introduction of secure bike lockers and bike shelters.

“We want to be able to accommodate the majority of bikers,” Juster said.

He added that there would be some costs involved with using a higher security bicycle parking facility, whether on a monthly or on a semester basis. Renting a bike locker or part of an indoor enclosure would be similar to buying a parking permit, and the McGill Parking Office would likely manage the operation.

The SSMU Bike Collective mechanic, Erica Lamb, acknowledged that security is indeed a huge concern for student cyclists. However, she said that a fee on lockers would not make better storage facilities accessible to all students.

“Personally, I bike to school every single day of the year, but I don’t have the cash [for a locker],” Lamb said. “I’d much rather put that money towards a high-security lock.”

Lamb maintained that bike lockers were not necessarily the most practical option in terms of better security since there isn’t enough space on campus to house them.

“I think that adequate bike parking is a bigger issue than security,” she added.

According to Bergman, however, McGill has acknowledged that there is not enough space to install a great number of high-security spots, so any lockers would merely be an addition for students interested in more secure bike parking.

The number of lockers installed would reflect student demand, as reflected in the survey Bergman plans to release this week through various student association listservs.

“This would be to show that McGill is encouraging biking by providing alternatives,” Bergman said. “Hopefully we’d be able to expand that program if it’s successful.”