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Windsor businesses crying foul over city's refusal to pay for bike parking

The City of Windsor pays for car parking, pedestrian sidewalks and bus stops, but a new city policy would require businesses to pay for new bicycle parking, and that has BIAs and cyclists crying foul.

“I don’t think it’s fair at all,” said Chris Ryan, who serves as landlord to the Riverside Pie Café, owned and operated by his daughter Olivia in the heart of the Olde Riverside Town Centre BIA.

There are no bike racks on that stretch of Wyandotte Street East, and Ryan would like to see one set up at his daughter’s business so patrons can enjoy their pies or ice cream without having to keep one nervous eye on their bikes outside.

“Who’s going to fork over $2,000 for one of those little lollypop-looking, single bike racks?” said Ward 3 Coun. Rino Bortolin.

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Describing the cheapest and smallest of the sidewalk bike stands, he estimates they cost at least $600 each to erect, and there are about $900 in municipal fees and processing costs on top of that. The BIAs would also be responsible for maintenance fees to the city.

“This will become cost prohibitive — it will eliminate the idea of new bike parking,” said DWBIA chairman Larry Horwitz. He describes it as another way for city hall to download costs onto local businesses.

“In London, Hamilton and Toronto, for sure, businesses do not have to pay for bike parking,” said Lori Newton, executive director of Bike Windsor Essex, a local cycling advocacy group.

“If you want to be a progressive city, you don’t do the opposite of what every other city is doing to attract cyclists,” said Horwitz.

Windsor already has a Bicycle Parking on Public Property policy, but it does not address funding for the installation or maintenance of on-street bike parking infrastructure. Under the proposed new policy, those who want a bike rack would apply to the city and, if the space is within one of Windsor’s business improvement areas, the BIA must approve the application and then pay the city on a “cost recovery” basis.

If the application is for a public right-of-way outside the BIAs, the costs would be “the responsibility of the requestor,” with the city then assuming ongoing maintenance costs.

The new policy went before city council’s transportation committee last week, where it was approved, and it will now go before the full council for final approval.

In a recent letter to the five-member transportation committee, Amy Farkas, the head of the Windsor Bicycling Committee, an advisory group to council, said, “regrettably, the WBC was not consulted” on the new policy or an attached administrative report prior to it being sent forward for approval.

The report and the policy, she wrote, ignore Windsor’s Bike Use Master Plan, which recommends the city set aside $10,000 annually for bicycle parking.

“Cyclists are also taxpayers,” said Farkas, adding the WFCU Centre is just one example of “many areas” across Windsor where taxpayers have paid for free parking for motor vehicles.

Bike racks are seen as street furniture as opposed to parking facilities,” she said.

Newton said it’s a matter of “equity,” with businesses currently not required to provide funding — beyond property taxes and BIA levies — for the sidewalks, bus stops and vehicle parking spaces provided in front of their establishments.

“They’re putting up barriers to cycling in our city, and I don’t know why,” said Newton.

Ward 4 Coun. Chris Holt, a member of the transportation committee, said the downloaded costs for bike racks means “the BIAs will opt to not put them in, or to not advocate for them.”

Bortolin, who chairs the Windsor BIA advisory committee, said the recommended policy was “very poorly received” by the business community.

“It should be viewed as parking infrastructure, not street furniture,” he said.

Newton said it was “great to see the positive upswell of support for cycling from the business community” on the street parking issue, as well as in support of new bike lanes along Wyandotte Street through the Riverside and Pillette Village BIAs, something the transportation committee voted 3-2 to oppose. That recommendation must be approved by council.

“We see cycling and cycling infrastructure as an economic driver,” said Farkas.