Cyclists attending events around Winnipeg this summer may have noticed a new trend when parking their bikes. Bicycle valet services ensure that those who choose active transportation don’t have to worry about their bikes being stolen.
A bicycle valet works like any car valet – a cyclist drops off their bike at a convenient location and receives a ticket that is exchanged for their bike at the end of the event.
David Wieser, founder and project manager of Bicycle Valet Winnipeg, thought about starting a bike valet service after watching a Streetfilms.org video about a similar service offered by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC).
“I called (Kash, SFBC’s valet bike parking supervisor) about two or three years ago to ask him about doing a bicycle valet. So that’s when I started putting stuff down on paper.”
This summer marked the first year of official operations for Bicycle Valet Winnipeg. The organization currently operates under a grant from Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) to offer the free valet service.
“They (MEC) provided the funds for us to get started, and we’re looking for other sponsorship so that we can offer subsidized rates to small, community-oriented groups,” Wieser said.
Large, for-profit organizations will also eventually pay for the service in order to keep the costs low or free for not-for-profit clients.
Wieser is open to offering the bike valet service at all types of events.
“If there are cyclists going there, I cannot see an event that we would not go to,” he said. Bicycle Valet Winnipeg can currently store up to 200 bikes at its events and hopes to increase that capacity for future engagements.
With the objective of making active transportation easier, Bicycle Valet Winnipeg accommodates cyclists as much as possible.
“People can leave their paniers, they can leave their helmets, they can leave their jackets,” Wieser said. “They can leave all the stuff that they would have to carry with them.”
Cyclists can also rest easy after leaving their bike with the valet, which reports zero bikes stolen.
The West End Cultural Centre (WECC) also offered a free bike valet service at two concerts so far this year. Michael Petkau, artistic director at the WECC, said the number of people biking increased significantly between the two shows.
“I think the first time you offer something no one really knows what it is or how it works,” Petkau said. “People are hearing about it and liking it. It’s a little, classy thing for cyclists (to have someone take their bike); and they don’t have to worry about it.”
This year’s annual Bikefest also saw the use of a bike valet service. Jared Falk, Bikefest co-ordinator, said approximately 400 people came out to the event, which took place at the Forks.
“It’s a time to gather and celebrate cycling and pick up some new ideas or see what’s out there,” he said. “(The valet) caught some people by surprise.”
He believes that the valet provides an effective bike security solution for riders.
“I know a lot of my friends who cycle go to extreme precautions to make sure their bikes are safe,” Falk said.
For more information on bike valets or to volunteer to be a valet, visit www.bicyclevaletwinnipeg.ca.
Published in Volume 65, Number 2 of The Uniter (September 9, 2010)