8-1 Smiths Falls Bike Racks

September 8, 2014

My new home since moving here from downtown Ottawa in 2010, Smiths Falls is a great place to use a bicycle for getting from A to B, commuting and running errands. These are trips of 2 km or less. Usually 1 km or less. However, a great place to travel by bike must also have secure parking at the destination: a place to lock a bicycle.

Tall and skinny No Parking signposts and Parking Meters are pretty common at many local destinations along downtown main streets. These are often convenient posts for bike locks. But there are many other destinations where this is not the case.

Here will be photos of all bicycle parking racks I have discovered in Smiths Falls during the past five years, with contextual comments about each one.

First is the bike rack at the Rideau Canal Visitors Centre off Beckwith Street, just north of the Combined Locks.

My summer hybrid is locked to the rack. As pictured, this rack can serve...two bikes. One bike locked as mine is and the other bike locked across the rack. Why only two? Well, the slots will fit a skinny road bike tire, but the only part of the bike that can actually be locked using a solid U-lock like mine would be just the wheel. If its a quick-release wheel, this is useless. A quick-release wheel is released by flipping open a lever on the wheel axle. No tools required. Anybody can grab the rest of the bike and walk off with it. Only by using the support strut at the left side or by placing the bike across the whole width of the rack can the front wheel and bike frame actually be secured. The right side of the rack is too close to the building. As is, I rate this rack as largely useless.

Next we have the bike rack at the Independent Grocer supermarket at Lombard and Alfred Street. This rack is actually a better design than the one at the Rideau Canal Visitors Centre in that all of the slots have a raised portion, through which a front wheel and frame can be locked with a U-lock...but not here. The store installed the rack as though it was just a group of slots. Presently, once again, only a wheel can be secured, which is pretty useless if the wheel is quick-release. The rack would have to turned around so the raised portion is not against the wall. Even so, the rack would have to be moved entirely in order for all of the slots to be used. I asked them to do this a while back but the reaction was indifference. I think this is a pretty stingy attitude on the part of a corporation that makes millions of dollars from our community and has a huge store with a sprawling parking lot. Its as if they don’t care about customers who ride their bikes to shop in their store. But that can’t be true, right? 

Here we have the bike rack at the Canadian Tire store near the Independent Grocer supermarket. At least, we used to. The rack is gone in 2014. While it was in place, it served as a mere wheel slot, once again only able to secure a wheel with a U-lock. Isn’t it ironic that a huge corporate bicycle retailer--one with such a long and classy tradition--wouldn’t even have a secure bike rack on site? In fact, no bike rack at all? What about fitness? And as big a parking lot as its neighbour. Come on, CT, time to walk the talk! 

Okay, those examples kind of bum me out. So my next entries will be better ones.

This one is better. Its at the County Fair Mall near the south end of town. The triangles are all placed so that a front wheel and bike frame can be secured with a U-lock from either side of the bike rack, which is positioned far enough from the back wall to permit access. Five bikes can use this rack. I rate this as satisfactory. 

This is the bike rack at the Giant Tiger store off of Chambers Street downtown before the store was expanded and before the bike rack was moved closer to the entrance. When it can be accessed from both sides, this type of rack can hold five bikes secured with U-locks through the frame and front wheel. Since it got moved, the rack is too close to a wall for access on both sides, but its still an adequately-secure appliance.

Here is the bike rack at our new VIA Rail station up on Union Street. Before I discuss this rack, let me say a few things about what it means to have it at the train station. While some people might ride up there to meet a passenger, having this bike rack implies that a passenger could cycle to the train station, lock their bike, train commute to work, train commute back again, and then cycle home. On the day that this station was opened, the VIA rep said “we don’t do commuter rail”. Well, actually VIA does do commuter rail on its Toronto-Montreal Corridor. I figure that quite a few people do bicycle park-and-ride on those VIA commuter routes. Okay, point made, back to the rack. It resembles the one at Giant Tiger--adequately secure design, accessible from either side except placed too close to a wall to use that feature. It gets a passing grade.

I have more photos and comments to add but that has to wait. Before I go, let me point something out. When people go somewhere and the trip is short, and they see a good (well, adequate) bicycle rack at their destination, it is much more likely they will consider bicycling instead of driving or walking to that destination at a later date. The benefits of this are numerous and include:

-- bicycling cuts down car traffic and parked car congestion 
-- people who bicycle have better sex more often
-- bicycling kills depression fast without pesky prescription drugs

Local people I talk to who belong to my age group and older often recall that when they were kids “we bicycled everywhere”. But today, mobility is entrapment and affluence is poverty (add those to your list, George Orwell). What kind of lifestyle do you want your kids to inherit? The one you had when you were a kid, or the current one where everyone is enslaved by the gas pedal?

Last edited Sep. 10, 2014.

November 1, 2014

Smiths Falls got new retail space this year by the LCBO at the western edge of the Lombard Street big box strip. A new box, now occupied by the pet store previously located on Chambers Street and by the Dollarama previously located at Brockville and Broadview. Alas, this new location is now the worst bike-locking experience in town.

There is not only no bike rack in front of the LCBO/Dollarama complex, there are no parking sign posts or any other objects to which a bike can be locked to. The nearest place is shown below, some distance away behind the Tim Hortons. Stores and other facilities can get away with having no bike racks when there are at least some other structures a bike can be locked to such as parking meters, parking sign posts or even in the case of the Dollarama’s previous location, a gas meter on the side of the building. But at the new location? Zip. Nada. This is sad because plenty of customers would not need a car to shop at these places, and plus it would seem no obligation to provide this kind of infrastructure was placed upon the site owners when they got municipal approval to build.