I was asked by Graham how I choose where to park at the University of Waterloo. Quite simply, the answer is anywhere that is relatively close to where I want to be!
There is an enormous amount of bicycle parking at the University of Waterloo. However, there is an equally enormous number of bicycles. It is not surprising, then, that parking is not always available where you want it to be. There are also serious issues with the design of many bicycle racks, but for now I will focus on the quantity available.
When I arrive on campus, I often have difficulty finding available parking. Not just official bicycle parking, but any place to lock a bicycle at all! Bike racks fill up quickly, and once that occurs, any nearby solid objects (trees, fences, signs) will soon have bicycles locked to them as well.
The picture below shows my bicycle parked in front of Environment 2. It’s on the right, locked to a tree-stabilizing pole (locking to the trunk could damage the bark). The racks are completely full, with two (or more!) bicycles on each pole. I sometimes even see double-parked bicycles here.
The University of Waterloo is taking measures to improve the bicycle parking situation by removing abandoned bicycles at the end of each term, and continuously expanding the quantity of parking. But each time a new parking lot opens, it gets just as full as the others. Here are some of the parking lots opened this year:
I have also noticed new lots north of Environment 1 and north of the Student Life Centre.
The new Quantum Nano Centre and Math & Computing parking fills up particularly quickly, presumably because the lots are all at least partly protected from the elements.
Fixing the problem on a budget:
I doubt that the number of bicycles exceeds the amount of parking. The issue is that the parking is not always where it is needed. Many bicycle racks are positioned such that they cannot be used to their full capacity, and others are placed in inconvenient locations.
Here is a set of post-and-rings outside Environment 3, built in 2011. Though the capacity is two bicycles per post, people will tend to park elsewhere rather than to lift their bicycle over the post to use the far side.
Outside of Carl Pollock Hall (Engineering 4), some racks are placed too close to walls or other racks, making some spots completely unusable.
And there are some sets of racks (east of Environment 1, north of DWE (Engineering 1), west of Math & Computing) which hardly get used, because they are not near any entrances to buildings.
In general, parking areas will be most used when they are close to building entrances and/or are covered by a roof. Since there may not be enough space around building entrances to supply adequate parking, we could divert some demand by building weather-protected parking elsewhere, which would be attractive to people who park all day and walk between buildings. If large weather-protected parking lots (or garages!) are built near Ring Road, it could also reduce the number of people cycling through the crowded centre of the campus.