London spent thousands on bike lockers sitting unused

More than seven months after the city installed bicycle lockers to reduce theft, they’ve been used just 100 times.

A report to the Civic Works Committee (CWC) asks that a discounted rental fee be extended for the duration of a pilot project evaluating the locations of the lockers and whether more should be purchased.

Between August, 2021 and the end of March, 2022 there have been:

  • 42 rentals at Wellington/Dundas
  • 48 rentals at Covent Garden Market
  • 10 rentals at Clarence Street

The city expects demand will pick up as the pandemic subsides.

“We knew we were in the pandemic, we were going into the fall, (and) that uptake wouldn’t be what we hoped it would be,” explains Allison Miller, senior traffic management demand coordinator at city hall. “But it is allowing us to get some good learnings.”

There may be another reason the lockers are sitting empty.

“I don’t even know what they are, looking at them you think they’re utility boxes,” admitted cyclist David Beach as he was riding past the lockers on Dundas Street.

The London Bicycle Cafe’s Andrew Hunniford says there’s no shortage of demand for secure places to park your bike downtown.

“We know people want bike lockers, so if people aren’t using them it probably has a lot to do with people not knowing they’re there,” explains Hunniford.

The installations bear a small label that directs users to download the Movatic app, but there is no other signage to identify the nondescript grey boxes as bike lockers, or to explain the rental rates or how to operate them.

Each unit of six lockers cost the city about $25,000, funded through a program offered by the federal and provincial governments.

The first two hours of the rental are free, each additional hour costs 50 cents.

Lockers can also be rented for $50 per month plus a deposit.

Miller says the city is planning to relaunch the bike locker program with greater clarity.

“Part of our relaunch this spring is to add signage so that cyclists know where to go, and exactly where the bike lockers are,” she says.

Hunniford asserts it would be unfair to evaluate the need for more bike lockers based on the data gathered so far.

“They aren’t being advertised clearly, and maybe they aren’t in the right spots, so make those adjustments before you make a judgement.”