Written by Larissa Cahute, originally published on UHN on the Go: June 2022,

Toronto General Hospital (TGH) is home to 126 new secure, indoor bike parking spots – a direct result of the pandemic.

According to Lisa Vanlint, Manager, Energy & Environment with Facilities Management – Planning, Redevelopment & Operations (FM-PRO), public transit was the most common way TeamUHN got to work before COVID-19 hit.

“That absolutely changed with the pandemic and now the pressure on our parking lots is huge,” says Lisa. “We needed to give staff another option.”

In the summer of 2020, Lisa worked with Ian McDermott, Executive Director, Planning & Integration, FM-PRO to come up with a plan to use unused space at the corner of Gerrard Street and University Avenue at TGH. The empty space, infrequently used for storage, was a dark, concrete room without air circulation, lighting, electricity, water, drainage or even windows. It was affectionately referred to as “the crypt.”

“Why not use a space like this for bike parking, where people are in and out in five to 10 minutes,” says Lisa. “And there’s a clear need for secure bike parking in a city that has a lot of bike theft.”

She took the pitch to UHN’s COVID Capacity and Physical Space Modelling Committee, which is responsible for looking at space impacts as a result of the pandemic – everything from setting up screening areas, to capacity limits on meeting rooms and procuring signage for physical distancing.

According to Ian, who also chairs the committee, “one of the biggest wins was the creation of the indoor bike parking at TGH.”

“The committee was very happy to endorse this as a COVID initiative as it provided staff with safe and secure bike parking, so that they could avoid public transit,” he says. “We improved conditions for staff by providing this alternative and increased capacity of parking that was desperately needed.”

Once approved by the Committee, the project went to FM-PRO, where Greg Brady, Project Planner, lead the planning and construction.

First, the team blew out the external wall along Gerrard St. to create an entryway. Then the team added electricity, lighting, drainage, stairs, bike rails, fencing, door openers, card readers (for secure access), outlets to charge e-bikes, a panic button, security cameras and dozens of bike racks.

The space – now affectionately referred to as the “Bike Vault” – opened in December 2021, bringing UHN’s total bike parking spaces to more than 1,000.

“Bike parking made sense here because it’s extremely expensive to expand parking for cars, while a lot more bikes can fit into the same space,” says Lisa. “And, of course, one of the biggest parts of our carbon footprint that affects climate change is transportation – even better than recycling is to lay off the gas. With gas prices the way they are, a lot more people might want to start biking – and this kind of project helps them make that choice.”

Anyone with a UHN ID badge is welcome to use the Bike Vault – the new entryway at Gerrard St. and University Ave. is not only convenient for staff at TGH, but also Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and Toronto Rehab, University Centre.

For more information on cycling at UHN, connect with the Energy & Environment team’s Bicycle User Group (BUG) at UHNCycling@uhn.ca