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Monday, July 28, 2008

Parking a bike gets tougher

Image of crowded bicycle rack
From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 07.27.08:

Parking a bike gets tougher in Seattle
It hasn't gotten as bad as trying to park a car in Seattle. There's no need to ride around in circles for blocks finding someplace to lock up a bicycle. But as gas prices skyrocket and more people get from here to there on bikes, Chris Cameron is among the bicyclists who say it's gotten harder to find an open bike rack. You've seen the result--bicycles locked onto racks four deep. "You have to get a little creative," said Cameron, bike commuting program director for the Cascade Bicycle Club.

A shortage of bicycle racks in Seattle? "ABSOLUTELY," said one response to a P-I reporter's question on the Cascade Bicycle Club's Web bulletin board. He blamed the replacement of parking meters for fewer bike-parking kiosks. "Anyone know how many thousands of parking meters have been removed from city streets? They have NOT been replaced with lockable bike racks all over town, sending bicyclists the not-so-clear message that car parking is more important (read revenue stream) than posts bicyclists can lock to," he wrote. (Read more.)
Secure parking for your bicycle is a critical need for bike commuters. The lack of secure parking is often a key obstacle for prospective bike commuters, who can't bring their bicycles into their workplace and are concerned about theft. Employers could do more to encourage bike commuting by converting spaces in their parking lots to accommodate bicycles--12 bikes could fit into the space occupied by one car.

Many communities are recognizing the value of bike lanes and other street safety enhancements. Bike lanes can be cheap to create--often just a stripe of paint--and provide a high visibility facility offering potential ribbon cutting photo ops for publicity seeking politicians. Bike racks are often the neglected component of cycling infrastructure. They can be capital intensive, perhaps $200 or more per rack not including installation. They often require permission from property owners, and may arouse the animosity of advocates for pedestrians and disabled people by encroaching on sidewalk space. Street parking spaces could be converted to bike parking, but this conversion often provokes opposition by retailers. The shortage of bicycle parking is increasing, as many communities such as Seattle convert individual parking meters into validated "pay & display" spaces using an central automated station.

At a time when more people are using bicycles for transportation, it's critical that government agencies develop more secure bicycle parking, including staffed central bike station facilities.

How's your city doing with bike parking?

Image: Peggy Archer.
Visit: Bikes get safe place to spend day, Seattle Times
Visit: Portland Bike Parking: Corral vs Oasis,
Visit: Sacramento's Mayor Wants To Add More Bike Racks, KOVR-TV 13
Visit: Making a place to hitch two-wheeled steeds,
Visit: Bike Lockers
Visit: Bike parking a challenge in NYC, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Bike racks are beautiful, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Where's the bike rack?, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site


Steven Vance said...

In Chicago, we pay more than $200 per rack, including installation.

But we've installed over 250 racks this year, and we have at least 200 more to go. We might even up that goal to 300. Our goal is 450-500 each year.

Anonymous said...

I'm lucky in that I bring my bike inside at work. But then again, I work at a 9 employee production studio, so I realize I'm in the minority.

But I do notice when I go out for lunch that there's very little bike parking around. I normally end up locking to a railing or even an outside table (it's so hot in Atlanta these days, no one wants to sit outside anyways.)

Kevin Love said...

Paul asked:

"How's your city doing with bike parking?"

Kevin's answer:

Toronto is currently installing 3,000 per year of its post and ring bicycle racks.

The city also provides, for a fee, enclosed bicycle lockers at major railway and subway stations. And at City Hall.

Details on the official City web site at:

Anonymous said...

I park for free in a parking garage in my building. Cars pay about $200 per month to park. The garage has rack in a irregular shaped spot that cars wouldn't/couldn't park. It is relatively secure (you still need a lock) and out of the weather. On an average day about 10 bikes use the rack.

Although I'm not volunteering to pay for parking, I'm surprised that more parking garages don't have secure parking for bikes. I would pay $20 per month for the peace of mind of not having to park my bike on the street all day.

If you can put 12 bikes in one parking space the garage can charge 1/12 of the automobile rate and break even. I think this would be a win/win for both the bikers and garage owners. The bike gets an indoor spot that is much more secure than the street. The garage owner gets some extra revenue from marginal spaces. If the demand for parking continues to grow, I’m hoping market solutions will start to appear.

I truly believe that secure parking, more than any other infrastructure improvement, is the key increasing bike commuting.

erin said...

Another issue is that sometime bicycle parking is poorly placed, resulting in a situation where nobody wants to use it. For example, at my first day at my current office, I rode around the block and saw one completely empty bicycle rack - right across the street from a homeless shelter with a 2 block long line of homeless people, some of whom seemed very interested in my ride. Nobody wants to lock to a rack in that situation, and if they had just placed the rack one block over (just on the other side of the building), it would be about 10 times more secure.

Anonymous said...

I do not see this as a huge problem. I work for a small company, and lock my bike to a flagpole near the front door. I ma the only person here who commutes by bike, and I have no desire, or need, to have my employer instal a bike rack.

In the past, I have been hassled for locking my bike to signposts and fences, but those cases were infrequent, and becomming more so.

I am sure that security is a bigger issue for some. But this is more of a "micro" problem than a "macro" one. I work in a small, mixed, commercail-industrial complex where no one minds me locking up to the flag pole out front. Other riders will have their own unique chalanges that defy solution on a macro scale.

Paul Dorn said...

@ David in SD: Thanks for your message. However, I have to respectfully disagree. Secure bicycle parking is a major issue. Consider how few people would drive cars if there was no free parking. There are essentially three main challenges most prospective bicycle commuters need to overcome:
1) Safety (mitigated through street enhancement and education)
2) Distance (mitigated through improved fitness or multimodal access)
3) Parking (mitigated by employer and agency provision of racks, etc.)

These are the three critical issues for bicycling advocates. There are, of course, other "excuses" offered by non-bicyclists: "bikes are expensive" (not compared to gas and car payments); "I need to dress for an office" (change on arrival); "it messes up my hair" (change your haircut, don't wear a helmet); "bikes are for kids" (not in most of the world); and so on.

Secure bicycle parking is a big issue. Consider yourself fortunate if you have convenient parking.

erin said...

I think the other issue with what David has said is that of commitment and recruitment: for those who are already committed to riding their bike every day, they will find parking, and while their dreams might be filled with secure, weather-proof bicycle parking, it's not something that will stop them riding. But for those who are not yet sold on bicycle commuting, the lack of parking reinforces the social norm that driving a car is somehow better.

Also, as a Seattlite, I have to mention that weather is a huge concern with bike parking here. If you don't have access to covered parking, rust and soggy seats can be a major issue. We can't just only ride when it's sunny here- that would leave us with about two weeks a year with our bikes!

Anonymous said...

New york is definitely beginning to pick up the pace with more lanes and racks appearing. Currently there's a competition underway, and I can't find the link; however, the intention is to provide innovators a space to be engaged in the process. With luck I'll see the racks. Now, if I could only find a nearby shower to be presentable at work.

Kevin Love said...

anonymous wrote:

"I would pay $20 per month for the peace of mind of not having to park my bike on the street all day."

Kevin's comment:

In Toronto the cost of a "bike locker" is $10 per month. Details here:

IgorTheCat said...

david in sd said...(this is an ID I used 'cause I was blanking on my password)

"I do not see this as a huge problem.”

I eat my words. My usual commute is from a northern suburb of SD to an eastern suburb. Today I had to go into downtown for a meeting. The first thing that totally shocked me was that I cruised for blocks, and didn't see a single Starbucks. I finally found an "It's a Grind" but there was absolutely nothing within 100' of the door to lock my bike to. I ran my cable through both wheels and the frame and set it in front of the window that I was sitting at.

When I got to the meeting, there was a railing next to a coffee cart, within sight of the security desk.

San Diego defiantly has "Bike Friendly" issues.