Sharing the road
April 18, 2011 4:01 PM   Subscribe

I'm on my city's "Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee" and we got briefed last year about a plan to put a bike corral in downtown. (Item #6 in the minutes, PDF.) I think it'll actually make that spot much nicer looking, too, since as it is the single A-frame rack is usually stacked several deep, plus bikes locked to trees, signs, light poles, etc, all on a fairly narrow sidewalk.

Now to get covered bike parking....
posted by epersonae at 4:24 PM on April 18, 2011

There's a bunch of headless parking meters outside my building that I would love to give this treatment to.
posted by ofthestrait at 4:35 PM on April 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Is bike parking difficult to come by in most cities. I now live in Portland, but found bike parking in backwards Buffalo to be just as abundant in commercial/nightlife districts.

I thought most cities were already big into this, as mayors and councilmembers love this low-cost, pro-environment press hit.
posted by munchingzombie at 4:39 PM on April 18, 2011

How about bike lockers? That would be a public service worth paying for, above existing taxation that keeps roads maintained mainly for car and truck drivers.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:39 PM on April 18, 2011

I thought most cities were already big into this, as mayors and councilmembers love this low-cost, pro-environment press hit.

In my neighborhood (Ballard, in Seattle), businesses are fighting tooth and nail (to the extent of suing the city) to prevent a popular bike trail from being completed. A big part of the calculation is that several businesses will lose car parking spaces if the trail goes in.
posted by gurple at 4:47 PM on April 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Not sure I'd welcome this in Sydney. It would just give car drivers another reason to hate on cyclists - taking away 'their' parking spaces.

Driving in Sydney is hell and the lack of parking is just one of the many reasons why I try to avoid it as much as possible. But rather than try to fix the infrastructure problems and improve public transport (especially from the commuter belt) NSW's new transport minister has already focussed the blame on cyclists. His first public statement after the state elections was that cyclists had better "use it or lose it" in reference to the new bike lanes that the previous state government spent a small fortune on. Good to see our elected officials bravely fighting the corner for the average smog-eater by standing up to the two-wheeled hippies and their sinister non-petrol-burning agenda.

posted by JustAsItSounds at 4:49 PM on April 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

The corrals here in Portland are great. I can't speak to the economics of them, but the utility for bikers is certainly enhanced over sidewalk parking. Accessing the corrals directly from the street means I'm not tempted to ride up on the sidewalk to get to the rack. Re-entering the roadway from a highly visible corral is also safer than threading between parked cars, or riding back to a crosswalk. So plus one for safer and more legal. It also seems that condensing the parking and leaving it out in plain view creates a deterrent for theft. I was a little bit surprised to find that my lights, helmet and rainpants were all left untouched after leaving my bike locked up overnight in a highly trafficked area. This might owe more to Portland's bike culture than anything else, but I suspect it would be a bit harder to steal things from a busy corral than some lonely side street lock-up.
posted by iloveit at 4:57 PM on April 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Victoria has been building bike corrals in parking spaces. We cyclists have been subsidizing parking lots for so long, it's nice to finally be able to park in them... and to park about 20 bikes in the same space required for one car.
posted by klanawa at 4:57 PM on April 18, 2011

I should amend that to say, "...has built a couple..."
posted by klanawa at 4:59 PM on April 18, 2011

iloveit: "It also seems that condensing the parking and leaving it out in plain view creates a deterrent for theft"

I try to always lock up my bike right next to a more valuable one, based on the classic "you don't have to outrun the bear" logic.
posted by idiopath at 5:04 PM on April 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Is bike parking difficult to come by in most cities? There are a few spots in my town that regularly get overloaded when the weather is decent, including near where they're going to put the corral. And that's with quite a few A-frames on the sidewalks.
posted by epersonae at 5:05 PM on April 18, 2011

Toronto got a bike corral on Spadina last summer, but we could seriously use more.
posted by maudlin at 5:43 PM on April 18, 2011

Now if only there was a easy way to store my bike overnight or longer, easily, securely and out of the weather close to my apartment. A way that does not require lugging it up or down multiple stairways and narrow hallways.
posted by flummox at 5:58 PM on April 18, 2011

We're getting a few here in SLC.
posted by msbutah at 6:09 PM on April 18, 2011

Personally, I'm more in favor of bikesharing, since it represents a better utilization of public resources. (Ie. you don't have bikes sitting out all day that aren't being used)

Nevertheless, this topic is sure to hit a third-rail in most American cities. The bicycle-hate is strong these days, and has inexplicably become the nexus of the latest round of racial clashes here in DC. (And I say this as a person who primarily commutes/travels by bicycle)
posted by schmod at 6:10 PM on April 18, 2011

Vancouver has one trial on-street corral that is always busy so I hope they build more this summer.
posted by metaname at 6:44 PM on April 18, 2011

Personally, I'm more in favor of bikesharing
There was a great program in Toronto - the Yellow bike share. It was affordable - if you can't even afford $30 a season, you can volunteer for 4 hours and get it for free. Unfortunately, it closed in '06 due to lack of funding. The new BIXI program is supposed to start on May 3rd. It will cost MUCH more than the yellow bike program per month, but less per year.

It's a start. Some downtown businesses in TO already had their own "bike parking," I distinctly remember the one in front of MEC being huge.
posted by Sallysings at 10:27 PM on April 18, 2011

Car sharing makes some sort of sense to me - cars are expensive. I still don't really understand the bike sharing thing.

It seems kind of absurd to me that we are still at the point where 64 on-street car-to-bike parking spaces in a large city is news and car parking is hegemonic.

My favorite part about on-street bike parking is that you can fit so many bikes into one car space. It's neat that some businesses see that this means more room for more customers, and thus have motivation to be interested.
posted by aniola at 11:07 PM on April 18, 2011

Good idea in principle. Couple of caveats though. Bikes are great for transporting you. They're not great for transporting more than a day or two's worth of shopping, or a second adult, let alone a motor mower. Third-world counter-examples don't count. Contextually, the family of 4 on a bike are biking among other families of 4 on bikes, and the middle-class folks have motorcycles, not SUVs, and most importantly, they all have practice at this. You are probably not getting your new motor-mower home balanced on your handlebars.

Nor does the motor-mower store want a bike rack in front of it. You only buy a motor-mower once every couple of years, and when you do, paying for courier-delivery or taking a taxi home with it is still cheaper and more environmentally sound than car ownership. Lots of other customers still want to park directly outside the store, stuff the motor mower box into their back seat or wagon back, and drive home. Multiple people do this every day, outside of that store. Putting a bike rack in front of the motor-mower store will cause a minor nuisance to a lot of people daily, probably won't even affect the store's turnover (you only buy a motor-mower once every couple of years), and certainly won't induce people to bike to the motor-mower store.

The main problem I have with the idea though is that for the vast majority of stores, it is not necessary to have on-street parking for bikes, because the off-street parking in front of the store, between the store and the sidewalk, should accommodate plenty of bikes without interfering with pedestrian travel. On some streets, that won't work; store-owners may display a few items outside the store (hardware stores very commonly do this), and restaurants and cafes may have sidewalk tables. Apart from these type of streets, if the sidewalk isn't wide enough for people to park bikes and also walk by, then the problem is the narrowness of the sidewalk.

It's very appropriate for malls and shopping centres to have bike parking. In my recollection, they generally already do.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 11:09 PM on April 18, 2011

Regarding bike sharing, the Brisbane city council have recently started up a program to do this. Sadly it is failing, and will continue to fail, because when they decided to do it, the local government forgot that some years prior, the state government had made bicycling without helmets illegal. Helmet-sharing isn't as practical, and if you plan far enough ahead to have a helmet with you, you probably can plan far enough ahead to take your bike as well.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 11:12 PM on April 18, 2011

I'm down to learn from countries that don't have as many cars. I agree that people are not currently inclined to visit the motor-mower store and haul off a motor-mower. However, we're seeing more bikes designed to haul cargo.

You're right. Maybe putting on-street bike parking in front of the motor-mower store isn't the place to start. There is a need for on-street bike parking in a lot of places where I live, and it looks like there is a fair bit of demand for on-street bike parking in a lot of other places. Maybe if we start with those places that do need that access to bike parking, it can contribute to a cultural shift in expectations that leads to a less automobile-centric lifestyle.
posted by aniola at 11:44 PM on April 18, 2011

Aeschenkarnos: if you can't get more than a day or two of shopping home on a bike then you aren't trying hard enough.

With two panniers and a backpack (my bike has a rack, his doesn't yet) we can carry home get a month's worth of staples (rice, beans, coffee, etc), a week's worth of perishables (eggs, veggies, etc), a six pack of beer and a bottle or two of wine (we have our priorities). No, you aren't getting a mower home without a flat bike trailer (such as made by work cycles), but we have gotten two garden hoses home on my rear rack. The big (or urgent) jobs we borrow or rent a car (zipcar). But you really can get a lot home on a bike if you try.

Anyway, the benefit of on street bike parking isn't necessarily about whatever shop is immediately nearby. It's meant to serve the business district. And at least in many Seattle business districts, the sidewalks are not wide enough or are obstructed by so many other things (signposts, parking pay stations, planters or trees) that pushing the parked bikes to the street really improves sidewalk access.
posted by R343L at 12:19 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

aeschenkaros, I think you're looking at a type of store and shopping that isn't being targeted by street bike parking.

Here in Toronto, buying a lawnmower or other large household item generally means going to a big box store with a massive parking lot and a bit of space for cyclists at the edge of the parking lot or on the concrete pad used only by pedestrians. While there are still a few small hardware, furniture and appliance stores in my neighbourhood that face the street, with no parking lots, they are fairly rare. People rarely buy large items there even if they arrive by car because there's only one parking spot open in front of the store at any given time.

But the same streets that house these small stores also feature restaurants, hair salons, video rental places, green grocers, and other small merchants. Having some place available for mass bike parking on the street makes sense for that stretch of road as a whole because most retail outlets in that neighbourhood can be shopped by bike.
posted by maudlin at 12:38 AM on April 19, 2011

(Ack! Sorry, that should be aeschenkarnos, not aeschenkaros.)
posted by maudlin at 12:39 AM on April 19, 2011

I've never really considered bike parking (or lack of) much of an issue and I cycle most days. If I can't find a bike park, I just lock it to the nearest lamp-post or railing. Then again, central London does have convenient iron railings pretty much everywhere, so maybe that's why.
posted by rhymer at 12:43 AM on April 19, 2011

They're not great for transporting more than a day or two's worth of shopping, or a second adult, let alone a motor mower.
posted by SyntacticSugar at 2:14 AM on April 19, 2011

aeschenkaros, I think you're looking at a type of store and shopping that isn't being targeted by street bike parking.

To put it mildly. I'm just surprised he didn't use the occasional need to get one of these as an example of why bike corrals aren't useful and practical. Also, it's a real shame that stores which sell lawn-mowers don't have loading-bays where large items can be picked up. Oh wait. They do.

People rarely buy large items there even if they arrive by car because there's only one spot open in front of the store at any given time.

Actually, there's usually none. So the SOP is to go inside, choose and pay for your above-ground swimming-pool or grandfather clock or load of concrete blocks, and then walk the block to where you did find a parking space, and then drive around to the loading bay in the back.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 2:50 AM on April 19, 2011

My neighborhood supermarket recently added two bike lockup posts just outside the front door - previously bike parking had been relegated to the outside fringe of the car parking lot.

What a difference - they're always in use, customers turn them over quite quickly, and they definitely motivate me to stop there for small purchases.

It's not that hard... no car parking was removed, even.
posted by anthill at 7:10 AM on April 19, 2011

Anthill - I think that's exactly the point. Two bike lockup posts motivate you to bike to the grocery store. However, they are always in use.

There comes a point when there just isn't enough room on the sidewalk/etc. for sufficient bike parking. One car parking space will accommodate 10-20 bicycles - many of whom might be newly motivated just like you to use the bike parking now that it's available.
posted by aniola at 7:59 AM on April 19, 2011

As we start seeing more cargo bikes, we'll need to remember to account for them in bike parking. Where I live, I occasionally see cargo bikes/recumbent tandems/4-wheel bikes/bikes with kid trailers and bikes with schlepping trailers parked in parking spaces because they wouldn't fit on a bike rack. Then they're both easier to steal and taking up one whole car space anyway. When they aren't parked in the street, they are taking up the sidewalk.

My local food co-op has dozens of bike parking spaces and several bike trailer-friendly spaces. They all get used.

Parking lots are already designed for parking. It's cheap and easy to set them up to accommodate more vehicles if some of those vehicles take up a lot less space.
posted by aniola at 8:09 AM on April 19, 2011

Here in Portland, a gas station will have no bike rack, or maybe one. A convenience store will typically have 2 - 4. A normal grocery store or supermarket will have 4-8. A street with multiple bars cafes and resteraunts will have groups of 10 or more every few blocks or so. A hippy grocery store like Whole Foods or New Seasons or People's Food Coop will have 10 or more near the entrance.
posted by idiopath at 8:19 AM on April 19, 2011

A week's worth of groceries * A water barrel * Charcoal & a (small) grill (Or, why I adore my Xtracycle)

Anyway, I think a lot of older downtowns just don't have the sidewalk space. They're just wide enough for two people to walk abreast, plus a bit of space for signs & meters, and it's not like the city can make them any wider.

My current frustration, though, is the lack of consideration for the weather in bike parking. Even if you're not a Hard Core rain-riding cyclist, around here it's entirely possible to ride to your destination & back in nice weather, but have it rain while you're there.

And boy am I annoyed by our new city hall, which has scads of bike parking...under the most useless awning ever. You can see it on at the far left of the building in this photo. It's hard to tell from the photo, but I've seen those racks in the rain: they might keep your handlebars dry. Maybe.
posted by epersonae at 9:01 AM on April 19, 2011

OMG yess more bike parking is needed here in Los Angeles. I'm not sure about other cities, but technically it is not legal to lock up to parking meters here. They're often the only option and I've never been busted for it, but yeah. Parking sign posts are handy. The standard light posts are too fat for a u-lock.

Another fun thing is when someone (LADOT? a business? I should look into that) installs a bike rack that is easily unbolted/not cemented to the ground. As I was locking my grocery getter up in front of the Hyperion Trader Joe's a dude unlocking his bike told me that bikes were being stolen from the Hollywood TJ's by unscrewing the bolts and swooping up the bikes.

As for the lawn mower store argument, were I to own one, I'd totes bike to the store for parts. Just like I bike to the hardware store for my assorted needs. Also I'd imagine that the lawn mower store was not the only business on the block and maybe it should look into home delivery. I know there are grocery stores that offer such services.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 10:58 AM on April 19, 2011

Olympia update: I was out & about on Sunday and spotted the new! bike! corral! which was handy because I was actually stopping to go to the shop right next to it.
posted by epersonae at 10:02 AM on May 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

nice, Olympia definitely needed that
posted by idiopath at 10:04 AM on May 3, 2011

Yeah, I'm looking forward to hearing more about it at the next Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee meeting. I'm pretty sure it was on the last meeting's agenda, but I was home with a cold. :\

Gotta love the kids already "camping" in the corner of the corral, too. Very convenient.
posted by epersonae at 1:46 PM on May 3, 2011

Do you guys have a bike parking ordinance?
posted by aniola at 11:13 AM on May 4, 2011

Apparently. (I had to go look it up.)
posted by epersonae at 1:50 PM on May 4, 2011

That's interesting. We're working on one now. Ours is going to be done as a percentage. California is now requiring bike parking at the rate of 5% of what's car parking. Ours tries to avoid framing the requirement with reference to car parking, because that may become an outdated measuring stick. Ours is based on mode share, with a minimum at 25%. We finally got our first car parking spot bike rack!

Anyway, thanks for the link!
posted by aniola at 6:42 PM on May 5, 2011

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