Current society caters to motion; drive-thrus being perfect examples. Meals, marriages, and medications can be acquired on the go, in a box, without standing up. Since their dawn of creation, automobiles have been accompanied by mottos and slogans verbalizing freedom and the wild wind in your hair. However, what these slogans do not articulate is what you will be forced to do upon arriving at your destination. What they neglect to tell you is that you must park.
Society encourages motion by expanding highways, interstates, even downtown main streets in an attempt to accommodate the continual onslaught of vehicles. But while expansions that facilitate motion are planned, reviewed and implemented, the question of, “where to park?” lays in wait. Festering. Automobile parking is often overshadowed in traffic talk; however, bicycle parking is an even more obscure topic.
Bicycle sales and overall ridership, spurred by economic downfall, have increased dramatically within the past few years, and continue to do so. Transportation planners and civil engineers have worked hard to meet the demand for safe, bikeable routes to and from work, school and grocery stores; however, adequate bicycle parking is often a mute topic.
If bicycle plans only account for motion and not immobility, community bicycle use will become asymptotic and not grow. Therefore, adequate bicycle parking as dictated by the four facets: quantity, form, convenience and safety… the development of each of these is essential for success.
Quantity: Competition for parking spots is a direct affect of bicycling becoming mainstream. Often the problem is too few parking spots, but a complete lack of parking is even worse. Suburban shopping districts are the biggest culprits of such lewd acts. As a result, chains and cables often choke street signs, light posts, railings, chain-link fences, and trees. In turn, this “bike pollution” disrupts pedestrian circulation and aesthetic qualities of the area. Granted, I love witnessing ingenuity, but bicycles hanging from stoplights and apartment railings are a bit tacky.
Form: Parking apparatuses must allow for quick, easy and secure locking of at least two bicycles. The apparatuses must also be well anchored, allow both the frame and at least one tire to be locked to it, and allow access on all sides.
Convenience: This is essentially a measure of isolation. I should not need to complete a duatholon to rent a movie or get some groceries. I should not have to bike to a commercial district, bike in circles looking for a bike rack, bike some more looking for a tree or post of some kind to replace the rack I cannot find, lock my bike and then walk a mile to enter the store. Biking should be direct. Bike, park, then walk 10 seconds or less through the doors of my destination. Furthermore, parking should be distributed rather than clumped.
Safety: Studies has shown that the greatest deterrent for people biking to work is a lack of safe and secure parking on the other end. As increasing numbers of people shed their cars for bicycles, opportunities for thieves will only increase. That is of course, if cities and communities do not develop and provide innovative and safe parking designs.
Currently, Japan and the whole of Europe are hubs for user-friendly bicycle parking. Innovative structures such as Bicebergs use automated, compartmentalized underground parking to resolve bicycle density issues across Europe. With a capacity of 92 bicycles, the entire product takes up an area roughly equivalent to one car parking space at street level and four spaces below ground. In Tokyo, bicycle towers with underground capacities of 9,000+ bicycles take this concept to the extreme (video HERE). Both examples meld all four facets together, while efficiently integrating parking into extremely dense built environments.
Biceberg kiosk in Vitoria, Spain
I have not seen or heard of any bicycle towers here in the United States on par with Tokyo’s, which I assume correlates with smaller population densities; however, small densities have not stopped a company named Bikestation from building several full service “bike transit stops,” their latest one being in Washington DC. The finished building made of glass and steel is able to securely house 140 bicycles while seamlessly fitting in with the surrounding historic architecture, fulfilling the four facets, and offering expert repair service during work hours.
Several bicycle shops like Freewheel Bike in Minneapolis that cater to dedicated cycling communities have also recognized the increased demand for bicycle parking. Freewheel Bike began as a Co-op offering repair classes in their shop open to the public, and has since expanded its public catering service to include secure indoor parking, access to in-store shower facilities, emergency ride home service, discounts off retail products, rental bikes and basic tune ups. The price of this package: a mere $112 per year!
Although Minneapolis was recently named the #1 bicycling city in the nation (you betcha Portland), only 5% of workers commute, compared to 30-40% in places like Amsterdam or Barcelona. However, as gas prices rise, so to will bike sales and ridership. In order for cities and communities to maintain a competitive economic edge over their rivals, holistic bicycle planning must be made a priority. Successful societies must cater from parking to parking and not just everything in-between.