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Sure, you can ride it. But where are you going to park it?
Bike lanes and bicycle sharing programs are popping up in cities and communities across the country as transportation planners realize these projects provide a way to encourage physical activity and decrease vehicle traffic. But as our friends at ChangeLab Solutions note, it’s often not enough to merely encourage biking on the road — cities also must ensure riders have a place to safely park their bike.
“People don’t even think about parking for their cars, because it’s just such a built-in assumption that there will be a place to park,” says Karen Kramer, a consultant for the National Policy & Legal Analysis Network to Prevent Childhood Obesity, a project of ChangeLab Solutions. “People will bicycle more if there’s a safe, secure and free or low-cost place to park your bike.”
A regular bike commuter herself, Kramer researched and drafted a series of new publications designed to encourage policymakers to incorporate bicycle parking in transportation planning. It is important work, as surveys show that even the most enthusiastic of bicyclists won’t commute to work on their bikes if they don’t have a secure place to park it during the day, Kramer says.
Researchers also put forth model legislation that is designed to help policymakers in their own bicycle-parking efforts. There is precedent for such action, Kramer points out — more than 150 cities and towns nationwide already have implemented bicycle parking.
For example, a “Bike-Friendly Business District” has been created in Long Beach, located in the heart of car-loving Southern California. The city encourages merchants and shoppers to bike instead of drive, providing bike racks and larger bike parking corrals, which provide on-street parking for 14 bicycles. The city also offers monitored bike parking at events.
Such monitoring in the norm in San Francisco, which also is home to more than 60 parking garages that include convenient spaces for bike parking. New development and major building remodels also must include bike parking. The same goes in San Diego, where offices and other types of buildings are required to have showers so that bicycle commuters can freshen up before they start their workday.
Encouraging bicycling provides many benefits to a community, Kramer says. Along with helping people get physically active and cutting down on pollution, bicycle parking specifically has been shown to help local businesses, as bicyclists move slowly enough through their community that they interact with their surroundings — making them more likely to shop and dine. In Madison, Wis., for example, sales tax revenue increased 3 percent in shopping areas with new bicycle racks.
Bicycle parking, Kramer notes, is not just about putting up bike rakes (although that can be fine in some cases). To ensure bicycles are safe from theft, many parking facilities or buildings that include parking have installed bicycle rooms or lockers, which can be locked and monitored.
In its model bicycle parking ordinance, ChangeLab recommends that cities ensure all new commercial and multifamily developments, along with major renovations, include bicycle parking. This provides a benefit to developers, as they don’t have to spend as much money on expensive parking spaces for cars.
ChangeLab also suggests policymakers ensure all parking facilities include spaces for bikes and require major street festivals and other large events that involve street closures provide monitored bicycle parking. Doing so not only encourages people to ride their bikes to the event, but also decreases traffic congestion.
Kramer says she’s optimistic that more cities and towns across the country will incorporate bicycle parking in their transportation plans.
“I think it’s a really exciting time for bicycling. Things are coming together at this time in history,” she says. “I think in the last 10 years with air pollution and growing awareness of climate change and health impacts and the obesity epidemic, I think it’s all sort of coming together.”