CategoryBike Parking

Bike parking is simple

I created a website a couple months ago where my intention is to create a single place where people can get good advice on installing bike parking wherever it’s needed. The advice includes what kind of bike rack to choose and where to put it.

Visit Simple Bike Parking – Helping make bike parking a simple affair.

Distance is the key to effective and usable bike parking. Notice the bike racks in the foreground – no one’s using them after the one’s next to the train station entrance were installed (by me, actually).

The website’s not even closer to being finished. Steven Can Plan, now GRID, and my part-time work doing bike parking consulting with Active Transportation Alliance for Cook County schools has taken priority. It’s also meant as a “calling card” for people to hire me to consult them on their bike parking needs.

My first iPhone app – Request a bike rack

Here’s a video preview of my first iOS app that will hopefully, in the end, allow you to request a bike rack in Chicago based on where you and your device are currently standing.

I don’t know if it will ever hit the Apple App Store because Apple requires developers to pay a $99 fee each year. I’m surely not going to pay this. It will be able to run on jailbroken iOS devices and it will work on iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.

The code is based on my Bike Crash Portal website that asks permission to use your location (given automatically through HTML5 and the computer’s own location software). A fork of this project may include a mobile-optimized website that allows you to request a bike rack; again, based on your current location.

The purpose of this is to eliminate the need to know the address of where you want to request a bike rack. Oftentimes a person will arrive at their destination and not find any bike racks. Open the app, hit “Share my location” when the app loads and then tap submit. The Chicago Bicycle Parking Program (hopefully) will receive your request.

That was easy: Wicker Park-Bucktown SSA approves on-street bike parking installation money

Read the discussion about this on The Chainlink.

I went to the Wicker Park-Bucktown Special Service Area (SSA) #33 commission meeting on Wednesday night. Jason Tinkey joined me. I had a lot of questions before going in about the on-street bike parking I wrote about yesterday and many were answered in the proceedings. At the end I asked my final questions. Today’s meeting was about passing a motion, which passed unanimously, to approve funding $4,000 to pay CDOT for the installation.

Here’s the story:

A Dero Downtown rack will be installed in front of the Flat Iron Arts Building in a parallel parking space that is not currently metered. The bike rack is designed to store 12 bicycles. The Dero Downtown rack looks identical to Chicago’s Plaza racks but has slightly different geometry. It has square tubing and is of high quality; it can stand alone or be anchored easily, even to asphalt – I definitely approve this rack choice.

It will be purchased by the SSA* and donated to the Chicago Department of Transportation which has agreed to assume liability. I don’t know what the installation includes, but the cost, $4,000, seems quite high! The SSA has a target installation month of June 2011. Milwaukee, Wisconsin, may have its second by the end of May.

Orange lines indicate approximate location – could be north or south of the fire hydrant. These are the non-metered parking spaces.

The Dero Downtown rack looks just like this Plaza rack, so named because of its first appearance at Daley Plaza.

Expect to see a scene like this in Wicker Park by the end of summer 2011.

*The standard price for this bike rack, in 2011, is $1,584 for powder coat or galvanized, or $1,836 for thermoplastic or black rubber dip. Delivery will cost over $500. The SSA passed a motion in March 2011 (PDF) to approve $4,000 to procure the bike rack.

Chicago may get its first on-street bike parking corral today

Well, it won’t actually be built or open for “business” today.

The Wicker Park-Bucktown SSA (#33) will vote Tuesday at 7 PM on a motion (PDF) on whether or not to spend $4,000 to pay CDOT to install the city’s first on-street bike parking corral on Milwaukee near Damen in front of the Flat Iron building in Alderman Moreno’s 1st Ward. I plan to attend the meeting.

This location will serve Bank of America customers, Debonair clubgoers, and artists and gallery visitors at the the Flat Iron Arts Building. Note that the bike parking would be paid for by the Special Service Area’s revenue, which comes from taxing businesses in the district.

This won’t be the first bike parking corral in Illinois – that honor probably goes to Oak Park, a village east of Chicago. And it won’t be the first in the Midwest. Minneapolis, Ann Arbor, and Milwaukee will have beat us. In fact, Milwaukee’s first bike parking corral opened last Friday, May 6, 2011, in front of an Alterra café.

See list of cities around the world with bike parking corrals.

Oak Park’s on-street bike parking corral at 719 South Blvd., next to David A. Noyes Company and Anthony Lullo’s hair designs. I probably wouldn’t have selected this location, but it’s also across the street from the Oak Park Green Line station, so it can serve as overflow parking. Notice that at least 12 bicycles can park in the same space a car can park.

Milwaukee’s first on-street bike parking corral at 2211 N. Prospect Ave.,  designed by Chris Socha of The Kubala Washatko Architects and fabricated by Ryan Foat, Principal of Oxbow Studio. Photo by Dave Reid of UrbanMilwaukee.com.

Some lessons learned in bike parking placement at train stations

Flickr user Jeramey posted the photo below showing empty bike racks inside the Damen Blue Line station in Wicker Park, Chicago. He took it on Wednesday, April 14, 2010, when the high temperature was 82°F – good riding weather.

He linked to a photo taken in July 2009 showing the full bike racks inside the Sox-35th Red Line station in Bridgeport/Bronzeville. It’s hot in July as well.

Both bike racks were installed in the same project in 2009. Two other stations received high-capacity bike racks: Jefferson Park Blue Line, and Midway Orange Line.

Jeramey’s implied question is, “Why are people using Sox-35th bike racks, but not Damen bike racks?” I have some hypotheses.

Damen Blue Line station bike racks

1.  The number of physical barriers someone with a bicycle must cross to access this space is too high. First there’re the narrow doors to the station house; second is the gate that must be unlocked by the station attendant (but is often found unlocked);third is the stairs; fourth is the high frequency of passengers in the staircase and first landing that the passenger with a bicycle must navigate through.

2. The lack of knowledge about this parking space’s existence. While there are small signs pointing towards these bike racks, they are easily ignored. Additionally, people riding bikes in Chicago tend not to look for signs as bike parking is almost always in view of the final destination (this is one of the rules of successful bike parking).

3. There is often available bike parking outside the station house. If the racks outside are available, those are more convenient. See hypothesis 1.

4. The station is too close to downtown, the destination of a majority of people bicycling to work. Instead of biking to the train station, they ride directly to work without riding the CTA. This map shows where people who bike to work call home and where they work. To test this hypothesis, I think some usage counts should be taken on multiple days per season. Expected results: In colder weather, people would combine modes and ride to the station and then to work. In warmer weather, they would only ride their bicycle.

Sox-35th Red Line station

Now let’s look at the Sox-35th Red Line station bike racks in the same categories.

1. No barriers. The station is newer, has wide doors, no stairs, and a wheelchair turnstile that people with bikes can use.

2. No need for signage or direction. As soon as one enters the station, the bike racks are visible.

3. They’re the only bike racks available. You can’t park securely outside the station house.

4. The route between Sox-35th and the center of Chicago is not as bike friendly as that between Damen and downtown. Milwaukee Avenue offers a direct connection between Damen and downtown, a critical mass of other people bicycling, and bike lanes for a majority of the length. State Street is the most direct to downtown from Sox-35th, but lacks bike facilities (not even a wide outer lane; King Drive has a bike lane but only goes so far as Cermak Road), or other people bicycling.

In future installations of bike parking like these two, we should look at the difficulty of accessing the bike rack as well as considering who will use them and what trips they may take (will people bike past the station to their destination?). Additionally, planners should count the number of bicycles parked at the stations before and after new parking fixtures are installed to better understand how and when it’s used.

Disclaimer: I was involved in 2009 and 2010 in selecting four CTA and Metra stations for the second round of Bike To Transit. The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) awarded CDOT a $375,000 grant as part of its Innovation Coordination Enhancement program.

Emanuel releases plan for safe bicycling in Chicago. I reconsider.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention in the original post that Rahm gave a press conference on Sunday at Rapid Transit Cycleshop in Wicker Park (the bike shop doesn’t endorse any candidate for mayor). More photos from the event here and here.

Before Sunday, January 30th, 2011, when candidate for Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel released details of his plans for bicycling in Chicago, I was a big fan of Miguel Del Valle (read my earlier posts).

I was excited by what he included and it made me think that someone’s been to New York City recently (or knows someone else who did), or Rahm watched Randy Neufeld talk about ten great ways to make bicycling great in Chicago.

So what does Rahm say? (Specifics in bold.)

  • Chicago lags behind many other cities in the rate of new bike lanes each year and providing bike parking in buildings. – Yep, check San Francisco, Portland, and New York City.
  • He will build 25 miles of new bike lanes each year and prioritize protected bike lanes. Great, Chicago will finally catch up on this sought-after bikeway over 12 years after one was installed in Davis, California. New York City installed several miles of this (“cycletrack”) in Manhattan in 2008 and continue today.

New York City’s first protected bike lane, or cycletrack, on 9th Avenue in Manhattan’s west side. Will Rahm’s administration install something like this in Chicago before 2015?

  • “…initiate a review of [the Bike 2015 Plan’s] goals and timelines to identify opportunities to expand the plan and accelerate the pace of implementation.” Right on. This needs to be done so we know our progress.
  • “…create a bike lane network that allows every Chicagoan – from kids on their first ride to senior citizens on their way to the grocery store – to feel safe on our streets.” Hey, that’s exactly what Randy said: Make bicycling for everyone, “from 8 to 80.”
  • Rahm will have the Bloomingdale Trail open and functional by the end of his term. The abandoned, elevated rail line promises to be an important part of the bikeway network, but also a neat recreational facility.

The Bloomingdale Trail is an elevated railroad viaduct (at 1800 North) running from Lawndale Avenue east to Ashland Avenue (possible to Elston Avenue). It is just under 3 miles of uninterrupted, car-free transportation for people walking and bicycling. Photo by Kasey D.

  • Make an ordinance that says buildings with over 200 workers must install indoor bike parking. More than their desire for workplace showers, people who bicycle to work (or are considering it) want a secure place to store their bike for 8+ hours.
  • Double the number of on-street bike parking, including in neighborhoods. This is another point Randy made – there must be a place to park one’s bike at home!

There are many opportunities in Chicago to install bike parking for neighbors. Not everyone can fit their bike inside or bring it up to the fifth floor. Bike parking could occupy a section of a wide parkway, or be in the street, providing space for 16 bikes where only 1 car can fit. Photo by Jonathan Maus.

So far, no other candidate for mayor has released such a detailed and specific plan to include bicycles as a part of Chicago’s transportation system.

The first thing I see in Amsterdam

I got off the final train of a 4 hour trip from Wuppertal, Germany, to Amsterdam Centraal Station via Venlo and Eindhoven and the first thing I see is parking for about 7,000 bicycles. WOW!

7,000 is just the quantity at the front of the station. There’s additional parking in the rear along a major “bike highway” going east-west (on two defunct barges in the river IJ) and underground (guarded) parking as well. In all there “officially” 10,000 parking spaces for bicycles – and it’s not enough. During construction of the new north-south subway, bicycle parking and station access by bike will be reconfigured. Some people say that when the additional bike parking comes online, it will again be insufficient.

Since you read this blog, you know I have a passion for bicycle parking. Just like planning for automobile storage, bicycle storage requires similar attention and infrastructure.

I’ve uploaded more photos of bike parking in Europe (so far just 16 photos), including the fancy underground garage at Amsterdam Zuid Station, with its own escalator! For more sweet bicycle parking in Netherlands, check out the Fietsappel on Daniel Sparing’s blog, Railzone.nl.

Grocery Store Ratings: Nevada takes a stab

I’m glad at least one of my ideas is “taking off.”

Muscle Powered, a community group in Carson City, Nevada, “dedicated to making Nevada’s capital city a better community for bicycling and walking,” has posted their first review of Carson City Grocery Store Bike Parking. They’ve geocoded their locations and graded the racks as well. The grading system is well-defined but still abstract enough so as not to let the issue of getting bike parking at stores in one’s community get bogged down by small details.

In Chicago, we have a “crew” of two working on identifying good and bad bike parking in Chicago. There’s me and Samantha, better known as Ding Ding Let’s Ride. The tough part is communicating good bike parking practices to the grocery stores. While the City of Chicago has clear guidelines on how and where to install bike racks, it cannot solve the grocery store problem because the store entrances are often so far away from the sidewalk. It’s also partially a business’s responsibility to provide “transportation storage” for their customers, especially for a destination that’s popular for people to ride their bikes to.

This Home Depot in Carson City, Nevad, has a decent bike rack (wide waves make it easy to maneuver bike into position) but poor placement. Bike racks should be place 24 inches from any wall or other object, at a minimum. Photos by Dan Allison of Muscle Powered. More photos from Dan below.

I’m glad that there are others out there that take bicycle parking as seriously as I do. I know of some other people around the country. Are you one?

These racks at Safeway are not acceptable. They do not allow the bike rider to lock any part of the bicycle frame.

Another scene of bike parking in Carson City, Nevada.

Introducing Grocery Store Bike Parking Ratings

This article is part of a series (it seems) of grocery stores with poor bike parking – it first started with my local Dominick’s. I started an inventory and rating system for Chicago. I welcome your contribution. If you want to start a page for your town, I can help you with that.

After seeing the photos of the wacky bike parking situation at the Lincoln Park Whole Foods on Ding Ding Let’s Ride, I had to take a trip there myself!

By my count, I find that with 3 wave racks (of 2 sizes) and 3 grill racks, there are 27 bike parking spaces. You can debate me and possibly find 4 more.

Surely you can fit more, just like you can fit 4 bikes on a 2-space Chicago u-rack.However, the racks are installed so closer together to make this area quite a pain to find a space. And if you have a long wheelbase cargo bike (bakfiets, Madsen, or Yuba Mundo), GOOD LUCK!

The only space available for a longtail cargo bike like my Yuba Mundo is in a car parking space next to a hybrid Chevy Tahoe illegally parked in a handicapped parking space.

Photo showing too-close placement of the two kinds of racks. Notice that some bikes hang into the curb – it was the only way to use that bike rack. Other spaces might not have been opened when these people arrived.

But officially, for planning purposes, the Chicago Department of Transportation considers that rack as only fitting 2. This area could easily be sheltered. I think it’s something the store should look into. It provides sheltered car parking, which costs proportionally more than sheltered bike racks!

In the future, I expect better from Whole Foods.

For now, Target takes home the cake for providing consistently “good” bike parking. (Great’s the best a store can achieve.) So far, the rating system isn’t fully formed or automated. It’s a work in progress!

Sidenote: Access to Whole Foods via bicycle really sucks. There’s a 5-way intersection controlled by stop signs; then there’s the old railroad track and potholes. It might be better if you come in from the south, but then you have more RR track to deal with.

Photo montage showing how to access Whole Foods from Sheffield by bicycle.

Finally justice for bike shoppers in Bridgeport

I just got off the phone from a vice president at Dominick’s who personally informed me that the company will be installing a bike rack in the sheltered alcove of their grocery store at 3145 S Ashland, in Bridgeport, Chicago. He was unsure of the bike rack type, but was confident that it was the wave rack type they installed at the Lincoln Square store (I approve).

Bike parking at new, LEED-certified Dominick’s in Lincoln Square, Chicago.

Hard work pays off. I emailed and mailed the CEO of Safeway, Steve Burd*, after my letter to the store’s manager and call to customer service fell on, not dear ears, but unmotivated ones. Read the complete backstory.

He admitted the company failed to install a rack during the 2008-2009 renovation – possibly due to budgetary concerns. Which is really funny because the bike racks I know of cost about $300. And it doesn’t need annual maintenance.

Anyway, he said the installation target date is November 5, 2010!

*Mr. Burd’s email is either [email protected], or [email protected] One of them bounced, and now I can’t recall which.

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