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Businesses Agree: More On-Street Bike Racks Needed In TCPrint

Thriving Communities | June 13, 2012 | By James Bruckbauer

Many Union Street Station customers lock their bicycles to light posts or street signs.

Last week in front of Union Station, eleven bikes were on the sidewalk tied to light poles, trees, and signs, including one sign that read “NO BICYCLES OR COASTER TOYS ON SIDEWALKS.”

Meanwhile, an adjacent parking space, reserved for cars, sat empty.

When I asked a Union Station waitress about parking, they said most of their customers that drive to the bar park in the back of their building. She added that most people who park in front are shopping across the street. She also said the build up of bicycles on their sidewalk in front of their bar is a problem.

“But that’s a city thing, we can’t control that,” she said.

Now, more than ever, downtown Traverse City customers ride their bikes to get to their favorite shop, restaurant or bar. But for many of those customers, finding a legal and secure place to park can be nearly impossible.

The downtown businesses are taking notice, and they want more space for bikes.

Jason Kasdorf, General Manager of 7 Monks said he’s been asking for additional bike parking for a while. He moved to Traverse City from Out West and was surprised at the amount of safe, secure, organized bike parking that’s missing from streets of Traverse City.

He said his staff and customers need additional bike parking and he would rather not see the bikes tied to the light poles and trees outside of their building.

Next to an empty parking space, bicycles head for the poles.

“Summer’s coming and we’re going to have bikes everywhere,” he says, “I’d rather see them organized in racks rather than tied up to trees.”

Right now, because of the lack of secure parking, 7 Monks staff keeps their bikes in the basement. And the city says additional bike parking can be added to the back alley.

But Jason thinks there’s plenty of space out front.

To respond to the need, the Downtown Development Authority’s Parking and Access committee is looking to add more bicycle parking downtown. And, after the success of the bike TART Trails moveable on-street bike corral,  more on-street parking could be part of that strategy.

Recently, TART Trails and the City of Traverse City hosted a webinar about on-street bicycle parking and invited local leaders, DDA staff, and Parking Committee members.

Here’s a link to the slides, if you interested in checking it out.

The webinar presenters explained how leaders in many cities want to increase their share of cyclists, so they set very ambitious goals and specific strategies to make it happen.

Even cold climate Midwestern cities like Milwaukee and Minneapolis have executed ambitious plans to become bike-friendly In those cities, bike commuting is on the rise (and so are the health care savings).

On-street bike parking is a big part of their strategy.

Traverse City's first on-street bike parking corral provides safe and convient parking.

Many cities found that once on-street racks are installed, more demand usually follows. In Portland, 144 auto parking spaces have been removed, 85 corrals have been installed, 1442 bike parking spaces are provided, and over 75 locations have requested more on-street corrals.

The data on consumer spending per sq. ft. of parking is worth noting, too. Researchers in Melbourne found that for each square meter of space allocated to cars reaps just $6 per hour in downtown spending, yet each square meter of space allocated to bikes reaps $31 per hour, or five times as much.

Placing the racks in the street also removes bicycles from sidewalks, leaving more room for pedestrians, sidewalk cafes tables and benches. They increase the district’s overall parking capacity. They allow more customers to park close to their favorite shop or restaurant.

If placed around a corner, they can also provide more visibility for drivers. In front of Union Station for example, limited visibility around the adjacent alley has caused many near-accidents. Opening up the viewing around the corner can help. (See photo)

A typical moveable rack can cost anywhere from $3-6,000, and most cities pay for them with some combination of private donations, sponsors or advertising, grants, business district money, and, of course, revenue generated from automobile parking.

Check out the Streetfilms video about on-street parking:

What do you think? Is the next bike corral in front of Union Station? Should the try it out?

If you have comments on bike parking downtown, please send them to Rob at the DDA. (rob@downtowntc.com)

James Bruckbauer is the Michigan Land Use Institute’s transportation policy specialist. He’s also a member of the Traverse City Downtown Development Authority Parking and Access Committee. Follow him on Twitter at @jimbruckb. Reach him at james@mlui.org.