An NYC First: On-Street Parking Spaces Replaced by Bike Racks

The new bike racks have been installed at the Bedford Avenue L subway station in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. As the Dept. of Transportation announces in today’s press release, "The
facility marks the first time car parking spaces have been removed to
accommodate bicycle parking in New York City."

DOT extended a 76-foot section of the sidewalk by five feet and
installed nine new bike racks to provide parking for more than 30
bikes. Demand for bicycle parking is high in the area around the
Bedford Avenue subway stop and it has been the scene of frequent NYPD bike seizures.

Livable Streets advocates take careful note of the work that Community Board member Teresa Toro and DOT Deputy Borough Commissioner Dalila Hall did to push this project through. It’s not easy to make change in New York City. This is how you do it.

Here’s the money quote in today’s Daily News:

"It’s superconvenient," said Matthew Holtberg, 34, a graphic
designer from Fort Greene, after unlocking his set of wheels yesterday.

But tow truck driver Luis Padilla, 46, was ticked off that three
parking spots for drivers were removed for a bike port.
He came to pick
up a relative from the station and couldn’t find a legal spot. He
worried about getting a summons.

"I could have parked away from the hydrant and now I’m right in front of it," he fumed.

Previous Coverage:

  • NYPD Stealing Bikes (Again) in Williamsburg, 11/10/05
  • Wider Sidewalks and Bicycle Park-and-Ride for Williamsburg, 12/18/06
  • StreetFilms: On-Street Bike Parking in Portland, 12/20/06 
  • Small Step for Peds & Cyclists, Giant Leap for NYC, 12/22/06
  • A Historic Sidewalk Widening in Williamsburg, 6/8/07
  • 94th Precinct (Still) Clipping Locks & Seizing Bikes on Bedford Ave., 6/28/07
  • anon

    This is of course great. But I’m curious as to why they had to widen the sidewalk to put the racks in. Couldn’t they just have put them into the streetbed? Portland and of course Copenhangen have been doing this. It seems like a waste of money to have to widen the sidewalk and probably adjust drainage just to put in bike racks. If we can park cars on the streetbed, then it makes just as much sense that we can park our bikes there. They’re both classified as vehicles under law. And I think there’s a lot to be said for visually reinforcing the message that bikes belong on streets, not sidewalks.

  • JK

    Great work Teresa and DOT and TA and City Planning . Hopefully this is the first of many. This project dates back to a TA request from almost a decade ago, nice to see it happen. http://www.transalt.org/press/magazine/993MayJune/07parking.html DOT should consider simply putting bollards or planters in the street to mark off bike parking. Many cities do this and it is consistent with DOT’s new experimentation with mini-ped plazas blocked off with planters. It is much cheaper, faster and easier than building a new sidewalk, as was done here.

  • I agree with the first commenter. The configuration of the Bedford Avenue racks, while spacious, seems like not a very good use of space.

    Check out the Portland model here.

    http://bikeportland.org/2007/02/28/belmont-goes-for-on-street-bike-parking/

    For much cheaper, you can get a dozen bikes in per car space out in the street, leaving sidewalks for pedestrians. With just two parking spaces in this configuration they could have provided much more parking than what it looks like was done with the Bedford project.

  • anon

    Using public space to store private property…hmmm

  • Red

    That’s what all parking is, Anon no. 4!

  • ddartley

    YES!! Now repeat for even just ONE car parking spot at EVERY subway station in the “outer boroughs” and in uptown Manh.

    anon and Brian,

    Street sweeper access is the reason the racks were not put directly into the streetbed. Someone here pointed that out to me when I asked the same thing. I still think that if the law says bikes must travel on the road, then cyclists should not be prohibited from parking where cars park, and out of the way of pedestrians. But I figure that building out the sidewalk for the street sweeper situation is not such a terrible compromise, as long as some car spaces are sacrificed!

  • Sarah

    This is great. A big thanks Teresa Toro and Dalila Hall!

    I agree that in many cases you could use streetbeds for bike parking, but this partiuclar corner on Beford Ave. is a prime example of a spot where there is so much pedestrian activity and general sidewalk life happening that it made perfect sense to widen the sidewalk.

    I’m looking forward to seeing similar bike parking initiatives at other choice spots in the neighborhood, outside the Lorimer and Graham Ave. L-train stops and by the Marcy Ave. JMZ for instance.

    I think it is obvious to anyone who lives in this area that there has been a real snowball effect where visible biking and bike facilities have lead to an exponential increase of bikers in the last year or so. It is also worth pointing out (in case someone starts whining about hipsters etc.) that this increase in bike use is by no means limited to hipster newcomers to the neighborhood. A bicycle and pedestrian friendly neighborhood benefits all residents.

  • Christian

    As I like playing devil’s advocate…

    My only question is what are the knock on effects of increased bike use? Are bikes being substituted for cars or public transport?

    If it’s the latter then if there is a large modal switch that will leave fewer transit riders. Fewer riders means longer headways as you don’t need to run as many busses/trains which in turn discourages more people from riding transport.

    Obviously a bike is better for the environment than a bus but if you decrease the attractiveness of transport (because fewer people are taking it) will that just increase car useage in the long run as those that would have taken transport drive instead because the service quality has deteriorated?

    Just wondering if anyone’s studied the issue.

  • srock

    Sarah is correct. The DOT said the reason for a wider sidewalk–and not just parking on the street– is to allow for pedestrian overflow for people exiting the subway station. David Yassky, the council member in the area, is looking at the possibility of making the opposite corner (the north-west) an on-street bike parking facility like those in Montreal.

  • Sarah

    I’d wager a guess that one of the factors driving the upsurge in bike use in williamsburg is the fact that the subway (the L in particular) can’t quite support the huge increase in commuters. I live further out on the L/JMZ (in Bushwick) still, I avoid the subway whenever I can and when I must use it, I use the JMZ even though that means a few more blocks to walk. The L has become insuffrably crowded.

    The other aspect of subway problems in the area is the ongoing closures of the L on weekends and nights (this has been going on for over 8 years now, what gives?) and the daytime weirdness on the JMZ (trains run something like every 20 minutes).

    Then there is the fact that the MTA has yet to actually implement expanded G-train service, so the best way to get to other areas of Brooklyn is by bike.

    That said, I don’t mind if people bike instead of use the subway, it makes the streets bike-friendlier for all. Still, more subway service wouldn’t be a bad thing

  • Steve

    Wow, I’m jealous! I’m not a frequent visitor to Williamsburg, but this got me thinking about other spots that need parking, and at the top of my list is the American Museum of Natural History. If there are any visitors or members of the AMNH out there, please consider writing them an email (at this link: http://www.amnh.org/museum/welcome/contact.html?src=footer) to lobby for bike parking.

    Here is the letter I sent them:

    Last night my son and I attended the excellent lecture by Takeshi Yamada. Unfortunately, we were once again inconvenienced and dismayed by lack of bicycle parking facilities. The museum has created an extensive parking lot to accommodate motorists, and even pays staff to direct traffic, but I am not aware of a single rack for legal bicycle parking anywhere on the AMNH grounds or the adjacent sidewalk perimeter.

    I cannot understand this lack of bicycle parking facilities. Over 100,000 New Yorkers bicycle daily. Last year, the City installed a bicycle lane leading right to the museum (on West 77th/78th Streets). My son searched the term “bicycle” on the AMNH website, and found that many noteworthy scientists profiled there ride bicycles. It would seem a “natural” for the museum to provide some bicycle parking. Instead, patrons arriving by bicycle face the difficult choice between parking illegally or having to walk extended distances from legal bike parking located elsewhere (such as the rack located on CPW south of West 77th Street right in front of the Museum of the City of New York).

    Completely aside from the question of whether the museum’s interest in conservation should lead it to encourage its patrons to bicycle, as a longtime member and frequent visitor to the museum I think you should make a small accommodation to bicyclist patrons by providing some bicycle parking. The museum should have the DoT install a “double loop” bike rack, capable of accommodating 5 bikes, near each of the three main entrances to the museum. Bicycle racks are provided without cost by the City Department of Transportation upon request. Here is the website where you can request them:

    http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/bikeped/bikerack.html

    Please write back and let me know the museum’s position on this issue. Thank you.

  • Sarah

    One more thing:
    Steve:
    I agree with you, more bike parking is needed throughout the city.
    I was at the Met last weekend. I rode there using the west side highway and the central park bike loop, but once there I realized that there wasn’t one single bike rack anywhere on the plaza in front of the museum. That really blew my mind. I guess we are spoiled in Brooklyn.

  • Sarah

    sorry, that should be “the west side bike path” in my last post. not the west side highway.

  • Stu

    I’ve started biking to work from Bed-Stuy, to Midtown. This doesn’t mean that a car commuter has been replaced by a bike–I’m just not using the A train like I used to. So I doubt there’s any effect on the carbon going into the air by my commute. However, that does mean that there’s one more spot on the train, and maybe people can have more than their 20 square centimeters. I doubt even if bike commuters increase 100 fold that this would reduce the number of people enough to make the MTA cut back on the trains it is running. There would have to be a massive change to do that, at least in NYC.

    I haven’t seen any studies saying that one way or another, at least. It doesn’t strike me as the most likely result of many more bike commuters.

  • Stu

    The other (minor) problem with this bike rack is, of course, that it’s for people to bike to this subway stop, and then get on the overloaded L train to go into the city.

    Well, maybe that’s not the only thing for it, but it’s what it’s going to be used for, by some.

    So it might in fact _increase_ the number of people on the L train.

  • Steve

    Yes, the Met is another obvious destination with a self-contained motor vehicle lot and a galling lack of bike parking. Compare MoMA. I suspect the Met and the AMNH adminsitrators both suffer from the same retrograde mindset in which bicycle parking is an eyesore and interferes with pedestrian traffic.

  • Dan

    I would wager that the lack of bike parking at prime destinations(I’m mostly thinking about the met here) has to a lot to do with how really crappy looking the bike parking is. Seriously, we have great new bus shelters and there are tons of great ways to store and park bikes already out there(and many more to be developed) and yet NYC uses square and round steel tubes bolted to concrete sidewalks.

    The city would earn so much good will among its citizens if it looked like it cared enough not just to implement convenient and inexpensive solutions but well thought out ones as well. Appearance matters here. The city consistently misses opportunities to brand itself in situations like this. Anonymous black bike racks send the message that the city cares, but not that much. A designed solution would send the message that the city has a well thought out solution and not an improvised one.

  • ddartley

    How about a bike/foot bridge from Williamsburg to Avenue C and 14th St. in Manhattan. Everyone please chip in $5.

  • Mike

    The Met has plenty of bike parking in its underground parking garage. You can ride right in. I’m surprised this isn’t better known.

  • re: Sarah

    “A bicycle and pedestrian friendly neighborhood benefits all residents.”

    Agreed.

    This is true out on the west coast as well. While the first cyclists were messengers, then hipsters, then work commuters, we are now seeing big increases in African-American folks and my favorite, elderly Chinese ladies who rig up enormous racks and shop by bike!

    They are fearless on their Sport Utility Bikes.

  • Steve

    Mike, thanks. I retract what I said about the Met. The Met website says:

    “Bicycle racks are provided inside the garage for use during regular Museum hours only. Bicycles are parked at the owner’s risk; the Museum can accept no responsibility for vandalism or theft.”

    It would be nice if they had a sign telling people about the bike parking, though.

    As for AMNH, I will cite the Met’s example to them!

  • I was just over there – a great victory for Teresa and for progressive transportation. The only problem is that in the space where 3 people stored their vehicles, now there are roughly 60 – and it’s already totally full!

    Victim of it own success. Now when do we get them in the Village and SoHo, with the narrow, crowded sidewalks and growing numbers of cyclists? It’s a win-win for pedestrians and cyclists.

  • anon

    Here is a good photo of an example of on-street bike and motorcycle parking: http://www.flickr.com/photos/73184884@N00/708063460/in/pool-bicyclefacilities/

  • Steve
  • Kranky

    Biking is fun, healthy and cheap. Spread the love.

  • Steve

    As it turns out, AMNH does have bike parking. After emails like the one posted in #11 above, I received the following response on July 30:

    “We are sorry to learn that you were inconvenienced by the lack of bicycle racks at the 77th street entrance. Due to ongoing construction at the 77th street entrance, the bicycle racks have been temporarily removed. The Museum also has bicycle racks on the first level of the garage which can be accessed by entering 81 street. We understand that you were not aware of the fact that there was a second bicycle rack available, which you should have been directed to.”

    The garage parking is not listed on the AMNH website and there are no signs posted. I visited the museum today and found that none of the employees at the member desk were aware of the bicycle parking. But at least we know it’s there! As for the 77th Street bike racks, I don’t recall ever seeing them, but I guess they will (re)appear eventually.

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