Who’s Afraid of Indoor Bike Parking?

2567513787_dd1cd8c7bb_m.jpgIn a story about the scarcity of secure parking for bike commuters, the Times captures the irrational phobia of bikes that most landlords and building managers seem to share:

"Bicycle
racks are available outside for the convenience of bike riders," said
Maya Israel, a spokeswoman for Tishman Speyer. “Bicycles are not
permitted inside, for the safety of all our tenants and visitors."

While the supposed hazards posed by bikes inside a building remain unspecified, the scarcity of protected space is a known deterrent to would-be cyclists. The lack of secure parking is one of the main obstacles New Yorkers cite when asked why they don’t commute by bike, according to a 2007 Department of City Planning survey [PDF, p. 19]. Not to mention, as Times reporter Colin Moynihan implies, that it’s hardly "convenient" (or secure) to park your bike outside when only about 5,000 racks are available for 131,000 daily riders.

The piece, which omits the New York Times Building’s own anti-bike history, culminates with a quote from bike commuter Robert Kotch that skewers the policies of commercial property owners:

“They work inside these fancy buildings where there’s this inexplicable
hostile attitude towards bicycles,” he said. “It’s an arcane policy
that says bikes are like the bubonic plague.”

Bike-friendly zoning regs can’t come soon enough.

Photo: ynotbike/Flickr

  • Moser

    Zoning regs will only affect new construction or, best case, substantially renovated properties. Tip of the iceberg.

  • Here’s my agenda to change the dismal bike parking situation:

    (1) Require all commercial office buildings (not just new construction) to allow employees to bring their bikes inside, if their company permits it.

    (2) Require all parking garages to accept bicycles, while charging bicyclists at a rate proportional to the amount of car space a bicycle occupies. For example, if 10 bikes can fit in a car space, then the bicycle rate is 1/10 the car rate.

  • With NYers natural entrepreneur-tendencies, you’d think this would be a untapped market for someone to offer secure bike parking services, either as part of a parking garage or in commercial spaces. Couple it with bike servicing, charge a monthly fee and you could seemingly do very well.

  • I wish Colin Moynihan had looked a closer at the DoT’s claim that bike parking except at a bike rack was prohibited by city ordinance. When I looked at it in 2005 it seemed rather a stretch:

    http://www.5bbc.org/bicycletter/2005/09/bikeparkingillegal.shtml

    None of this mattered before late 2004 when the NYPD began taking the parked bikes of Critical Mass cyclists as retribution. The City’s subsequent need to justify that policy led to the re-interpretation of 16-122(b), a law whose claimed purpose was to stop cars from being abandoned or stripped on the street.

  • The Times has opened a reader comment section on best US city for bike parking. Has 110 comments so far.

    http://community.nytimes.com/article/comments/2008/07/01/nyregion/01bike.html?s=1&pg=1

  • Jason

    Christopher,

    A similar plan to your idea was described as “in the works” back in January, but i’m not sure what came of it.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/17/nyregion/17bike.html

  • Dan

    I think it’s very obvious that building prohibit bikes because to them bikes equal bike messengers and other people who are seen as troublemakers for building security and managers. These people have a singular focus on keeping their environment free of people they deem unsavory and preventing any headaches from overcrowded elevators, tire marks etc… I know it’s shortsighted and unreasonable but that’s why we have zoning regulations etc… to mandate these things instead of relying on lower echelon building workers to enforce, or not enforce, arbitrary rules sent down by commercial property owners.

    I think a private bike garage would be a financial flop unless it was subsidized. The rents in prime locations are insane and the number of bikes parked just wouldn’t do it. Perhaps a deal with garage owners would work best, basically pay a monthly rate to rent out ten spaces for cars and then fill them with bikes. You’d need to rent the spaces in the front so you don’t have bikes cruising around the garage which would be more expensive(or at least it was in the building I used to live in).

  • Unseemly self-praise, but bike parking-related:

    I did my good deed for the day. A bike (a nice vintage green thing with a wire basket) has been parked outside my office building all day (at the city rack requested by me (breathes on fingernails)). When I returned from lunch, it was knocked over and lying half in the street. A shiny new hybrid taxi was parked suspiciously far out from the curb, alongside the fallen bike, making me suspect slightly that its driver had knocked the bike over and didn’t feel like getting out of his energy-efficient air conditioning capsule to right the bike. So I did.

    Okay, big buildup for not much of a story, but doesn’t it paint a hopeful picture of our fair city?

  • Existing parking garage operators should be mandated by legislation to offer a minimum of 1% to 3% of their square footages for bike parking, at set rates

  • gecko

    Some of the large companies in this city with lots of real estate like JPMorgan Chase should show some leadership and have secure bike parking. NYC.gov, MTA also.

    A lot of the banks have signed on to the “Equator Principles”. They should also be signing on to green nyc transit.

    Not a big thing. Not a big imposition. Maybe DOT should start doing some hand-holding and to show them how easy it is. Start with those banks that have signed on to the “Equator Principles” as an example.

    Any building with a doorman or security has the hard part done.

  • Andy B from Jersey

    I think Dan’s concerns about bike messengers is mostly a non starter. Yeah many building owners probably equate bicyclists with messengers but it would so easy to for a building separate the bikes of messengers with the bikes of building workers since most buildings require employees to have some sort of ID on them to enter the building. Only the bikes of people with the proper IDs would be allowed in while the messenger bikes would be kept outside. Problem solved.

    Bike Friday did a thing on their website about getting their folding Tikit into Manhattan office buildings. Some buildings allowed the folding bike inside without issue (at least security didn’t say anything), while some stopped the bike from coming in folded and uncovered. However some buildings even stopped the bike from entering the building even when it was stashed in the carrying bag the size of a mid sized duffel bag!! NO BIKES MEANS NO BIKES (No matter what size it is)!! A large bag of golf clubs half the size was not questioned.

  • Andy B from Jersey

    Correction:

    A large bag of golf clubs TWICE the size (of the folded and stashed Tikit) was not questioned.

    Talk about ridiculous!

  • bike commuter
  • So, gas is now more expensive than it has ever been. The timing seems perfect for a Bicycle to Work! group on the LinkedIn business networking site. Oh! There already is one! Members pledge that they will try to ride their bicycle to work or on an errand at least once a week. Put more money in your pocket and not in your gas tank.

    Gas prices are never going down folk. Never. Get used to it.

    Human powered and public transportation will become vastly more important in the next 50 years. Not because its the right thing to do. Which it is. Not because it will help global warming. Which it will. Not because it will help you get and stay in shape. Which it will. Not because it will cut back on our dependence on foreign oil. Which it can. Not because of the decreased demand on bio-fuels. Which will help keep more people from starving as more arable land is converted from food crops to bio-fuel crops. (Don’t get me started on the bio-fuels scam).

    Bikes are going to become more important in the next 50 years for one main reason – ITS WAY TOO EXPENSIVE TO DRIVE EVERYWHERE ALL THE TIME. So get out there and start riding everywhere all the time. Spread the word. Make it a movement! Bicycle to work one day a week and start saving some dough..

    Just go to my profile at http://www.linkedin.com/in/jeffreylstevenson and you can click on the group to be included. While you are there, don’t forget to ask to link to my network of more than 10,700,000 like-minded professionals. I accept all invitations and look forward to meeting you.

    Jeff

  • Jeffrey Hymen

    My Class A (more like a B+ really) office building doesn’t prohibit me from bringing my bike inside. Instead, they let me bring my bike in but require me to crowd on to the passenger elevator with it, all the while explaining to the snaring co-workers that I would prefer to park it in the garage under the building, the lobby — heck, the loading dock. But no, I have to bring it up to my office and deal with a bunch of suits thinking I am an inconsiderate a-hole. P.S.: I just walked the two or so miles from my home to my office, cause who needs the headache.

  • d

    Like many New Yorkers, this is my number one reason for not biking to work. The weather could be perfect, but unless I know I have a secure place to leave my bike for 8 to 10 hours each day, I simply will not ride to work. I’d be too worried about having it stolen and even a cheap beater bike is more expensive than a monthly MetroCard. (And if I lose the MetroCard, I can get some money back. If the bike is stolen, I’m out of luck.)

  • sam

    I have to agree with d. Lately, I’ve been on a bike riding kick, but every time I’ve checked with my firm’s administrative management, they’ve reported back that I can’t bring a bike into the building. Even though I actually have my own office and room to stash my bike during the day. So then I took a look around the building (one of the giant monolith-type buildings lining 6th avenue in midtown), and discovered that there were zero bike racks on the block. There’s one for the building across the street, with a big sign saying “reserved for tenants of [building across the street]”. Even then, I decided to check it out on a weekday, and it’s already overcrowded (if it was underutilized, I might consider “illegally” parking there).

    I’m now working with a group in my firm to advocate at least putting in a bike rack outside of the building, near the entrance that stays open late with security, so that we have some sort of option. The odds that this would happen before next summer are slim to none, to say the least. I guess I’ll just keep riding in Central Park early in the mornings and continue using mass transit (or walking) to actually get to work.

  • Andrew

    I have secure bike parking in the underground garage of my apartment building. They basically took about 6 or 7 parking spots and built a little room. Each bike parking spot is numbered (there are about 75 of them) and if you sign out a spot you get a key to the room. Just like how it works in the rest of the garage. Except that the bike room is $5 for the whole time you live there and the car parking is $100/month.

    From what I can tell most apartment and condo building here in Vancouver, BC have similar set ups. My building is from the 60’s, but all the new buildings have purpose built rooms. I don’t know about office buildings but I’d be surprised if they didn’t do something similar.

  • d

    The funny thing is, I’d probably be late to work less often if I rode to work rather than took the subway. The subway is completely unpredictable and even when I give myself extra time, an unforseen incident with the system can make me and everyone else on the train, I’d imagine, late for work.

    If I rode, very few things would make me late.* So, given the money my company is losing when I and other people are late to work (in the form of lost productivity, etc.) putting in a bike rack would be a cost that the company would make back within a very short period of time. Perhaps only a few days. This seems to be an argument the city and big businesses seem to understand, so perhaps touting the economic advantages of cycling employees would help bring more parking and facilities to accommodate this constiuency of employees and citizens.

    *And, yes, I realize a bike accident could make me REALLY late to work, but no more so than the many car accidents that happen among people who drive to work. At least those people can find secure parking.

  • Andy B from Jersey

    Did any of you folks consider a folding bike? I’ve got my Brompton in the office right now (but thats not a big deal around here) but it could easily be stashed in a bag about the size of a mid-sized backpack.

    Jeff H. could do the 2 miles in ten minutes on a folder and then bring it in without pissing off other people on the elevator.

    My Brompton also makes a great conversation starter, even with the ladies. Total strangers come up to me and say “Woah!! Cool!!” at the time!

    Best of all a folder takes up very little space at home and once you have one you start to find out that it has many, many more uses besides the commute to work. You end up using it all the time on trips that you would have never considered using a regular bike since full-sized bikes are way too cumbersome. (i.e. great for crowded mass transit)

  • To
    make your bicycle safety, provide a bicycle rack for it. It would be safety for
    a bicycle if there is a bike rack.

    place?y
    sa?j?#k

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