Indoor Parking Swap: More Space for Bikes, Less for Cars?

bike_parking.jpgA diagram showing proposed bike parking requirements for one class of residential construction. Source: DCP (PDF)

Yesterday the City Planning Commission heard feedback on a proposed zoning amendment to mandate bike parking in new construction. Together with the Bikes in Buildings Bill, which would improve bike access to existing buildings, the measure is intended to address one of the major hurdles to bike commuting — the lack of a secure place to put your ride.

The zoning change faces less opposition than the bill — which would achieve a much bigger impact — but yesterday’s hearing was not without debate. You’ve got to like the sound of the compromise that might be on the table, though. Reader Nathan Skodola sends this recap:

The
opposition was largely organizations involved in low-income housing. Apparently
federal subsidies for housing of this kind are determined on a per-unit basis, so
adding a non-occupied room gets no extra money. However, virtually all of the
opponents would favor the bill if they could exchange a mandatory car parking
spot for 20 mandatory bike parking spots. The commissioners seemed very
receptive and for the most part in favor of the change.

The commission will weigh yesterday’s testimony along with recommendations from community boards and borough presidents.

Both the zoning change and the Bikes in Buildings Bill may come before the City Council around mid-March, says Transportation Alternatives. The bill first needs to clear the Transportation Committee, which held a hearing on it late last year. Following that hearing, the bill is being reworked to clearly require bike access, as opposed to storage, said Tim Roberts, policy director for sponsor David Yassky. The key provision to keep an eye on is the escape clause, which will have to grant exemptions to landlords who need one, without giving too much leeway to those who don’t.

  • J

    I used to work for an affordable housing developer, and this is a big issue. Current zoning codes require expensive and unnecessary on-site parking, which takes space and money away from the real goal, which is housing. In the outer boroughs, it is often too expensive to build underground parking, and the developers are forced to put parking in surface lots. They could get variances, but these require years of bureaucracy and money which they don’t have. It is logical that developers they would oppose an even greater parking requirement.

    We absolutely must reform the parking requirements in NYC, and this is a good way to start. Next stop, parking maximums.

  • JK

    Better yet, let developers swap a parking space for every five bike parking spots: twenty bikes for one car is too many. Make it easy as possible for developers to do the swap. Bike parking is much, much cheaper than car parking. The developers will be happy to do the swap, the more car spots they can get rid of, the more they make. If you require 20 bike spots per car spot removed, you’re not going to get rid of much parking. Don’t worry about not having enough bike parking. At five bike spots per car spot, you will have more than enough.

  • Danny G

    Why not give make the law require X amount of parking spots regardless of whether it is a bicycle, motorbike, smart car, or SUV? Most developers would much rather meet this requirement by providing space for 20 bicycles instead of 20 SUV’s.

  • Rhywun

    Where in NYC are new residences required to provide parking? It seems irresponsible to dump another four to six or more cars on the road every time another Fedders Special replaces a brownstone or some other structure from the olde days that lacked parking.

  • Irresponsible, but true.

  • J

    Rhywun,

    In short, it depends. Typical R6 and above (most of brownstone Brooklyn, all of Manhattan, west Queens, and the south Bronx) has a standard minimum of 0.5 spaces per residential unit. For a 50 unit building, that’s 25 spaces. However, if you are required to build fewer than, say 6 parking spots (12 units), you are exempted from the parking requirement. This covers almost all Fedders specials. Some parts of Manhattan cannot build new parking due to the clean air act. Father out in the boroughs, though, zoning often requires a side yard wide enough for a driveway.

  • Rhywun

    Wow… no thought given to traffic or the changing character of a neighborhood when you pursue suburban planning policies… why am I not surprised? Maybe this is something that new traffic engineer they’re looking for can address.

  • Hey, I’m all for parking maximums but people seemed to think on SB that a parking space = driving to work in NYC. I know it does encourage it but a private parking space does not equate to driving to work.

    I live in suburban Jersey and I bike, walk and take NJ Transit for most of my trips even though parking is mostly free and easy to find. I save my car for weekend trips out into the country or into my local town for dinner, bar, etc. If I lived in NYC (or Hoboken, Jersey City, or even Philly) I’d maybe use my car once a month.

    Then again at that point car sharing would be an even better idea!

  • Hey what about if the building provided a car share space for ever “x” number of units. Like 1 for every 20 units.

  • It’s much more than just “parking space = driving to work”. It can change the character of an entire neighborhood. Most people can’t afford to own a car & use it only once a month, so they wind up using it for all sorts of trips that used to be accomplished by walking or transit. And as more and more Fedders specials go up (depsite what J said up there, I used to live in Astoria where Fedder specials are popping up on every block and every one of them has parking either in the rear or in what used to be a front yard), the rest of the neighborhood has to change to accommodate the extra cars, e.g. more dangerous intersections, more parking lots, etc.

  • Nathan

    Andy from NJ: This is an issue I’ve had too with *some* anti-parking talk. For somewhere like NJ or far out in Queens, a car may be required to get around, without causing people to decide to drive it to work each day as well. However, in the dense city where a lot of these req’d parking buildings are located, walking everywhere is much easier, and there’s so many people that if they all had cars, even “driving around” the neighborhood would increase congestion.

  • I like JK’s idea (let developers swap a parking space for every 5 bike parking spots), but would also like to see requirements to set aside space for car-sharing and bike sharing. And while we’re at it, why not require the elimination of 2 free street parking spots for every garage or parking spot a developer adds. The 18% city parking tax already creates revenue for non car-owners, but it would also be good to see a more direct way for some funds to go back to the immediate community in the area where the parking is created.

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