How Much Would You Pay to Park Your Bike in an NYC Garage?

bike_parking_pic.jpg

What’s a reasonable price for off-street bike parking? As New York City parking facilities start complying with the Bicycle Access to Garages Law, which took effect a little more than a month ago, the rates are looking pretty steep. This photo comes to us from reader BicyclesOnly, who says the $6 daily rate shown here (tax included) is the best deal he’s found — a steal compared to the $15 daily rate he’s encountered elsewhere.

The law, which requires parking facilities with more than 50 car spaces to provide space for bikes too, leaves bike parking rates to the market. So far, bike parking in garages is looking like a luxury service, which makes one appreciate the free workplace access enabled by the Bikes in Buildings Law all the more. But should bike parking rates be quite this expensive? That stiff 18 percent tax might be an illegal surcharge. Per the excellent wiki entry on this law by BicyclesOnly:

Pursuant to authority granted by New York Tax Law Section 1107, New
York city is permitted to collect taxes on the rental of parking spaces
for motor vehicles.  New York City does not appear to be authorized
to collect taxes on the rental of parking spaces for human-powered
vehicles, and so parking facility operators should not charge a tax to
bicycle parkers.

Streetsblog has a request in with the Department of Consumer Affairs to determine whether garages can legally charge this tax. We’ll keep you posted.

  • NattyB

    Hmmm, I ride my bike to work in part so I don’t have to drop $89 on a monthly MTA pass. Like hell I’d pay $85 just to park my bike.

    The city is trying to encourage bike commuting, right? How about free covered bike shelters. That’d be nice.

    ALSO: In the week before the implementation of the Bike’s in Building’s law, has anyone noticed a lot of new bike racks?

    They installed a bunch in the FinDist about a week ago. A wonder if that had anything to do with the new law?

  • flp

    indeed, that tax rate is outrageous!!! before cyclists pay anything like that, if at all, auto drivers should have to pay way more than they are now. they are the ones that cost the city far more for their transportation habits than cyclists.

  • Competition from a robust bike share program might help bring those “taxes” (cough) down.

  • Thanks for posting, Ben. For clarity, although the law covers all garages with room for 51 or more or more cars, there is a phase-in for garages with a 51-99 car capacity: these smaller garages do not have to accept bicycles for parking until August 14, 2011.

  • OK, I figure that maybe 20 bikes will fit in the space taken up by one car, so this garage is charging the equivalent of what would be $100 a day or $1700 a month for car parking.

  • AlexB

    It would be worth it if they guaranteed your bike against theft or damage.

  • Doug

    I would gladly pay $90 for a secure parking space for my bike. The way I see it, I’d be paying for the knowledge that my bike wouldn’t get stolen, which would then lead me to ride more, which would then lead me to not have to get a MetroCard, which would in turn lead me to not need a gym membership. Pretty soon, I’d be saving far more than the cost of the $90 monthly parking.

    It’s not cheap, but compared to the cost of parking a car — upwards of $30 a day in some garages — this seams reasonable from a for-profit enterprise. I can’t fault a private garage for trying to make money. If this were a municipal garage, it might be another story.

  • I have started parking for free in my building’s basement garage. They have a free-standing bike rack that I lock up to, and it’s placed in the low-ceiling height area under the entry ramp. I get to lock up my own bike with my own locks, a plus, and I can leave lights and a helmet cover mounted without worry of having them stolen.

    In recognition of the gracious (and gratis) service, I do bring the attendants a box of doughnuts every other Friday.

    If I paid for parking, I think $85 is quite reasonable, especially since I could probably pay for it with pretax dollars. Guaranteed dry secured parking an elevator ride away from my desk? That’s so much better than locking up to an outdoor bike rack or parking meter.

  • One of the reasons why the City gets away with charging excessive parking (and hotel) taxes is because it normally doesn’t apply to residents. People who live in Manhattan can apply for a “Manhattan resident Parking Tax Exemption.” However, since cyclists don’t register their vehicles, and therefore can’t apply for an exemption, they probably aren’t subject to the parking tax.

    http://www.nyc.gov/html/dof/html/parking/park_manhattan_res.shtml

  • I second Eric McClure–a fair rate for bicycles is to divide the car rate by the number of bicycles that can occupy one car space. If it’s 20 bikes per car space, then bike parking should cost 1/20th the rate of car parking.

  • What’s really nuts about the pricing is that it’s more than car parking. Imagine that you can fit 8 bikes in a single parking space in a garage that rents for $400. If you were to split that up and maintain your current markup, bike parking would be $50. I’ve even seen indoor parking for as little as $250 per space which makes the rates discussed seem even more nuts.

    I wonder if they’re able to squeeze it in to existing parking configurations or if they’re actually removing car parking spaces to house the bikes?

    Either way, there’s really no incentive to create an efficient market for bike parking if you own a garage. The costs of installing the racks are really low and if nobody uses them the garage doesn’t have to deal with bikes. If the rates do get to a price point that becomes popular, the volume of bikes required to get to profitability probably isn’t possible since cars take up so much room and are probably even MORE profitable. Maybe there’s a nice sweet spot where bike parking and profit mix, but I don’t think you’re going to get it this way. Better just to build out dedicated facilities and heavily subsidize them to make it affordable, like transit.

  • The new law has rack and space requirements that preclude parking 20 bikes in the same amount of space that you would park a car. With the possible exception of “valet only” parking, a garage has to provide 36 cubic feet per bike adjacent to a secured rack to which both the frame and one wheel of the bike can be locked (no “comb” or “toast” racks.) The parking spaces have to bet set off and protected from the motor vehicle parking spaces to avoid damage. There are many other requirements for garage bike parking spaces; read the wiki.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “A fair rate for bicycles is to divide the car rate by the number of bicycles that can occupy one car space.”

    I agree. My guess is about $30 per month in Midtown.

  • So when Streetsblog posts about policy questions, readers respond with personal preferences (bike boulevard down my street, or along my commute trip, please!), but when the post is about personal preferences, we get policy pronouncements.

    As for geometric proportions, as Urbanis and others suggest: Has anyone ever noticed that a 10-pound bag of rice is not ten times as expensive as a one-pound bag of rice, or that a gallon of milk is not four times as expensive as a quart of milk?

  • “A fair rate for bicycles is to divide the car rate by the number of bicycles that can occupy one car space.”

    Well, and ideally it would take into account that bikes don’t need the width of a car to get in and out of a space. There are tons of opportunities in garages where you could fit bikes into spaces cars can’t use.

    To be paying rates that high, they better be doing something to make sure bikes are secure. I think that rate isn’t too bad if you get a bike cage to use. Not just for a place to tie it up inside a garage.

  • Why should bicycle parking rates be “fair?” I’m sure plenty of car owners don’t believe garage rates are fair. That’s why motorists spend so much time looking for free or metered on-street parking spaces. That’s why we have parking rage.

    Parking garages, or at least this particular parking garage, probably feels $5/day is what they need to charge to be worth the effort of setting aside space, tracking usage, charging customers, and whatever added bookkeeping that bicycles may require. Or maybe they feel it’s all the market will bear. We cyclists may not like the charges but if we want the same amenities enjoyed by drivers we need to expect to pay for them.

    What would others suggest garages charge? $1/day $2/day? That probably wouldn’t be worth the time it takes to check bikes in and out.

  • Notions of supply and demand do not apply in a straightforward way to this because we are dealing with a bike parking “command economy”: the city has decreed that garages must offer a set level of bike parking whether they have customers or not, and the technical specifications of the law require installation of racks and barriers that preclude properly-installed bike parking spaces from being used to park cars. By law, there must be a certain minimum supply of bike parking spaces in garages that can accommodate bikes and bikes only.

    If bicyclists succeed in forcing the garage owners to install the requisite bike-only parking facilities, owners will have every incentive to offer reasonable prices. Otherwise the space they have devoted to bike-only parking will generate no income at all.

    If bicyclists don’t insist on garages installed the requisite bike-only parking, garage owners will simply advertise exorbitant rates for bike parking (or advertise none at all), set aside no bike parking spaces, and the few garages that offer the parking will not be operating in a competitive environment. In fact, they will face unfair competition in the market for parking cars by the other garages that refuse to set aside a portion of their space for bike-only parking.

    For this law to work, it is essential that bicyclists investigate garages, and file DCA complaints on the garages that do not comply with all the requirements.

  • Ian Turner

    AlexB, not really — you could insure your bike against theft or damage for considerable less money.

  • Doug

    The question is not what should garages charge, but what would you pay? It is funny that so many commenters feel righteous indignation that a for-profit business is setting its own prices. (Setting aside the issue of whether or not they can tax bikes as they do cars.) If they can get this price from enough people to make it worth it, why wouldn’t they charge as much as they can?

    Streetsblog readers can vote with their wallets and if a garage finds it can make more money by charging less than their competitors, they will. Is anyone surprised that a Manhattan parking garage would charge this much for all-day bike parking, when parking a car for even an hour at some garages can cost more than $30 or $40?

    Jonathan is correct. Pricing is rarely a result of dividing or multiplying the higher or lower cost depending on the scale of the goods or services provided. There are a million other factors, the leading one being profit motive. Have you ever noticed that hotels will charge a supplement if you have extra people in a room, even though it doesn’t cost them more to have someone sleep on the floor in your room?

  • NM

    $5.07 looks pretty great. . . I just called around to Times Square garages and found a rate of $23/day (mysteriously jumps to $51 if I get out of work after midnight – more than two days rate?). I think it’s up to us (and DOT and everything else that encourages cycling) to make this work – if the set aside bike parking is really used and not wasted it will be wildly profitable and the market will figure itself out. There just isn’t really an established market at this point, I think.

    Now we just need to work on visitor bike parking in buildings – at least in midtown where it can be very tough to park on the street, even for a few hours.

  • t

    AlexB, insurance is all fine and good — after your bike is stolen or damaged. No insurance in the world is going to get you home if you leave your office to find your chain broken and your bike gone. I’d rather pay to prevent my bike from getting taken in the first place.

  • t

    I mean Ian. I think Alex is making the same point I am.

  • I’m with t on the insurance issue, better to have up-front protection. Especialy because of the deductible, which is always more than $100 and usually $500 on homeowner’s/renter’s policies, which are the primary type of insurance that covers damage or loss of bikes.

  • J:Lai

    Dividing the amount of space used by a car for the number of bikes you can fit does not have any relevance on the price of bike parking.
    Car and bike parking are totally different goods with different supply and demand.
    If parking in a garage isn’t worth the amount being charged, simply park outside. Unlike cars, bikes can nearly always find some kind of street parking on the same block as the destination.

    To the extent that provision of garage bike parking is compelled by law, that should serve to lower the price, as there will be more supply at any given price than there would be without the legislation.

  • Ian Turner

    For $1000 a year you can get a gold-plated policy which covers replacement cost and has a low deductible, and still have money left over for a cab ride home post-theft.

    Furthermore, who is commuting with a $1000 bicycle anyway? If you have a $200 bicycle you’re still better off parking outside even if it gets stolen every 3 months.

  • dave

    I used to work at NYU medical center and when they opened a new lot I asked about parking my bike there. I was told I was welcome to lock my bike there if I paid the same price as cars, something like $200/month. Now I work at denver’s city hospital where they provide free, secure, video monitored bike parking. When the campus went smoke free they converted the old smoking hut into sheltered bike parking. some places just get it and some don’t.

  • Another way to look at rates for bicycle parking might be to consider what similar storage space goes for. At least one of the long distance commuters recently profiled in the media mentioned that he keeps his bicycle in one of these storage facilities. So for comparison, Manhattan Mini Storage charges $82/month for 4x4x8 closet large enough to hold my bike which is 68 inches long, on Catherine Slip. Of course Catherine Slip isn’t as convenient as a local garage and they may not expect you to access the space twice a day, five days a week, but it’s a little bit cheaper and it isn’t subject to parking tax.

    But then if paid bicycle parking proves to be a viable business we’ll begin to see more competitive pricing. Maybe even more on-street solutions like bike lockers. Doesn’t everything cost more in the beginning?

  • Ian’s points are well-taken. Building access is far more valuable than garage access, and its free. That’s why I’m focusing on getting a Bicycle Access Plan in the building where I work. Everyone who bikes to work should.

    But if that doesn’t work out, or it’s too inconvenient because of freight elevator limitations, I would have to choose between the street and a garage. My cost/benefit analysis is a little different than his. To me, having the bike stolen is not just a matter of using a taxi at that moment, but being forced to use cabs or public transportation for at least a week until I can get a new one built as I like it (I’m not a “custom build” fetishist, but I do often carry cargo and I’ve found that unless I have my wheels custom-laced with heavy-duty spokes, I constantly need truing).

    At a minimum, I want there to be a garage parking options near work, for days when its raining or I don’t have my full complement of security equipment. If I could find a monthly rate that was truly reasonable, something like $30 a month after-tax, then I just might go for the garage option.

    The other thing about garage parking is that it may be the most convenient way for some people to store their bike while at home. My building happens to have a bike room that is free of charge, but I know people who have to pay their building several hundred dollars a year to get a bike parking spot in the basement. If a cyclist lives in a building with a tenant-only garage or lot, then the bicycle parking rate should be very low because presumably there is very little competition for the space.

  • Jim

    I would agree with J:Lai on this one. Using the number of bikes that fit into a car space only tells you the supply side of the equation. I would think it’d be cheaper than that even because of the demand side. The reason you park a car in a garage is to protect it from theft or damage, much like a bike, but the value of a car is probably more than 20x your average bike. Put another way, if my bike is worth $400 why would I pay 1/4 of the value of the bike each month to park it unless I thought there’s a high probability of theft?

  • Jim

    One other thing — as a car driver you often have no other choice but to park in a garage because lack of street parking, especially in midtown. A bike can pretty much be locked up anywhere, so you have more options. Bike parking will eventually be dirt cheap if you ask me.

  • Tubulus

    It seems that very few commentors are familiar with how car parking works. First of all, garages in the same neighborhood often charge very different prices (one of life’s great mysteries…well not really). Second, people who commute by car into NYC often have deals with “validated” parking -your company makes a deal with a specific garage for a cheap rate- no reason this shouldn’t work for bike commuters too. Shops and restaurants offer validation as well sometimes. Third, monthly rates are always negotiable – shop around!

  • Doug

    Jim, there is a difference between cost and value. Cost is precise and fixed. Value is more intangible.

    Judged alone, you are right; it makes little to no sense to spend $1200 a year to store a $400 bike. A comparison could be made to self-storage units. Why spend hundreds per month to store, say, a bed or furniture if eventually you’ll spend more than the original cost of that furniture? That’s cost. But if the furniture includes a family antique with sentimental value, then all bets are off.

    Same goes for bike parking. There are so many intangible values which vary by person:

    There’s the time saved by combining one’s commute with one’s workout. There’s the money saved by not joining a gym. The benefit of being more fit. The money saved by not putting wear and tear on a car or having to buy gas. The money saved by not buying a MetroCard or using as many swipes. In some cases, biking may be faster than taking a car or the subway, so there’s time saved there. There’s the ability to take a different route for a change of scenery, something you can’t do on a bus or subway. The list goes on.

    It’s funny to me that so many people are saying, “Just insure your bike,” as if that’s a prevention against theft. No thief checks a bike’s insurance status before he clips a lock. “Hmm, this one is insured for the full replacement cost and has a low deductable! I’ll steal a different bike!”

    Even a cheap beater bike can have a value that exceeds its cost. That value may be even higher the minute it’s stolen. If I have to adjust my commuting time and find time to go to the bike shop to get a new bike, suddenly an $80 parking charge may seem cheap.

    The overall solution here is MORE bike parking. As bike parking supply goes up, the hope is that a surplus will lead to lower prices.

  • Jim

    Doug, I think you are confused — I am not arguing against the value of bike commuting and I’m an avid cyclist myself. I’m saying the value of parking isn’t that high because the value of the bike itself isn’t that high. The intangibles you mentioned are a great argument for BIKE COMMUTING, but have nothing to with the decision of where to park your bike. If you have a sentimental attachment to your bike that is different, but I doubt most people do. I’d never pay $80 per month to park my $200 bike — I’ll get another if it’s stolen.

  • Jim

    Also, the intangibles you mentioned are a great argument for why the city should provide free bike parking or subsidies to garages at least. There are obviously huge benefits to communities when more people commute by bike, but there may be a mismatch in terms of what a garage expects to get in return for their space vs what I would pay as a commuter. We offer cars free parking on the street which uses up valuable real estate, we could at least provide some free sheltered space for bikes.

  • Jim

    Actually, the most obvious piece of evidence bike parking garage economics don’t work is the city had to require bike parking my law. If it were a lucrative business garages would’ve done it a long time ago. This is essentially a tax on parking garages, but one that makes sense given the benefits of biking. Sorry for the string of posts.

  • Doug

    Jim, you can’t separate bike commuting from bike parking. Many people cite a lack of secure parking as their reason for not commuting by bike. They are deeply connected.

  • LB

    So a garage is required to provide parking but can set its own price.

    If I’m a garage owner and don’t want to have the hassle of dealing with bikes because I think it’s nonsense, am I free to charge bikes $50/day and $3000/month thus ensuring I will never have a bike park in my garage ever (effectively sidestepping the policy)?

  • Jim

    Doug, I agree that parking is an important issue for bike commuters, but I don’t think $85 is the market clearing price. In fact, at such a high price it may be a deterrent for some as poster #1 mentioned. The price will drop because I suspect the demand for parking will be less than overwhelming at $85/month. I’ll take my bike in the office, park it on the street, or get a folding bike for that price.

  • LB, a garage owner can indeed create the bike parking facility required by the law, establish a price of $100 per day for bike parking, and as a practical matter never have to worry about people parking their bikes. But such a garage would have to worry about bicyclists filing a complaint with the DCA if the facility was in fact being used for car parking, of if it didn’t have racks meeting the requisite technical specs, or if it didn’t include at least 36 cubic feet for each bike parking spot required by law.

  • Adam

    I’d pay ninety bucks a month to leave my bike one or two blocks from work at a place where I could change a tube and get a beer. I could even ride my funner bikes to work, because I would feel safe leaving it there.

  • As a point of comparison, the McDonald’s Cycle Center in Chicago is charging only $25 per month ($150 per year) for secure bike parking and membership includes access to showers and lockers as well as 10% off on-premise repair services.

  • J

    I don’t understand the arguing. This is simple supply & demand. Before, there was almost no supply of bike garage parking, since most garage owners weren’t willing to try it. With no supply, the demand was effectively strangled.

    Now, the city has artificially bumped up supply with the law. This means bike commuters can count on garages to have bike parking. It will certainly take time for demand to catch up with supply, but in the mean time, the price point should be dirt cheap if the garage owners want to make any money. The law is new, and garage owners may take time to realize the economic ramifications. Many business decisions, however, are not done simply by supply & demand. Otherwise there’d be far fewer vacant storefronts and unsold condos.

    If garage owners never adjust their prices, they’ll just sit on empty spaces. Since the law requires a relatively small number of parking spaces, that might be the chosen course of action at most garages. As cycling continues to increase, I would imagine demand would start to creep up to a level where garages could actually make money off bike parking.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Let me put it this way, to reframe the discussion. I currently park on the street for nothing, and ride three or four days per week when not on vacation.

    I would consider (but not with certainly choose) indoor parking for $25 or $30 per month if it were close to work, for two reasons: I wouldn’t have to remove my seat, and could leave the chain that weights as much as the bicycle.

    That is particularly the case for winter. The worst part of riding on a bitterly cold day is removing my gloves and grabbing all that cold steel.

  • Brooklyn

    I’m with Larry above — most days I commute with a bike I would be sad, but not devastated to lose to theft. I’ve made an investment in heavy locks and minimal equipment in order to minimize the risk. I might pay a garage for convenience and peace of mind, viewing parking on the street as getting what I pay for.

    Tuesday nights in season, I race at Floyd Bennett Field. On those days, I commute in my race bike, which I would be devastated to lose to theft. I would gladly pay for convenience and peace of mind on those days.

    (Full-disclosure: I currently work in a thus-far accommodating building, pre-law.)

    If enough demand (and competition) builds, I’m sure we would eventually see diversity in pricing commensurate with the diversity of use — daily commuter, early bird, weekend, peak, etc. — same as we see with commercial car parking.

    Bean-counting with square footage or moral rationalization is academic. We should first work on the demand side of the equation, and secondly work on the buildings side. Commercial parking, as it is for cars, should always be a privilege or a last resort.

  • I would never park my bike at one of these places. Look at what they do to the cars that are parked in the garages. Now imagine your bike. Yikes!

    I’d take a fold up bike and carry that sucker everywhere.

    Save time & money & headaches.

  • Here’s the Post’s take on the bike parking issue. The article states that the Department of consuer Affairs has confirmed that it is illegal to collecting bike parking tax. However the article also reports, incorrectly, that DCA has not received any comllaints as of the December 28 article from bicyclists who were denied parking access at garages. In fact, there were at least three complaints filed with DCA prior to the December 28 publication of the article.

    Complaints like these are essential to ensure that garage owners install the required parking facilities so that an efficient market in bike parking spaces can be fostered.

  • Four months of that buys a decent folding bike to carry into your office. No heavy chain to deal with, either.

    I’m seeing as many folders as non-folders in NYC these days.

  • I see only a portion of responses actually answering the question. Garages can compete with each other, offering varying levels of service. What would you pay, for example, to roll in with your Colnago, hand it to your garage attendant and walk out vs. rolling in and being directed to the bike area where you self-lock? Or maybe garages install bikeshare type locking stands?

    These are just two price points. A third could be a garage with amenities (e.g., a bathroom for changing, which is rare), regardless of whether you rode in on the Schwinn Hollywood or the aforementioned Campy-equipped time trialer.

    ALSO, just a correction: for now, garages with spaces for 100 cars or more (not the 50 stated above) must provide parking for bikes at the ratio of 1 spot per 10 cars. In two years after enactment, according to the law, which I cite for you, it gets lowered to 51:

    “1. i. The operator of every garage and parking lot that has an authorized capacity of one-hundred or more motor vehicles shall provide and maintain parking spaces for bicycles in accordance with the provisions of this section.
    1. The operator of every garage or lot subject to the provisions of this section shall provide not less than one bicycle parking space for every ten automobile parking spaces provided, up to two hundred automobile parking spaces. Thereafter, one bicycle parking space shall be provided for every one hundred automobile parking spaces. Fractions equal to or greater than one-half resulting from this calculation shall be considered to be one bicycle parking space.”

    and the provision for lowering it to >= 51 spaces:

    “ii. Two years after the effective date of the local law that added this section, the operator of every garage and parking lot that has an authorized capacity of fifty-one or more motor vehicles shall provide and maintain parking spaces for bicycles in accordance with the provisions of this section.”

    source: http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=451994&GUID=90CDCDB0-69D0-42BE-9F3E-B192C8163542&Options=ID|Text|&Search=51
    [local law 51 from 2009]

    ———-

    Finally, am researching whether employees may allocate pre-tax payments to a Wageworks or Transitchek account that could pay for monthly parking. Am getting mixed reports. While the monthly parking allowance is up to $230 (!), John Boyle from the Philadelphia Bicycle Coalition warns that:

    “IRS Tax Code Section 132 f covers commuter benefits which now has 3 components Qualified Parking, Transit and Bicycle benefits. The problem with the bicycle benefit (which includes bicycle storage fees) is that it is a reimbursement program at the employers expense as opposed to a pre tax deduction, so few employers are willing to offer it. It is also only $20 a month (compared to $230 for parking or transit).” John continues: “for the Qualified Parking benefit. You may be able to argue that the IRS doesn’t seem to specify what a “vehicle” is, which would be a big loophole if you could pull it off.”

    Streetsbloggers, Can we pull it off?

    -pm

  • Call me crazy, but I think the best way to avoid paying bike parking fees is to NOT use a parking garage. Stash your bike in your apartment, take it in at work, and chain it up when you go around town. It’s a bike for goodness sake, not a Porsche!

  • Alli

    At 1345 Garage on 101 W 54th St (Entrance on 55th between 6th and 7th) they charge $5 daily and $91.85 monthly.  This does not include tax though.

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