Locking Up Is Hard to Do

meter_parking.jpgIs bike rack installation keeping up with meter removal? Photo: velcroTABandthewalkman/Flickr

2008 was a banner year for bike rack installations in New York City. DOT put in 1,377 racks in the fiscal year ending last July, according to the Mayor’s Management Report — up from 320 the previous year. And when DOT unveiled its new on-street rack design in November, the agency said it planned to install nearly 5,000 in the next three years.

The upswing in official bike parking spots may have to accelerate even more, however, to keep pace with the swiftly diminishing supply of that informal standby, the quarter-slot parking meter. A reader who suffers from a disability recently brought this concern to our attention after seeing a slew of the old meters removed to make way for Muni meters:

I need the bike to live pain-free and mobile in NYC. Now it’s getting to be a lot harder for me as the temp warms and more bikes are on the street, and I can’t find a place to lock up without walking a painful block, or two, or more! What can we do?

We put in a request with DOT to find out how many parking meters were removed in 2008 and haven’t heard back yet. A back-of-the-envelope calculation using data in the Mayor’s Management Report suggests that, in the same period that the city installed those 1,377 bike racks, it removed somewhere in the neighborhood of 3,000 meters. (An additional 4.4 percent of the city’s total metered parking supply — about 80,000 spots — is now covered by Muni meters.)

What are you seeing out there on the streets — have you noticed any areas where it’s tougher than usual to find somewhere to lock up? Could this be the impetus to test out some bike corrals in New York City? How about re-purposing those decommissioned meters?

  • Free Bike?

    Locking bikes to parking meters is not particularly smart from a theft-protection standpoint.

    More bike racks = good. Relying on parking meters = not.

  • J-Uptown

    This is particularly true in the East Village, where bike parking has always been difficult due the large number of people biking there. Now that whole blocks have had the meters removed, it is even more difficult, particularly at night and on the weekends.

  • Mike

    Steinway Street near 30th Ave. It’s a busy commercial strip with no more meters, and only the occasional lonely parking-rules post to lock up to (if someone else hasn’t come first).

  • Larry Littlefield

    I think the city should repurpose the meters for bike parking. You just need to modify the head in such a way that motor vehicle parkers are not (and can’t claim to be) confused. These meters are designed to keep money for pols — much more valuable than other people’s bikes — and are thus more solid.

  • King C.

    J-Uptown is absolutely right. I always would park at a meter outside of Key Food on Avenue A, but now they are all gone.

    For now there is scaffolding across the street that is good, but once that comes down I’ll be out of luck in the immediate area of the grocery store.

  • Peter Flint

    The old meters have been disappearing at a very rapid rate in the West Village and bike racks have definitely not caught up. Hudson in particular has a number of empty stretches. And in a number of places where there are racks or posts, they are often dominated by delivery bicycles for the nearby restaurants, leaving little space for the short term bike parker.

    On the east side on East 11th, there one spot where the meters are gone and while there is a bike rack, someone has sawed through it, rendering the rack pretty much functionless.

    In the plus column, a string of bike racks just appeared on Bank Street where previously the bikes were mostly locked to fences.

  • Jason A

    I agree with J-Uptown, the East Village could definitely use more bike parking.

  • Geck

    Essex Street was one of the first to have muni-meters and it is always hard to find a place to lock up there. Parking meters should definitely be modifying to become bike parking, at least until more racks are installed.
    Something like this would work fine:

  • Lee

    This has been discussed before, but here in Baltimore (I’m in Canton on Eastern Ave.) every other parking meter is converted into a bike rack using a simple attachment, thanks to the swift actions of our Bicycle Coordinator.


  • So when are we going to see legislation requiring parking garages in the 5 boroughs to accept bicycles?

  • Restaurants should be required to install adequate bike parking for their entire delivery staff. Since usually some of the staff are not parked at the restaurant, there will usually be parking spots for patrons or other visitors to the block as well.

  • Following BicyclesOnly, I feel that restaurants that use a fleet of delivery bicycles should not be allowed to park them on the sidewalk in front or their restaurants. They should either bring them inside or put them in an alley or other private location.

    While I love that bicycles are being used for utilitarian trips, most delivery bikes are just plain ugly and take up valuable sidewalk space as well as places for others to lockup.

  • Agree with BicyclesOnly. Here in the South VIllage near NYU bicycle parking can be scarce not only because cycling is so popular but also because there are also so many restaurant delivery bikes competing for space. However, there seems to be so much delivery traffic that keeping delivery bikes inside a restaurant probably isn’t a viable alternative.

    Two years ago we had three bike racks on the block where I live which still wasn’t enough to accommodate the 20 or more bicycles that would accumulate in the warmer months. People would chain their bikes to trees, tree guards, parking signs, and building fences.

    This year, thanks to drunk parkers and [url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/stacyrosenstock/2338532088/in/set-72157603792192129/]well armed bike thieves,[/url] we’re down to a single bike rack and some of the tree guards have gone missing too. As good as it might be to add new racks it’s also important to maintain and replace the racks already in place.

    Some time back Hunter College Students did a survey asking people to list the number of places they thought needed more bike racks. I remember suggesting the area around 23rd Street and Sixth Avenue, and apparently DOT listened. It certainly would be good to have an ongoing resource where we could not only suggest new locations for bike racks, but also report bike racks that have been damaged to destroyed.

  • Hannah

    I always used to park on a meter in front of B&H Dairy on the east side of Second Avenue between St. Marks Place and E 7th Street. Last time I went there, the meters were all gone and the sole rack at the north end of the block was jam packed–partly with bikes that looked to be abandoned.

    Separate topic/location: delivery bikes. When the restaurant in my building closes at night, they bring all the bikes inside. When the place opens in the morning for cleaning, re-stocking, etc., the bikes move out onto city-installed double-U racks on the corner. Once delivery time starts a few hours later, the bikes are mostly either out making deliveries or locked to themselves and leaning alongside the building. Any plan for delivery bikes would have to take into account these various usage patterns. It is not practical to put bikes inside when the restaurant is open, nor use an alley for parking at the restaurant when you are in and out for deliveries.


  • The Boston bike coordinator insists that converting meters to bike racks is impossible or too expensive or something. Never mind that other cities do it.

  • Hobbes

    As a pedestrian when not riding my bike, I’d like to add that additional bike parking takes up precious walking space on the sidewalks. Some of those side streets and even busy streets (such as St Marks) are spilling over with pedestrian traffic and new bike racks probably won’t help much.

    So I’d like to see at least one parking spot per block on either side of the street eliminated in favor of a sidewalk extension. They can have sheltered bike racks like at Union Sq. One of those can accommodate at least 6-10 bikes on top of several regular “single” bike racks interspersed along the street. Obviously not all streets would need it, but a neighborhood like the East Village would benefit greatly from something like this.

  • Barnard

    Anyone else notice that the DOT recently turned their bike rack “request” form to a “suggestion” form? No, you can’t ask the DOT to install a rack in front of your favorite store, but you can _suggest_ it.

    Bike rack installation is a green job, and the City should hire more people to do it.

    Chicago has something like 10,000+ bike racks. Does New York even have half that many? Chicago is about 1/3 the size of NYC. We should have 30,000 or more bike racks.

  • Lee

    >The Boston bike coordinator insists that converting meters to bike racks is >impossible or too expensive or something. Never mind that other cities do >it.

    That sounds like nonsense to me. Baltimore is broke and the bicycle fund is very very thin. Yet somehow we have old meters converted to racks all over the city. If we are doing it, then it can’t be that difficult.

    All they do is bolt a circle thing to the top of the meter pole… which seams a lot less difficult than ripping all those poles out of the ground and then re-pouring the concrete. Someone should do a spreadsheet to compare the price of one to the other. I’m wondering if funding for this was written into the contract for the Muni meters, or was it straight from bicycle funds.

  • IMO, especially in busy areas where peds overwhelm what little sidewalk space there is, do the bike corral thing.

  • The consensus is convert curbside parking spaces to bike parking, like the “Williamsburg Experiment”. Maybe put some or all of the conversion costs on the restaurants. In return they get adequate and convenient parking for their staff, and they don’t have to create eyesores, safety hazards or other problems.


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