Streetfilms: Luxe Bike Parking in Chicago

Continuing the Streetfilms tour of envy-inspiring bike parking garages, Clarence Eckerson files this report from the McDonald’s Cycling Center in Chicago’s Millennium Park, operated by Bike and Roll on behalf of the city. Says Clarence:

It’s enough to make bike commuters in many cities drool. The center boasts state-of-the-art showering facilities, secure bicycle parking
for 300, a repair station, towel service, is temperature-controlled,
and features the constant presence of the Chicago Lakefront Police bike
patrol, which shares the facility and maintains its bikes on site. The
station is extremely popular, with 500 members at a time and a waiting
list of eager riders ready to join. But even if you aren’t a member
you can still take advantage of the free bike parking, and mechanics are
on duty to repair anyone’s bikes seven days a week.

  • James

    That is a sweet facility indeed. One can’t help but wonder why Chicago, a smaller, colder, and less wealthy (albeit still wonderful) city, can have something like this, and New York can’t? Is it simply a byproduct of higher real estate and construction costs in NYC, making site acquisition and construction of such a facility prohibitively expensive? Or is it something cultural? I know Mayor Daley is a big-time cyclist, that’s gotta have something to do with it. Bloomberg, while sympathetic to livable streets issues, wouldn’t be caught on a bike if his life depended on it.

  • That is pretty awesome. I think the coolest bike parking I’ve seen, though, is still the bike-parking-on-a-boat on some of the ferries from San Francisco up to Marin County.

  • anonymous

    Parking on a boat? If you mean bike storage for passengers using the ferry, I think that’s a feature of ferries pretty much everywhere–certainly with the commuter ferries here in NYC.

  • Possibly it’s because Mayor Daley wields near-dictatorial powers and can push through whatever he wants. China gets to have bullet trains for the same reason.

  • pal

    why doesn’t blooberg use eminent domain for good public use for once (instead of greedy developers) and grab some land for something like this in nyc. can you imagine if we had a few of these at some major hubs in the five boros?

  • Yeah exactly, though I have never seen it elsewhere. Admittedly, I rarely use the ferries here in NYC.

  • Moser

    Why is it McDonald’s cycling center? Does the corporation sponsor it?

  • Why does Chicago have this and not New York?

    I’m not an authority on the question, but I know that Chicago used to have a big, empty space on the lakefront a few blocks off the Loop. Millenium Park fills that space now, and the Bike Center is one of the attractions in Millenium Park. Since there was nothing in that area before Millenium Park, there was nothing to displace, so it was easy to find a place for a bike facility.

    If you wanted the same thing in Manhattan, where would you put it? I would guess that every suitable location already has something else on it, so building a bike garage would be much more complicated — and expensive.

  • anonymous

    pal, at this point I don’t think you need to exercise eminent domain–just buy up some empty commercial space in different parts of the city and put bike racks in them.

    It’s even possible for a private company to do this on their own–take an empty store, turn it into bike valet storage, and charge per hour and/or sell reserved spots. Depending on how high the rent is and how many cyclists use it (though I suppose it’s safe to assume that if you build it, they will come), it’s possible to make this cost-competitive with subway fare. It certainly can’t be any more expensive than automobile parking in the middle of the city.

  • JSD

    Robert Moses made a career out of using eminent domain for the “public good.”

  • gecko

    From what I understand Bike and Roll is doing stuff here and now with the city — the West Side bike path, Central Park, Governor’s Island, etc. — so developments like this are in the works.

    It probably would be better to avoid as much as possible transportation monopolies (like the Cemusa, MTA) and capture the rich diversity of this town through a multiplicity of local vendors and set the stage for an incubating environment encouraging increasingly innovative and open-ended options.

  • Yes it is the McDonald’s Cycling Center due to cooperate sponsorship. It was called the Millennium Cycling Center before that.

    An interesting additional note is that the Chicago Transit Authority has indoor bicycle (but unattended) parking at nearly 90 of its transit stations. I didn’t even see anything like that in Germany last week when I was there visiting family and making observations for a paper I’m doing about bicycle-transit integration.

  • Clare D a Chicagoan in The Netherlands

    To Andy B: I hope you have studied The Netherlands for examples of bicycle-transit integration. Today, a article is my local newspaper “De Haarlemmer” – in Haarlem – had a front page article about the outrage of the inadequate temporary bike parking at our train station while the main square is rebuilt to incorporate a new underground bike garage for 5050 bikes and 80 mopeds. This in a town of 100,000 inhabitants. I love Chicago and its efforts, but 500 spots in the Loop don’t compare to your average metro station in Holland.

  • Regarding sponsorship at any other additional questions – again there are lots of answers in the Wikipedia entry which I linked to at the end of my write up on the Streetfilms website.'s_Cycle_Center

  • Clare D,

    I’m rather familiar about the Netherlands and its world leading (along with Japan) bike/transit integration. Unfortunately I could only get to Germany this time (I’ve only got family there, not in NL). My paper is about is a critic of a local transit agency in the NY Metro area, so I tried to keep my comparisons confined to American examples. I’m only using German examples on occasions because I’m most familiar with and have pictures of them.

    Also, I don’t think any town with rail transit in the US is up to the levels of cycling found in your average Dutch or Danish (or even German) town so comparisons to such parking facilities in those countries isn’t necessarily fair at this stage of the game here in the US.

    Andy B.

  • UGGHH! My grammar is horrible!

  • rex

    What is a state-of-the-art shower? I thought the art of showering was pretty much in a static state since hot water became common. Are there robots to hand you your towel or wipe the soap out of your eyes? 😉

  • Ian Turner


    Some shower advancements since hot water:

    1. New kinds of shower heads (massage, etc.)
    2. Handled shower heads, useful for the disabled
    3. Thermostatic valve protects against scalding and provides an easier user interface.

  • State-of-the-art is the same as space-age-polymers. Meaning two terms I can’t get out of my head from growing up watching 1980s infomercials.

  • Miguel Marcos

    Great solution. Build more. Everywhere.

  • gecko

    NYC DoT is fully capable of running the transformation and does not require a company like Bike and Roll to modernize this city’s complex and extremely important transportation system.

    Cemusa was an act of desperation at an embrionic stage when it was almost impossible to get anything done; and we have yet to see broad implementation of the promised public toilets.

    There seems to be a confidence and capability in this city administration, that they can do what has to be done; that they can make it happen; that they can empower the people of this city and give them back control of their own lives.

    It is their now in 311 and the burgeoning public plazas, the accelerating bike network, the parks . . . .


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