City Council Bill Would Weaken Bikes in Garages Law, Keep Number of Spaces

ParkFast advertises its bike parking at Hester and Centre Streets. Photo: Noah Kazis.
Edison ParkFast advertises its bike parking at Hester and Centre Streets. Photo: Noah Kazis

Two years after the City Council passed the Bicycle Access to Garages law, which set aside space for bike parking in commercial garages, legislators are turning their attention back to the issue. In response to low demand for the garage spaces, a bill sponsored by Queens rep Karen Koslowitz would loosen up some of the design requirements for the bike parking spaces while maintaining the total amount of bike parking required.

A report from the Council’s Consumer Affairs Committee, chaired by Manhattan rep Dan Garodnick, lays out the current state of bike parking in garages [PDF]. The law has created 16,378 secure bike parking spaces but, according to a survey of the major garage operators, on average only 27.7 spaces are used each day. That unused space presumably has some garage operators chafing.

Koslowitz’s legislation, which received a hearing last Wednesday, wouldn’t reduce the number of bike spaces garages need to set aside. Currently, garages with more than 50 car spaces must provide one bike spot for every 10 cars, up to their first 200 car spaces. For garages with more volume than that, one bike spot is required for every 100 additional car spaces.

The Koslowitz bill would give garages more latitude in how to provide bike parking, however. A requirement that each bike be given a 2′ x 3′ x 6′ space, for example, would be eliminated, as would certain requirements meant to protect parked bikes from moving cars.

Caroline Samponaro, the director of bike advocacy for Transportation Alternatives, said she didn’t have a problem with the legislation. “The good thing about the bill is it maintains the same number of parking spots.” She said providing garage operators with some flexibility in how they provide the parking was a reasonable adjustment to a new law and that the important thing was that ample parking is still provided. “The lack of secure bike parking is one of the deterrents to people riding in New York. Parking garages can be part of that solution.”

Cost is also an ongoing concern for the Bikes in Garages law, though not one the Council is addressing. While many have cheered Edison Parking’s dollar-a-day bike parking rate, other garages have set rates so high it’s hard to imagine anyone paying them.

  • Larry Littlefield

    We’ll have to see about the winter, but at the Edison garage I park at in Midtown it’s been 75 percent plus occupancy for months.  I was worried at one point that having paid $20 per month I’d show up and there would be no hooks left.  The said they’d find an alternative in that case.

    Basically, other garage owners have decided to keep the space empty with a goal of getting rid of the requirement.  Overpricing cuts the demand for just about anything, other than stocks and for-sale housing.

  • Anybody other than Larry using garages?  Most I have seen charge almost as much as they do for cars, that is the kind of service I would never use. 

    Someone should open a cheap bike only garage near the Bedford L stop.  You could make a lucrative business out of that.  It wouldn’t even take a giant garage to provide hundreds of spaces.  A small retail space with a small amount of modification could suffice.

  • M to the I

    I used a garage for a couple of weeks. Now that I can bring my bike into my office, I only use it on holidays when the freight elevators are not operating.  It is $5 for the day, which isn’t terrible for occasional use. I think some surrounding businesses pay for employee parking at the garage. It seemed like there were consistently 4 or 5 bikes parked.  One day, I would say there were about 15. I wish there were an Edison on the east side!

  • I have paid for parking at the Edison garage across from Port Authority, and at two off-brand garages, one behind the Harlem DMV, and the other on West 84th St that houses a rental-car franchise, as well as the non-charging lots at the Met Museum and the American Museum of Natural History. At my old job, the garage guys let me park for free. The Edison was a little packed in and hard to retrieve the bicycle from, but the others were fine.

    In response to Eric Boucher, if you make a low-ball assumption of $10 a square foot for retail space on the Bedford Ave corridor, and Noah says you need 30 square feet per bike, how are you going to make the $300 per month rent that each parking space needs, not to mention the staff costs, electricity, insurance, and security?

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Noah says you need 30 square feet per bike.”
    Over at the Hippodrome Garage, they have them hanging from the walls in the area where the scooters park.  Perhaps 8 square feet for the bike and another 8 for the space behind it.

    I’ll admit that even at $20 per month it is a luxury.  But it really pays in the winter, when I don’t feel the need to disassemble my bike with bare hands when the wind chill is really low.  And I can leave my heavy chain there.

  • I disagree with Larry; bike parking is not a luxury. If you are a bicycling advocate, and you would like it if more people rode bikes (and the ones who do already felt safe and comfortable doing so), then go ahead and imagine a New York City 20% mode share, where one out of every five people rides a bike to work, grocery shopping, wherever.

    Where are all those bikes going to be parked?

    At home, here in my Manhattan apartment building, there are 30 apartments and an average of three residents per apartment. That makes 18 bikes. Where are those bikes going to be parked? In the laundry room?

    At my job in my office suite alone, there are 20 people. That makes four bikes. As the sole current bicycle commuter, I can park my bike in the unused hallway behind the office, but that’s not a scalable solution. Good thing there is a big parking lot outside with plenty of room for those bikes.

    For cyclists who work in midtown, offstreet bike parking will be essential because there will be no room in the offices and there will be no room on the sidewalks (not at 20% mode share). So bikes will have to go in garages, and bicyclists will have to pay a nominal fee, unless the city municipalizes all the garages and pays for free bike parking.

  • Anonymous

    I
    agree with Jonathan to a degree: bicyclists are going to have to pay
    for parking when mode share reaches a certain level. I think that’s fair
    — in the future. Right now, to help encourage cycling, it should be
    free or very lost cost. The prices in midtown are exhorbitant, costing two to three times the cost of a metrocard, which negates one big economic incentive to opt for cycling.  I also think you could justify taking away muni
    carparking and turning some of those car parking spaces into muni bike
    parking. I’m betting that wouldn’t be a huge fiscal lift, and 20 percent
    mode share would absolutely justify that transition. And I guess I’d argue that the city should look at converting some parking spaces to bike parking once mode share reaches even 2 or 3% if not sooner (I believe it remains less than 1%?).

  • Ian Turner

    @jrab:disqus : Given that the garage on Driggs & 9th charges $15 to park a whole car for a day (= $450/month without any discount), I think there must be something wrong with your math.

    http://nyc.centralparking.com/Brooklyn-510-Driggs-Avenue-Parking.html

  • Ian, the “small retail spaces” that Eric was talking about, especially on a busy strip like Bedford Ave, are more expensive to rent per square foot than garages. You know that.

  • David

    My employer has an agreement that lets us park in the private underground lot for free! However, out of 1,000+ employees here I seem to be the only one using it for bike parking 🙁

  • Ian Turner

    @jrab:disqus : Actually, I don’t know the first thing about New York real estate. All I’m saying is that if you can buy a spot for a car for less than $300 a month, then the cost of the rent for the space required to store a bicycle must be much less than $300 a month, since bicycles take up much less space than cars. Do you disagree?

  • Ian, you are of course correct in the case of exchanging motor vehicle parking for bicycle parking in existing garages. Rent on retail space, which is what I have been talking about, is more expensive per square foot than garage space. 

    Just to move the conversation forward, however, here are some reasons why in my opinion the automobile-parking business is a better business for garage operators:

    1. Higher unit cost; each customer pays more. If you assume that marketing costs the same marketing to bicycle owners or automobile owners, then you might as well make $300 per sale instead of $20 per sale.

    2. Fewer alternatives. Alternate-side parking means that motor vehicle owners have to keep moving their cars unless they park off-street. Bicycles can be parked on street racks for weeks at a time. Bicycles can also be stored in apartments or self-storage units unlike cars and trucks.

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