How Bike-Share Stations Stack Up Against Other Curb Consumers

Compared to other things eating up parking spaces -- new curb cuts, parking placards -- bike-share will be tiny. Data sources and methodology available ## this spreadsheet##

Bike-share, no doubt, is going to be a major addition to the streets of New York — in terms of both impact and visibility. Within the service area, there’s going to be a station every few blocks. And some of those stations are going to have a lot of bicycle docks: 59 in many locations, and a whopping 118 next to Grand Central. Thanks to the small footprint of bikes, however, overall this new form of transit will consume relatively little space while allowing people to make tens of thousands of trips per day.

Much of the discussion of bike-share’s size involves the number of parking spots the system will displace, and with the release of the draft service area map last week, it’s possible to estimate how much car parking will give way to bike-share stations. (“How Many Parking Spaces Will CitiBike Share Gobble Up?” went the Gothamist headline yesterday.) But some perspective is in order: Only a fraction of the proposed bike-share stations will remove parking spaces, and those are clustered in neighborhoods where community boards specifically requested that the docks stay off their already-crowded sidewalks.

Of the 420 stations scheduled to open this year, only 157 replace car parking — a little more than one in three. (To run the numbers we used Gothamist’s spreadsheet of Manhattan bike-share locations and added our own count of stations in Brooklyn and Queens slated to replace parking. You can download Streetsblog’s spreadsheet with that information and all the math in this post.) Most bike-share stations are slated for on-street locations that don’t take away parking, on sidewalks, in parks and public plazas, or on private property. That 118-dock station near Grand Central, for example, will be in a no-parking zone of Park Avenue.

More importantly, the bike-share system will provide far more total transportation capacity in that curbside space than automobile parking does. Bike-share will eliminate 623 on-street parking spaces, according to Streetsblog calculations (one parallel parking space takes up around 22 feet of curbside space; bike-share can fit four docks — or three docks and a payment kiosk — in ten feet). In those spots will be 5,320 new bike-share parking spaces: eight and a half times as many.

To put it differently, you could fit a 39-dock station in just five parking spaces. Bikes are simply a lot smaller than automobiles, and the space it takes to store one car can hold a lot more bikes.

The rate of turnover gives bike-share another big advantage over car parking.

The cost structure of bike-share ensures a regular stream of bikes in and out of every station. In Washington D.C.’s bike-share system, the average bike is ridden 3.5 times a day. New York City’s larger and denser system is expected to be more heavily used. Parked cars, in contrast, can sit for days at a time in New York’s millions of unmetered spaces.

Now, for that set of New Yorkers who currently drive, would never try out bike-share, and don’t care that their neighbors have a new way of getting around, it’s true that bike-share will take away a few parking spaces. But these same New Yorkers are losing far more curbside space to other factors compared to bike-share.

In 2011 alone, there were 3,231 new curb cuts built in New York City, according to the Department of Buildings. Each of those curb cuts eliminates a curbside parking space. In many cases, this is nothing more than homeowner privatization of public parking: a curb-cut leading to a one-car driveway removes one space from the public parking supply and gives it to a private landowner. Over the last five years, 23,760 new curb cuts have been built. Compared to that torrent of curbside parking loss, bike-share is a drop in the bucket.

Alternatively, compare the amount of parking spaces re-purposed for bike-share to the number eaten up by placard holders. Right now, there are 78,000 official parking placards in circulation. At any given time, a sizable share of those are being used improperly, while some large but unknowable number of bogus placards are also being displayed on dashboards. In a one-day survey of just five small neighborhoods, Transportation Alternatives found more parking spaces filled by cars illegally using placards, 820, than would be displaced by bike-share citywide.

Bike-share is a big deal and New Yorkers are certainly going to notice its arrival. But it’s hardly going to be a dramatic change in the amount of available parking, and where it does subtract space for car parking, it adds eight times as many spaces for bike parking.

  • HamTech87

    Great piece!  Is the curb cut allocation for the whole city or just for the area of BikeShare?  

  • Thank you Streetsblog for this smart, in-context reporting that I won’t find anywhere else!  Time for another contribution to your $30K fundraising drive…..

  • fj

    One question:  Is there a special place for bikeshare heaven?

  • Car Free Nation

    Wow! This is an excellent explanation for why people should get rid of their cars. If you own a car you’re part of the space problem. Parking is always an issue, and you fear density because of it. Once you are car free, there’s a big perception switch.

    I had no idea about the curb-cuts, although I suspect they are in the type of low-density neighborhoods that are not getting bike share. 

  • Anxiously Awaiting Bike Share

    RE: Car free Nation- It might actually be a good anti-car strategy to buy up a lot of junky cars and park them in various free spaces around the city. This would make parking for drivers harder and show how nonsensical it is to have free spaces.

  • Car Free Nation

    The problem is the alternate side parking rules, although for the longest time, one of my neighbors parked a non-working car on the street. He’d push it from side to side twice a week. It drove the car-owners crazy.

  • NM

    Another homerun, Streetsblog.  Just one more example of the many reasons (especially lately – great bike share responses!) I keep giving you my money and requesting donations in lieu of gifts.  Off to go hit that ‘donate’ button again . . . 

    And just so my gratitude doesn’t backfire, I have to include the truth that my strongest connections to Streetsblog are that I comment sometimes and saw one of the writers speak once.  

  • Eric McClure

    Great report, Noah.

    Does anyone else think it’s a bit insane that New York City has added 23,760 curb cuts in the past five years?  The Department of Buildings, in its infinite wisdom, granted a third to our typical Park Slope block a year ago, so a local landlord who lives in Bay Ridge wouldn’t have to find on-street parking (never mind that the cost of the garage conversion, plus foregone rent for the space that the adjacent business wanted to lease, would have paid for garage parking two blocks away for the next several decades).

    And let’s not even get started on the placards.

  • Jeff

    @73a27bc20bf5ce1dee9a6e325a0eecec:disqus  – Slightly off the topic of the article, but along the lines of what you’re saying:  I’ve always had an idea for a somewhat modified version of critical mass.   Those of us who typically cycle/walk/take transit to work?  We rent cars.  We clog the streets with more cars.  Auto traffic would be brought to a halt, and there’s no way they could point fingers at us for doing the same damn thing they are.  You think motorists will still call for the disinvestment and marginalization of alternative modes of transportation once they experience, first hand, their autotopian vision of everyone driving to work, school, the grocery store, etc.?

  • Larry Littlefield

    “The Department of Buildings, in its infinite wisdom, granted a third to our typical Park Slope block a year ago, so a local landlord who lives in Bay Ridge wouldn’t have to find on-street parking.”

    What location and what zoning district?  That sounds like a zoning violation.

  • @deca319b1a712ebda4380fb220205273:disqus It’s for the whole city.

  • KillMoto

    @7e1970922cf83fe54c9f1a64d1af39c9:disqus  Brilliant.  Positively brilliant!In a place like NYC, a little creativity, advanced planning and coordination via cell phone can create a “commuter clot” on all the bridges simultaneously…

  • Car Free Nation

    @7e1970922cf83fe54c9f1a64d1af39c9:disqus I’d think you could do it as part of Occupy Wall Street. The only thing they really do is arrest people for blocking traffic. Can’t really arrest cars. I see it as the largest Occupy Automobile Rally. Have it all downtown; you’d need only about 200 cars to bring the city to a halt.

    Any questions, the driver says he’s looking for a parking space.

  • Anonymous

    “Why do I as a driver have to suffer? Why do I have to lose 20 PARKING
    SPOTS for 4 STATIONS within a 2 block radius. Why cant these be on the
    sidewalk and not take away precious parking spots. Is my 68 year old Dad
    who does construction sup…posed
    to take his tools on a bike? Is my 59 year old mother who is a teacher
    suppoed to take all her books and paperwork on a bike? I hope people steal and vandalize these bikes.”
    – Angie Louise

  • KillMoto

    Won’t Angie be embarrassed when it becomes easier to find parking, not harder.  Because bike share bikes are used by 3-5 people a day, some subset of bike share users will find that this – along with walking, busses, trains, Zip Car and cabs – means they can divest of their car.  

  • Ian Turner

    KillMoto: Doubtful that it will become materially easier to find parking. The difficulty of parking is one of the strongest incentives not to own or use a car in New York, so to the extent that some people give up their cars for bike share, others will pick up the slack to fill the newly-created space.


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