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City’s Previously Announced Secure Bike Parking Pilot Will Not Happen

What do we want? Bike parking! When do we want it? Now! The Oonee pod at Atlantic Terminal. Photo: Yosef Kessler

A city effort to create secure bike parking at two locations has failed, the Department of Transportation admitted, a disappointing end to an idea that was introduced three years ago and never got off the ground.

DOT and the company P3GM were supposed to install valet bike parking facilities this April at University Place in Manhattan and Myrtle-Wyckoff Plaza on the Brooklyn/Queens border. But the project ran into financial trouble.

"One of the goals of the pilot was to examine the financial feasibility of operating a staffed bike parking facility that covered its expenses through retail sales, bike repair, and sponsorship," a DOT spokesperson told Streetsblog. "Unfortunately, we concluded it was not feasible."

CANCELED: DOT's preliminary design for the new bike parking structures. Image: DOT
CANCELED: DOT's preliminary design for the new bike parking structures. Image: DOT
CANCELED: DOT's preliminary design for the new bike parking structures. Image: DOT

The spokesperson said DOT would "continue to evaluate other ways to increase and improve bike parking throughout the city." (P3GM did not respond to a request for comment.)

So it is back to square one in a process that began with great fanfare in 2017 when the city site proposals for a secure bike parking pilot. At the time, the DOT promised that shipping containers used for bike storage were going to debut in University Place near Union Square, Broadway and 42nd Street and the Myrtle-Wyckoff pedestrian plaza.

The agency told Brooklyn Community Board 4 in 2018 that the pilot would start that year and last from April to November, open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day with other amenities such as bike maintenance that would cover the cost of running the staffed facility. Unlike the cheaper, unmanned bike lockers that commuters can find in places like Boston and Washington, DC, the DOT was asking whoever partnered with the agency to provide staff that would have to be paid for a full day's work, a demand that had to be balanced with the DOT requirement that prices for bike parking be kept "nominal and as low as possible" per the agency's RFP.

When the pilot didn't debut in 2018, the de Blasio administration's Green Wave plan last year referenced "plans to pilot secure, high capacity bike parking," but that promise also quietly erased the planned Times Square bike parking shipping container, cutting the locations only to Myrtle-Wyckoff and Union Square. This February's update on the Green Wave didn't mention bike parking at all — part of a pattern of failure, according to advocates.

"DOT talks about protected bike lanes so much but has this huge blind spot on the easiest part of encouraging bike riding in New York, and that's parking," said Bike New York Advocacy Director Jon Orcutt.

Orcutt also noted that the DOT has struggled to install unsecured bike parking as well. The amount of bike racks installed in the city fell from over 3,000 in Fiscal Year 2014 to just 1,642 in Fiscal Year 2019 (a fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30). In addition, bike parking installation has dropped under the de Blasio administration even as more miles of protected bike lanes have been installed, which Orcutt said spoke to a management failure at the DOT itself.

via Bike New York
via Bike New York
via Bike New York

Transportation Alternatives blamed Mayor de Blasio for the pilot's failure.

"We've known for years a lack of secure bike parking is one of the main barriers to riding a bike in New York City," said Joe Cutrufo, the organization's spokesman. "If this mayor can't follow through on Vision Zero, it's unfortunate, but not surprising, to see him dropping the ball on secure bike parking."

A 2016 Transportation Alternatives report on how to make the city more bike friendly noted that many respondents at TransAlt focus groups said they wanted to have a secure place to store their bikes, both of the staffed and unstaffed variety. And in May, Manhattan Community Board 6 voted 44-0 in favor of a resolution asking for secure bike parking on the east side of Manhattan.

In the meantime, cyclists who want a safe place to store a bike in public can only use a single location run by Oonee, which installed a locked, but unmanned, bike parking cube in Downtown Brooklyn in 2019. The company also had established a location at Water-Whitehall Street in lower Manhattan, but was forced to close after it could not come to an agreement with the DOT about what kind of advertising would be permitted on the outside.

"New Yorkers need a network of protected bike parking facilities if cycling is ever going to be a reliable mode of transportation, and so we are really sad to hear of the cancellation," said Oonee founder and CEO Shabazz Stuart. "We've gotten tremendous positive feedback on Oonee secure parking facilities in Downtown Brooklyn and the Financial District and we're eager to add many more locations, but we need city authorization to do so. We're hoping that call comes soon."

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