IT’S UNANIMOUS! The West Side is Begging DOT for Bike Parking

A DOT bike corral, like this one, should not take years to build. Photo: NYC DOT
A DOT bike corral, like this one, should not take years to build. Photo: NYC DOT

It’s a failure to latch.

In a unanimous vote, 46 members of Community Board 4 demanded that the city create far more curbside parking spaces for bikes and for soon-to-be-legal e-scooters so that long-oppressed pedestrians are not squeezed further on already narrow sidewalks.

The demand last month was formalized in a letter sent on Monday to Council Speaker Corey Johnson and the Department of Transportation’s Manhattan Commissioner Ed Pincar that objected to a one-page Council bill that would allow electric bikes and scooters to be parked on sidewalks wider than 10 feet. Such a policy change would be “a wholly unacceptable outcome on our already constricted and over-subscribed sidewalks,” the board wrote in its letter.

The DOT is committed to building bike lanes (red zone), but not places to park bikes that are being used by commuters. Data: DOT
The DOT is committed to building bike lanes (red zone), but not places to park bikes that are being used by commuters. Data: DOT

But that was just a jumping-off point — this board wants action from the city in the form of dramatically expanded bike parking, whether public or private.

On this, the Department of Transportation is an objective failure. Last year, the city installed just four bike corrals — which are a series of parallel bike racks that can accommodate up to 10 bikes in a curbside space typically occupied by one car. The city has installed just 24 of the corrals since 2014 even as it has built scores of miles of protected bike lanes in hopes of encouraging more cycling (see chart).

The agency has not installed any corrals this year — and it doesn’t look like it will. The DOT website says the department will soon start accepting applications for 2021 corrals.

As all this is (or more accurately is not) going on, the agency’s pilot program to install privately operated bike parking stations collapsed earlier this year when the DOT decided it was “not feasible.” The city was working with a company called P3GM, but has ignored offers from Oonee, another bike parking company, to install secure parking pods without charge to taxpayers, using its advertiser-based model.

Community Board 4 offered its wholehearted support for that model.

“DOT should create prefabricated parking corrals and docking stations,” the letter said. “We are not opposed to the DOT seeking out advertising partners for these installations as a way to offset costs.”

Oonee President Shabazz Stuart said he was pleased by the board’s support.

“Communities crying out for real solutions in this space and, absent of city financing, are willing to accept tactful advertising as a practical financing solution,” said Stuart, who recently lambasted the city in a Streetsblog op-ed. “I hope the DOT and City Hall see this and clear the way for us to build more Oonee cycling stations across New York.”

In addition, CB4 took aim at the singular impediment to the installation of bike parking in this city: The DOT’s belief that “every corral needs a maintenance partner to keep the Bike Corral clear of snow and debris,” as the agency says on its website.

“This requirement has resulted in too few corrals to meet overall demand,” CB4 wrote. “This requirement must be removed, and the Department of Sanitation must step up to this new mandate to maintain corrals.”

The irony, of course, is that the DOT is at least on paper supporting the CB4 demands, calling bike corrals “a great solution for places where demand for bicycle parking exceeds the available sidewalk space” (which is always). And, of course, the city has been installing protected bike lanes much faster than previous administrations.

But the agency has worked at cross purposes, CB4 says: “The DOT has been rolling out a network of bike lanes for years without properly providing for parking.”

And the city readily admits — sometimes inadvertently — that existing sidewalks are simply too narrow (as we proved in a hilarious video here). That’s why the departments of Sanitation and Transportation say they want to create a pilot program to get trash bags off of sidewalks and into the street where they belong (that pilot program is stalled, alas).

The CB4 letter follows a similar effort by neighboring Community Board 6 on the East Side, which in May voted 44-0 in favor of secure bike parking on the east side of Manhattan.

Both boards are clearly following up on a frequent lament of cyclists. In 2016, Transportation Alternatives reported that secure bike parking remains a key demand of bike owners.

DOT did not get back to us before our deadline. We will update this story if we hear back. For his part, Corey Johnson’s office sent over a generic comment: “The Speaker has been very supportive of bike parking. We are in communication with the administration about ways we can expand.”

In the meantime, there’s one piece of good news: The bill to allow scooter and e-bike parking on sidewalks wider than 10 feet, introduced in June, seems to have little support in the 51-member council. The only names on it currently are its sponsors: Joe Borelli of Staten Island and Kalman Yeger of Brooklyn — two members who rarely get majority backing.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG