bike advocacy, bicycle tour, bicycle safety


Bicycle Parking Planning Criteria:
Bike Racks, Bicycle Lockers, 
Cycle Stands & Bike Storage Systems





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A growing number of cities, including the cities of Santa Cruz and Palo Alto, have bike parking ordinances that are ties to their car parking ordinances.

The city of Santa Cruz and the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (SCCRTC) has been fairly successful in getting bike racks and lockers installed in various places around the community. Something like 1000-3000 bike positions have been funded and installed (mainly from ISTEA and air pollution control funds). Seattle WA has installed 1600 bicycle racks intended for short-term parking in commercial areas. (SCCRTC a list of acceptable low-cost racks and installation guidelines.)

Various mechanisms can be used for determining where to put the racks. Almost all the ones that are sited with bicyclist input are in heavy use. It is more likely that those sited for political consideration will be under used. Selecting the location for bicycle parking should be based on data, but isn't over scientific. Some of the best determinants for sighting bike parking are:

  1. Visual observation. Look for where bikes are parked illegally due to lack of legal parking. The (car) parking patrol people can probably do this for you in a week.
  2. User input. Ask bicyclists (through clubs or advocacy groups) to create a list of most-needed spots for bike parking.
  3. Land use criteria. Target every coffee shop, bookstore, video arcade, teen/young adult clothing store.
  4. Public-private partnership. Have a grant program whereby businesses can request bike parking for customers and employees, paying for the installation themselves, but getting the racks paid for by the grant.
  5. Building code. Require all new development or change of business to install bike parking proportionate to car parking requirements.

After the general location has been selected there are additional decision as to the exact location, style of rack and number of parking places to provide.

More "scientific" criteria may be useful for determining exactly what kind of bicycle parking device to install and exactly where.

  • Visibility: Cyclists should easily spot short-term parking when they arrive from the street.  A highly visible location discourages theft and vandalism. Avoid locations "off on the side", "around the corner" or in un-supervised parking structures or garages.
  • Access:  The parking area should be convenient to building entrances and street access, but away from normal pedestrian and auto traffic (see below).   Avoid locations that require bicycles to travel over stairs.
  • Security: Surveillance is essential to reduce theft and vandalism.   For security, locate parking within view of passers-by, retail activity, or office windows. Better yet: officially assign building security, parking lot attendant or other personnel to watch for suspicious behavior. If a built-in lock is involved there are choices between keys, key cards, and key pads. If use supplied locks are expected to be used, does the hardware accommodate the commonly used styles?
  • Adaptability & Flexibility: What type of vehicles are users likely to have and will the hardware accommodate them: Regular mountain, hybrid and road bikes, small wheel bikes, recumbent bikes, ebikes, bikes with high child seats, kid trailers, third wheel attachments, etc.
  • Lighting: Bicycle parking areas should be well lit for theft protection, personal security and accident prevention.
  • Weather Protection: Whenever possible protect bicycle parking area from weather.  We recommend that you use an existing overhang or covered walkway. Alternatively, construct a canopy or roof -- either freestanding or attached to an existing building.
  • Avoid Conflict with Pedestrians: Locate racks so that parked bicycles don't block the pedestrian path.  Select a bike rack with no protruding bars that could trip or injure cyclists or pedestrians.  Very low bar-type racks can be a hazards to pedestrians -- not recommended.
  • Avoid Conflict with Automobile: Separate bicycle parking and auto parking and roads areas with space and a physical barrier. This prevents motor vehicles from damaging parked bicycles and keeps some thieves at a distance.  Most professional bike thieves use vans or similar vehicles to hide there activities and make a get-away with their booty concealed. The closer bicycle parking is to automobile parking, alleys, roads, etc., the better the opportunity for a bike thief.

The more short term the parking and the more secure the location the simpler the bike parking device. Security can be a matter of a guarded location, a high volume of pass-by traffic or control of access.

Short Term Parking. Short-term bicycle parking, can be as simple as a stationary object to which the cyclist can lock the frame and wheels. To lock both wheels usually requires a user-provided 6 foot cable (or chain) and lock or removing a wheel. One of the simplest bicycle parking devices for public places is a hitching post type rack (a couple of vertical post with a horizontal piece between them). A bike can be leaned against it and locked up.  The bicyclist must supply the lock.

Medium Term Parking. Medium term bike parking requires a stationary object in which the bicyclist can lock the frame and both wheels with a user-provided lock. These bike racks usually involve something that clamps around the bicycle and a cage that help protect the lock from being tampered with or physical assault. This class of bike rack may have difficulties fitting all variety of bicycles. Some of the common bike styles that loose out are recumbent, tandems and kids bikes.  People also complain that it is hard to use some of these racks without dinging or scratching your bicycle.

Long Term Parking. Bicycle parking facility intended for long term parking and protected against theft of the entire bicycle and its components and accessories. Three common ways of providing secure long term bicycle parking are: a) fully enclosed lockers accessible only by the user -- generally involving a charge; b) a continuously monitored facility that provides at least medium term type bicycle parking facilities -- generally available at no-charge; and c) restricted access facilities in which short term type bicycle racks are provided and access is restricted only to the owners of the bicycles stored therein.

Video of Rotterdam Central's massive bicycle parking garage.

Perhaps the easiest retrofit is bicycle locker. Generally they are as strong as the locks on the door.  They are designed to be secure individual bikes with panniers, computers, lights, etc, left on the bike. Some designs of bike lockers can be stacked so there is twice the parking density. Good protection from the weather is another benefit. Bike lockers tend to be used most for long term bicycle commuter parking in area without a lot of continuous oversight.  On the downside, if lockers have coin-operated locks, they can be a target of theft, and my attract various non-intended uses.

Bike parking facility in urban parking structures tend to be three groups: 1) Parking company parking garages (often stand-alone) which provide no bike parking -- these may be self-service or have a parking attendant collecting fees.  2) Parking in a company building (often subterranean) where bicycle racks, available to the public, are installed in some corner not very suitable for cars -- hopefully within eye-sight of the parking lot attendant.  The building owner provide bike parking for corporate goodwill.  And, 3) buildings with bicycle parking cages (in a car park garage) or bicycle parking rooms, without an attendant associated with them.  Access to these secure parking areas is via a gate or door controlled by an employee badge reader.  The employer/building owner is provide parking as a service to employees, and probably as part of a commute trip reduction program.  Generally, both of the latter bicycle parking arrangements are available at no cost and there are signs posted prominently that the building owners assume no liability for loss or theft.  These garages/parking facilities generally have limited hours of operation, after which they are shuttered (gates closed and locked) for the night and any left vehicles is inaccessible until the facility reopens.

Visibility to Bicyclists. When you have your bike parking publicize it. Paint the racks in bright colors so that pedestrians and bicyclists can see them easily. Use signs to direct cyclists to the parking. Paint a bicycle logo on the rack or on the ground. Publicize the availability and location of bicycle parking in marketing, advertising and informational pamphlets.



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The International Bicycle Fund is an independent, non-profit organization. Its primary purpose is to promote bicycle transportation. Most IBF projects and activities fall into one of  four categories: planning and engineering, safety education, economic development assistance and promoting international understanding. IBF's objective is to create a sustainable, people-friendly environment by creating opportunities of the highest practicable quality for bicycle transportation. IBF is funded by private donation. Contributions are always welcome and are U.S. tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.

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