Friday, January 23

Parking my bicycle (or trying to)

I stopped by Bodos Bagels on Preston Street for lunch yesterday and had a hard time finding a place to lock my bike. Almost no commercial establishments in Charlottesville have bike racks, but usually I can find a fence or post to wrap my chain around. In this case, it was a struggle. Poking around the dumpster area, I found a pleasant employee who guided me to this old drive-through sign that I could use as a bike rack. I suppose it worked, but I just hoped a second bicyclist didn't show up.

In line for my (delicious) bagel sandwich, I mentioned to the employee that they ought to consider putting in a bike rack out front. There is a dirt patch protruding from the parking lot that would be perfect. He must have confused my I'm-being-polite smile for an I'm-joking-with-you smile, because his answer was, "that would be hilarious." Not exactly what I was going for.

At home, I probed through the city ordinances to see what it had to say about provisions for bicycle parking. Annotations are mine:

"Sec. 34-881. Bicycle storage facilities.

Adequate bicycle storage facilities may be required for sororities, fraternities, dormitories, boarding houses and similar uses, multi-family dwelling structures with five (5) or more units, and all nonresidential uses utilized by the public, where such facilities are deemed by the director of neighborhood development services or the planning commission to be in the public interest [not commercial, office, industrial]. No such facilities may be required in excess of the following standards [maximums no minimums]:

(1) Sororities, fraternities, dormitories, etc.: One (1) bicycle space per five hundred (500) square feet of bedroom area.
(2) Multifamily dwellings: One (1) bicycle space for every two (2) dwelling units.
(3) Nonresidential uses: One (1) bicycle space for every one thousand (1,000) square feet of public space."

The language is vague, left up to subjectivity, and not very comprehensive. The Planning Commission doesn't even see any by-right developments, except under special circumstances. Off-street automobile parking is given pages and pages of explicit attention with absolute requirements, but this is it for bicycle parking.

I contrasted this with the ordinances from my previous community of Missoula, Montana. Bicycle parking there "shall be provided" for a variety of development types with very specific proportions, definitions, and quantities laid out in the code itself. Come to think of it, I never really had a problem finding somewhere to put my bike in Missoula.

The Victoria Transport Policy Institute provides a sample bicycle parking ordinance, culled from Best Practices around North America. It offers specific minimum requirements for everything from hotels to churches (1 spot for every 50 members), along with several design guidelines to ensure the the parking will actually be useful.

One of the points:

"Bicycle racks and lockers must be well anchored to the ground to avoid vandalism and theft."

That reminds me. Right after lunch, I rode over to the Albemarle County building. They did happen to have a bike rack tucked away to the side, but it was just sitting untethered on a patch of grass. By myself, I could pick the whole thing up with a bike and carry it away if I wanted to. And I'm really not that strong. I decided to stick with my usual strategy of locking my bike to the fence.


Jeff said...

I'm with you on that! I tried to park my bike at Best Buy once and just gave up. There definitely needs to be more bike parking options around town.

Eric Orozco said...

Those Victoria bike planners man...

I know about Victoria purely by catching the wonderful results of bike planning by periodically viewing Luton's photostream on Flickr:

(The existence of people like Luton today is an excellent reason why the planning profession will matter more in our century).

KGS Bikes - Kevin Saunders said...

I raced full-time in the 80's and didn't have a car, while living in Dallas. I can't tell you how many times I had building managers and security guards call the cops on me because I insisted on bringing my bike inside since there was no parking facility outside. This will be a blog topic soon on

Thanks so much for the post.

UrbanCycleJockey said...

Missoula is a truely great place for bicyclists. It seems that every effort is made to accomidate multiple modes of transportation. One of the big reasons behind this is all the students @ the UM that are active @ pushing such policies. ASUM Transportation has really been integral to promoting bikes as a viable transportation option.

NeilSWilliamson said...

So the solution is mandating bike racks?

I would suggest that the management of a restaurant such as Bodo's would have a competitive advantage with the bicycling community if they CHOSE to put in such racks. Then as the restaurant increased volume based on bike traffic, others may follow suit.

Market based solutions out perform regulation.