What Do You Do When You Get There?

Car parking in LA; Bike Parking in PortlandCar parking in downtown LA/Bike corral in Portland
Today I want to address another of the comments I had on the 7th St. “road diet” plan that we discussed at the BPIT meeting last week, and that’s the issue of parking for all those bikes the plan hopes to attract to the reconfigured boulevard.

I’ve got to think that putting in bike lanes won’t have much meaning if we treat them the way we’ve treated car lanes for too long: as sluices to get drivers or riders through an area as fast as possible.

When you apply this treatment to cars, you create murderous speeding, pollution, congestion (when too many people try to drive too fast on too little road), a recipe for sprawl, the encouraging of long commutes that kill employee productivity and family life, and public spaces that exclude all but drivers–who can’t join in public life from their confinement anyway.

Freeways should be smaller and fewer, subways should be carrying the through riders, and streets should be for local motor traffic and bike travel of all sorts.

Bikes take up so little room that it’s easy to accommodate fast and slow cyclists together. And of course bikes can fit on transit (where transit is designed with some forethought) and expand the capacity of bus and train systems by taking over the “last mile” of passenger travel.

Bikes can also support a local economy like nothing else. I wrote a brief about this on Bicycle Fixation (“Bucking the Cycle“), and a more rigorous version of the article appeared in this month’s issue of Cycling Mobility (mostly for policymakers, and expensive at $129/year).

Cycling infrastructure is cheap, compared to car lanes and parking. Cycling itself is cheap–dumping one of your cars will save you $8,000/year–$7,000 of which would have been sucked out of the local economy–and practical cyclists have a lot of extra money to spend at local stores, restaurants, coffeehouses, what have you.

But…if you can’t park your bike, you can’t spend your money, can you? LA ain’t Mayberry, right? We need secure bike parking.

Without that, people won’t bicycle for errands, chores, and shopping, all of which require you to get off the bike at some point.

And if they don’t ride, the droolers will hold up photos of empty bike lanes and complain that “No one’s using them! Give us back our roads!”

So let’s be smart, City of Los Angeles, and phase in comprehensive bicycle parking along with bike lanes–make that alongside bike lanes. So we can use those bike lanes for something other than scooting through a neighborhood as quickly as possible to–where? Someplace else without bike parking?

Sidewalk racks and bike corrals won’t slow down through-riders, but will make neighborhoods accessible to everyone else.

My suggestion? Let’s make it a rule that every commercial block must have at least one bike rack per hundred feet of frontage. It can be more, but it can’t be less. (This would still be a tiny fraction of the free or subsidized on-street parking the city gives to motorists.)

Any block shorter than 100′–if there is one–would still get one rack.

That would be a good start.

Oh, yeah, and we should follow the Pigeon Master’s suggestions for removing the car parking minimum and increasing the percentage of car spaces developers can switch out for bike parking in their projects. Read Josef’s article in the Los Angeles Business Journal to see what that’s about.

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