Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Parking - It's All About Location

One benefit of cycling is that you can park almost anywhere. You don't have to pay for it, you don't have to circle the block waiting for a spot to open, and you don't have to waste valuable time wandering around in some creepy parking garage.

Unfortunately, many businesses are unaware that their customers and employees may be arriving by bicycle and expecting to find convenient parking close to the front door. Some places can't even tell you where the closest parking is located. In other cases, they direct you to a poorly-designed rack (see yesterday) buried inside a parking garage at least a block away. This defeats the purpose.

It can also discourage ridership overall. I know one woman whose commute, in the city of Decatur, is less than a mile. She is very interested in bicycle commuting, and makes other trips by bike. However, the closest designated bicycle parking is over two blocks away from her office, but she has a free parking space in a garage directly under her office building. She has a hard time justifying the change - the bicycle trip itself wouldn't add any noticeable time to her commute, but it is almost twice as long with the time spent walking back from the bike rack. Shouldn't it be the other way around?

Georgia State University is notorious for this. When I went there for an admission interview, some years ago now, I was nearly late because I couldn't find the bike parking. [Side note - the only place I've ever seen signs directing you to bike parking in Atlanta is at Lindbergh Station.] Of course, GSU's parking was in this garage under the library. At that time, there were about 6 racks for the entire main campus, and two others near the Aderhold/Rialto area. I have to say that a couple of champions there have managed to get quite a bit more parking installed, but there is still room for improvement.

In Little Five Points, cyclists favor this railing in the center of Findley Plaza to the bike racks a block away in either direction.

A parking rack in front of Java Monkey, also in Decatur, is filled to overflowing.

Another shot from my trip to Buckhead. This development was on a bike lane and housed several desirable restaurants, including a Flying Biscuit location. There was a large plaza that clearly tried to evoke some walkable European heritage. An enormous driveway, valet service, a lofty arcade, benches and statues. But no apparent bicycle racks. After several inquiries, we wound up at a bad rack in the garage. (Look closely in the second picture. I swear it's back there!) You couldn't even ride to it - you had to dodge the entry gate cross into the exit lane (against traffic flow), and hoist your bike up a steep curb. There is no pedestrian entry, so you can't walk your bike in from the plaza. Really, would it kill them to put some racks somewhere out in the vast plaza area? Are parked cars somehow more scenic than a row of bicycles?
I'll wrap up with a good example from Trees Atlanta. I disagree with some of their other practices, but they got the parking right at their headquarters. This rack neatly handled a passel of fully-equipped bikes, and there were several more racks a few feet away. And, equally importantly, they were installed far enough from the wall, allowing the bicycle frames to be centered on the rack without turning the front wheel.

1 comment:

  1. That's ridiculous that GSU had just 8 bike racks at one time! Shouldn't universities of all places do everything they can to encourage biking and other forms of alternative transportation? I wish every university would become more like Emory in that respect - at least they've been encouraging use of bikes and the local Cliff shuttles for a while now.

    Other than the Tech Square area, I don't think GA Tech makes it very easy to bike. I wish they had more cut-through areas to get from one place to another rather than using Ferst Drive. I've tried to figure out a way to get over to Hemphill @ 10th without using Ferst or actually getting on 10th but I don't think I can. Even though there's a narrow bike lane on Ferst, I don't like how heavily trafficked it is, all the red lights/4-way stops, and that it's pretty hilly. I wonder if most students bike to Tech Square, lock their bikes there, and then take the shuttle.