New York introduces legislation to force building owners and managers to let bicycles inside buildings

By: City Room Blog
New York Times
March 15, 2010

J. David Goodman reports on the challenges of the new legislation forcing building owners and managers to allow bikes into buildings in New York City, where bicycle use is growing but secure parking in short supply. The original story on the proposal follows while the link takes you to the latest news.

City Prepares for Law Allowing Bikes in Buildings - City Room Blog - NYTimes.com
In less than a month, office buildings in New York will begin to fill with bicycles. A new law requiring building managers to allow riders to take their bikes upstairs will go into effect on Dec. 11, and already, the city’s Department of Transportation is offering commuters some guidance on what to expect.

Meanwhile, in the time since the City Council passed the law in July, other cities have made progress on street-level parking concepts that New York may also want to consider.

In Washington, Mobis/Bikestation, a California company, opened a large bike center outside Union Station early last month. The $4 million parking station includes 150 indoor and 20 outdoor bike spots, a retail store and repair shop operated by Bike and Roll (which also rents bikes in Central Park), and key-card access for about 400 members.

Developed in partnership with the District of Columbia Department of Transportation, the station also serves as a demonstration of concept, according to Andrea White-Kjoss, president and chief executive of Mobis. “This facility is going to be something that policy makers can look and see and touch,” she said. “The District really wanted a symbol of what they’re doing for cycling.”

The design is striking, a swooping curve of glass and steel, but while the new station is intended to address the “top three” barriers to bike commuting — parking, convenience, expert advice/assistance — it does not include showers, arguably the greatest single necessity for the professional commuter after parking.

Running water was not feasible at the Union Station location, Ms. White-Kjoss said, adding that the company does have showers as part of a similar operation in Santa Barbara, Calif.

California will be the site of another of the company’s street-level concepts — modular parking units — beginning in late fall in Covina. The city will install a 250-square-foot module that can house up to 36 bikes.

Unlike a more substantial bike parking center, such modules are prefabricated and can be put into place more cheaply and more rapidly, two points in their favor for bike-friendly but budget-wary politicians. “While some of these programs can take a long time to implement, the Bikestation is a fast, cost-effective project that can benefit the people of Covina right away,” Daryl Parrish, the city manager, said in a statement.

Both types of bike parking are on the radar of New York bike advocates, who have been looking at potential locations for a large station, in Manhattan — around the World Trade Center transportation center — and in Downtown Brooklyn. “An iconic hub can set a certain tone” in favor of increased bike commuting, said Caroline Samponaro, director of bicycle advocacy at Transportation Alternatives, a group that promotes biking, walking and public transit. “I also think the modular approach is also a great solution.”

“Something like this that could reappropriate a few parking spaces to accommodate bikes would be great,” she added. “The key is that it’s secure.”

Lack of available secure parking is often cited as the top reason for not commuting to work by bike. But how well would modular parking work on the crowded streets of New York?

“Bikestation modules could certainly be installed in New York City,” Deborah Jones, a spokeswoman for the company, wrote in an e-mail message. “The design can be altered in width and length to fit a location.”

A fuller answer may be found in an ongoing effort by advocates to identify new locations — mostly around northwestern Brooklyn — that call out for the more modest city bike racks. The project, which invites riders to propose spots via a Web-based mapping application, is gathering ideas for new spots until Nov. 22. It is necessary because the Department of Transportation no longer accepts one-off requests for new bike racks but only “bulk orders,” according to the project’s mission statement.

But as a recent explanatory video on Streetsblog makes clear, finding suitable spots among the existing street furniture — signposts, hydrants, bus stops, etc. — is not always so easy.

And try finding a spot for a 10-by-25-foot module.

Of course, as Ms. Samponaro points out, lots of space already exists for parking — along the curb.

Which raises the question: Will parking be the next front in the struggle between drivers and riders? Or will allowing bikes into buildings nip the conflict in the bud before the spring rush?