[Image Credit: Flickr]
I’ve spent time so far discussing general issues that affect anyone considering using a bike for transportation. Today I want to think about issues of infrastructure development that support cycle commuting specifically.
Why cycle commuting? Most Americans commute by car, and increasingly those car trips are by solo drivers. Anyone familiar with rush hour traffic knows all of that stop and go is bad for gas mileage. In other words, we have plenty of people spending time creeping through traffic on a daily basis burning hydrocarbons when they could be on a bike instead. Put more commuters on a bike, and I think you’ll have a greater number of healthy (and less-stressed) people breathing cleaner air.
What helps support cycle commuters? If your bike commute is short, your interests include parking. When I lived and worked in The Netherlands, my company had two large bike racks right out front with overhead cover. Think about these attributes: these commuter bicycles were not relegated to the back corner behind a dumpster where vandals and thieves can prey in privacy during work hours. Access from the rack and the front door was just as quick as for any car in the lot, and a rainstorm, a daily guarantee, would not mean a wet seat awaited you for the ride home.
Don’t underestimate the need for a place to park. A friend of mine gave up his daily 3-mile cycle commute because the management company of his Kendall Square firm wouldn’t let him park his bike inside. It didn’t matter that there was space in his office and his company was OK with it; the lease said no and the bike had to go. There wasn’t any nice bike rack out front either. If he wanted to bike in, he faced leaving a theft magnet locked to a parking meter.
Just one mile away, anyone visiting the Brigham and Women’s hospital in Boston’s Longwood medical center can park their bike for free at one of the many racks in the parking garage. Your bike is by the attendent collecting cash from car drivers exiting the garage and right next to the main door in to the facility. These racks are heavily used during the day: free parking, a protected space, easy access to the door. Many companies could provide the same at a minimum of cost. Convert a few spaces in a parking garage into bike racks. Put those racks in a decently trafficked area. The same happened when Boston Healthcare for the Homeless built a new facility at the Boston Medical Center. The parking structure was created with cyclists in mind. Bike in there, and you have a protected bike spot in a highly visible area. Many of the staff converted to cycle commuters so they wouldn’t have to park in overflow a half mile away.
Is crime a concern? Some companies have bike lockers where four people share the space, limiting the list of suspects if something goes awry. This is a feature people are even willing to pay for if the traffic density is high enough. I’ve heard of waiting lists to get into these kinds of setups.
My favorite idea along these lines is one I first saw pop up in Chicago: the McDonald’s Cycle Center, a secure bike parking center that provides indoor storage and a locker/shower facility for yourself. I’ve been inside: it’s clean and well-located. Bike in, change, and either walk to work in your nearby downtown office or hop the L and go. The center even offers an on-site bike mechanic — and any cycle commuter worth his or her salt knows where the bike shops are on the way into work and when they open. These types of places are perfect for existing high-density cities.
Do you think your city has enough density to support a facility like the McDonald’s Cycle Center? Has your employer ever considered converting car spaces to bike spaces in a garage? Have you asked?
Posted: June 10th, 2009 | Filed under: Uncategorized |