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Opposite Ends of I-90: More (Bicycle) Parking Please

2013 July 12
by dan bertolet


“I got rid of my car because I was tired of parking,” the Southie resident said, “and now I have a new kind of problem.”

Maybe some day people in cities like Seattle and Boston will get as incensed about a lack of parking for bicycles as they do today about a shortage of parking for cars.  That “some day” would indicate major progress toward sustainable urbanism, but it’s still a long way off—no doubt the above front page story in the Boston Globe isn’t generating much sympathy from the average reader.

As a daily bike rider in Seattle for the better part of two decades, the lack of a convenient place to lock my bike has been an occasional minor annoyance, never a major issue. If enough people start riding bikes in Seattle that could change, but I would file that scenario under a good problem to have. A parking shortage problem is a lot easier to solve for bikes than for cars.

As demand for bike parking increases, one solution I would hope to see more of is on-street car parking spaces converted to bike parking, as the City of Seattle has done in a handful of locations.  As Sightline’s Alan Durning recently pointed out, it’s perversely unfair that space in the publicly owned right-of-way can only legally be used to store cars.

The Boston bike stats quoted in the Globe article are impressive:  from less than a mile to 65 miles of bike lanes in six years.  As more and more cities throughout the nation have begun to recognize how investments in bicycle infrastructure can promote economic development, even unlikely cities are getting in on the action, such as Lincoln, Nebraska, where a grade separated bike lane is in the works.

Meanwhile back in Seattle, the private developers are also starting to respond to increasing interest in bikes. As an indicator of future trends, the new Via6 apartments in Seattle have a bike shop at the street level, and biking is a big part of the lifestyle that’s being marketed to potential renters.

If cities hope to stay ahead of the urban biking wave, they’ll have to make ongoing investments in all components of bike infrastructure, including bike parking. And that, as is so often the case for proposed change that challenges the status quo, will come down to electeds having the political backbone to say no the naysayers.


This post is part of a (sporadic) series.