Seattle’s new bike corrals are more versatile, easier to use and cost 1/3 as much

Photo by @FamilyRide

Photo by @FamilyRide

Here’s a rare story of government transportation efficiency: Seattle’s Department of Transportation has started installing on-street bike corrals that are easier to use, more versatile and expandable, and cost just a third as much as the ones they had been using.

The bike corrals are designed for use in high-density areas where the demand for places to securely lock a bike outpaces the space available on sidewalks.

A great example is the new corral on the Ave in the University District. Lots of people bike in the University District, and every inch of the space is heavily used by people walking, biking, driving and waiting for the bus and doing just about anything you can imagine. Bikes tended to be locked to just about anything.

And you don’t have to take my word for it. University Greenways documented the issue in a November 2011 report:

Presently, University Way does not offer an adequate supply of safe, convenient, and reliable bicycle parking. Unfortunately, this shortage is especially pronounced in the stretch of University Way that could be most easily accessible to potential customers on bicycle from the University of Washington, centered around 42nd St. and University Way. Customers on bicycle are currently reduced to locking their bicycles to signs, parking meters, and even garbage cans.

An audit of the 41st-42nd block of University Way revealed unmet demand for bicycle parking. Every bicycle rack was at its capacity, yet the majority of bicycles were observed to be locked to objects other than bike parking racks.

IMG_2196This situation is not unique to the U District. There are plenty of business districts where customers and employees are left locking to trees, fences and other structures, sometimes in annoying places and sometimes in places that are less secure than a proper bike rack.

A fascinating fact about bike corrals noted in the University Greenways report: A single bike corral occupies the space of about two cars and doubles the parking capacity of the entire block face. You can see why that might be appealing to business owners.

But the benefits of bike corrals extend far beyond just adding space for parking bikes. They also make it easier for passersby to see the storefront behind it from the street. This is obviously a good thing for retail shops and restaurants.

And yes, they can even make a street safer by reducing collisions caused by poor visibility when cars are parked too close to a street corner.

Making Streets Safer With On-Street Bike Parking from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

4688592775_3bed6f8ea8_bThe old style of on-street bike corrals were heavy, arty metal designs. They are cool-looking and very secure, but they have some downsides. They can only be accessed from the sidewalk, making them a bit more difficult to use. This is the style installed near Bike Works, and Stumptown on 12th among other locations. The cost per bike for those racks was $257. That’s a steal considering how insanely expensive a single car parking space can be.

The new style, which is included in the pending Bike Master Plan, can be accessed from either side and is modular in design. Bike parking can be more easily designed to match the different needs of different streets, and it can be expanded as demand increases.

The price per bike parking space in the new style: $87.

Bike parking work picks up in winter months when weather prohibits a lot of road work. The city recently installed a handful of the new-style bike corrals in the Central District, Capitol Hill, South Lake Union, and Wallingford. This brings the city’s total number of on-street bike corrals in the city to 15.

The city installed 400 bike parking spaces around the city in 2013, and they plan to increase that number to more than 500 in 2014. Here’s the list of existing on-street bike corrals:

·               Alder Flats
220 10th Avenue
·               Essential Baking
1604 N 34th Street
·               Kaffeeklatsch
12513 Lake City Way NE
·               Kaladi Coffee
517 E Pike St
·               Maritime Pacific
1111 NW Ballard Way
·               Melrose Market
1501 Melrose Ave
·               Montana Bar
1506 E Olive Way
·               NW Film Forum
1515 12th Ave
·               Peddler Brewing
1514 NW Leary Way
·               R&E Cycles
5627 University Way NE
·               Recovery Café
2022 Boren Ave
·               Starbucks
4147 University Way NE
·               Stumptown Coffee
1115 12th Ave
·               Von Trapps
912 12th Ave
·               Wallingford
4516 Meridian Ave N

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13 Responses to Seattle’s new bike corrals are more versatile, easier to use and cost 1/3 as much

  1. Jane says:

    I like the look of these a lot more than the existing “fenced off” style corrals. Those are weird to navigate with a pannier setup. Lower queen anne could use a couple.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      Do you have some specific street corners or areas in mind? I have a feeling SDOT folks might be looking for ideas for good corral locations, so now is a great time to suggest them!

      • Jane says:

        Roy and Queen Anne is the first spot that comes to mind, maybe in front of café ladro. It’s a busy intersection but centrally located. Or a block west at roy and 1st ave w. There are a number of staple racks around but Friday night / weekend parking sees bikes locked to trees, street signs, and anything else remotely secured to pavement.

  2. These are also easier to fit non-standard bikes into, and symbolically it feels like progress to have gone from thinking of each corral as something special to treat like a sculpture and spend lots of money on to seeing them as a thing worth mass-producing so we can get more of them, sooner.

  3. Peri Hartman says:

    The one on the Ave looks pretty good!

    One of the problems I typically encounter with side-by-side racks is that there isn’t enough space between “fins”. So, when a bike is adjacent to where I’m sliding in, I first have to remove panniers, then have to slither my arms down and around to get my U lock and cable through. It’s a pain. There needs to be enough space to stand next to the bike while you are locking or unlocking. Hopefully these have a wide enough allowance.

  4. Kyle says:

    If you have ideas for potential bike corral (or rack) locations, please send an email to walkandbike@seattle.gov. We would love to work with you to get more bike parking in your neighborhood.

  5. KC Lewis says:

    I would love to see SDOT include big ol’ planters on either side of the racks so we could make it green-looking and add a sense of enclosure/security from errant drivers. I bet it would be fairly easy to find local business owners/residents to maintain the potted plants!

  6. Don Brubeck says:

    The staple design is much better — works for cargo bikes as well as regular bikes. All over Portland. We’ve got full support of businesses for specific locations in West Seattle. Now all we need is for SDOT to keep one person in charge of this for more than three months! We’re on our third projcct manager, re-introducing them each time to the business owners, the street conditions, etc.

  7. Eli says:

    And in an excess of caution, I should note that the “doubling effective parking of the blockface” assertion was really intended to refer locally to that portion of the Ave where we already have limited car parking due to bulb-outs and so forth.

  8. AiliL says:

    West Seattle Bike Connections is actively working with SDOT to get a bike corral installed in the Alaska Junction area. The process has been very slow (which SDOT has acknowledged). It would behoove SDOT to get the process streamlined so requested/needed corrals can be installed more quickly. WSBC has hopes that a corral can be installed in the late winter/early spring as long as everything keeps moving forward!

    • Jane says:

      I’m very much in support of a corral in the junction but I can only imagine what kind of a fit the readership of the west seattle blog would have regarding it. :)

  9. CD2UW says:

    I really like the idea of using bike parking to increase visibility. Relative to Minneapolis, where I grew up, Seattle allows A TON of obstruction of sightlines for turning be it from parking, overgrown shrubbery or structures. As a cyclist and driver this frequently freaks me out. Bike parking is perfect way to buy some space that is easy to see over!

  10. Jane says:

    I noticed a number of these on the already-open portion of the newly redone Bell street, the amount and availability down there are really nice.

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