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SDOT bike parking program on hold, could be cut

Ballard's bike parking shortage is so severe, some have gone to drastic measures to find a spot. Photo from @amrook via Twitter

In the face of budget cuts, SDOT has put the city’s bike parking program on hold and has offered it up to city leaders as a potential budget cut.

From Sam Woods at SDOT:

SDOT was required to offer cuts in our budget to make up for a significant shortfall in the city’s General Fund and transportation revenues. One of the cuts offered is to the Bike Spot program, which funds bike racks. This includes both bike racks for sidewalks and on-street bike corrals.

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We don’t know yet whether the cut will be accepted at the citywide level, but until we have certainty, we are not proceeding with any further bicycle rack work. We understand that this may be disappointing, but it was one of many painful cuts SDOT was forced to offer.

Meanwhile, Commute Seattle released a study last week showing the sorry state of bike parking in the city center. Despite the fact that thousands of people commute downtown daily — a number that has grown 15 percent since 2007 — less than half of privately-owned buildings in the central business district provide bike racks. On top of that, less than half of those that do have bike parking make it available to the public (i.e. not in a secured area for use by tenants).

From the report:

  • Only 9 percent of office buildings provide shower facilities
  • Only 7 percent of office building provide day-use lockers
  • Only 3 percent of office buildings provide bike pumps
  • Less than half (44%) of bike parking is available to all bike commuters, the rest is restricted to building tenants only
  • 5 percent of bike parking has no protection from weather reducing its effectiveness as year-round use
  • Nearly 6 percent of bicycle racks are incorrectly sited or installed in ways that reduce the number of
    parking spaces available
  • Nearly 4 percent of bike parking has an inadequate level of security for commuter parking

The study not only looked at the CBD, but also neighboring downtown areas. Of those, “Capitol Hill” has by far the worst bike parking in the city center (note that the report only defines “Capitol Hill” as the part south of Denny Mercer and West of Broadway).

That's one way to make DIY bike parking, I guess. Saw this on Pine (perhaps near Melrose? I forget exactly)

The reports states that only 4 percent of commercial buildings in Capitol Hill have bike parking at all, and of that existing bike parking, only 20 percent of it got a “high” security rating. That means there are only 22 safe, quality privately-provided bike parking spaces (not racks, spaces) in the whole neighborhood according to this study.

Elly Blue recently wrote a column for Grist making the economic case for bike parking (and on-street bike parking, in particular). A study out of Melbourne found that bike parking generates more revenue in a commercial area than car parking. Business and commercial property owners should observe the constant popularity of the on-street biking corral in front of Cafe Presse and Stumptown Coffee on 12th Ave. An on-street corral is an easy way to increase a storefront’s economic viability.

Given the rising number of people riding bikes and the economic benefits associated with bicycle ridership and bike parking, it does not make much economic sense to cut the bike parking program. I asked SDOT if it is possible for property owners to subsidize the installation of city bike racks on city property near their buildings.

“If a private entity would like to fund and install a bike rack on city property, there are permitting costs associated with this work,” said Woods. Perhaps, in the face of budget cuts, the city could make it easier for property owners that want on-street bike parking corrals or bike parking on sidewalks near their buildings to subsidize the projects. But there are far too many commercial areas downtown and around the city that are sorely lacking secure bike parking options to cut the program entirely.

Here’s the full Commute Seattle bicycle amenity report:

EETP Commute Seattle Final Report FINAL

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13 responses to “SDOT bike parking program on hold, could be cut”

  1. Zachary Howard

    Hi Tom, and thanks for linking to and discussing Commute Seattle’s Inventory report!

    Just want to clarify – the Capitol Hill neighborhood boundaries in the study area go as far north as Mercer, not just to Denny as your post indicates.

    Thanks again,


    1. Tom Fucoloro

      Thanks for catching that. Corrected the story.

  2. Kevin

    With a little re-design the city could make many more regular objects in the city u-lock friendly => instant bike rack. Mostly what comes to mind is not replacing the current trashcan design with those solar compactors (nothing to lock to on them), and making the red tourist directional indicators and street sign poles slimmers so a standard back pocket u-lock (Bulldog & Kryptonite mini) can fit around them.

  3. Love the bike parking in Ballard image Tom. This is really short-sighted to cut $500 U-rings out of our transportation budget. Trade a tunnel for bike parking anyone?

  4. Nick N

    Why not just approach the various business districts/neighborhood associations about the desire for bike parking facilities? Since many of the businesses in the neighborhood business districts contribute some amount of money to a general fund for local projects, it would seem that funding could be found in that regard for racks. These associations just need to know there is a strong demand for such an amenity.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      That’s a good suggestion, Nick. I think it is our job to demonstrate how beneficial it is to have safe, available bike parking near businesses. How do we best do that? Attend public meetings? Write your local neighborhood associations and/or chambers of commerce?

      1. Nick

        Yes. Write letters attend meetings. But bring your data. It saves you frustration. That may mean hanging out for a couple days for a time period counting riders in a particular area. Canvas local bike shops about the number of customers they see in a typical week. The idea, as a citizen led effort, is to prevent the information to those that can help effect the change and tell the story around it. If you’ve done your homework they’ll be more apt to consider it.

  5. daisy

    It’s not so bad to suspend the City’s bike parking program and have private intrests pick up the slack until there is room in future budgeting.

    Safe complete streets – mission priority
    City funded bike racks – not so mission priority

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      I agree safe streets is more important. But if the city can come up with a way to make that private funding easier or more streamlined, that could go a long way. It is our job to let property owners know bike parking is important and economically wise, though. Unless they want bike racks, a system of privately-funded racks won’t work (and city funds will be needed).

      1. daisy

        Oh yeah streamline the process for the permitting and make the current staple inventory available for the approved permits at cost.

        Could be a neat little business venture. Installing staples by bicycle for bicycles. A business helping a business all for the good of the community and the City.

  6. Leif

    The big expense for this program must be the labor to install the bike racks. I rode past the SDOT facility on airport way recently and they appear to have huge stockpiles of unused bike racks just waiting to be installed (or maybe I was mistaken?)

  7. […] their bikes, Lake City’s Kaffeeklatsch coffee shop asked the city for a bike rack. However, as we reported one year ago, the city’s bike parking program was put on hold due to budget […]

  8. […] 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 […]

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