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Bike-and-Ride: New bike cage opens at Beacon Hill Station

Image from Sound Transit
Image from Sound Transit

If you live or work within an easy bike ride of Beacon Hill Station, you no longer need to lock your beloved ride outside all day or night exposed to theft, vandalism and weather.

Sound Transit has opened a new secure bike cage at the station, and it costs $50/year to get a spot. That’s 20¢ per work day. And unlike expensive park-and-ride lots, bike cages can pack a ton of bikes into a relatively small space.

The catch is that you have to print out, complete and physically mail this application (PDF). I know! Who has a printer anymore? Or stamps?

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The most obvious use for the cage is for people who live on Beacon Hill to access the station easier and faster. More than half the neighborhood is within a 10-minute bike ride of the station:

Estimated bikeshed map from Walk Score.
Estimated bikeshed map created using Walk Score.

But the cage can also be useful for people around the region who work within an easy bike ride of Beacon Hill Station (like, say, the VA Hospital). Rather than bringing your bike on a crowded train, workers could leave their bikes overnight in the cage and hop on the train bike-free.

The cage opens as bike access to light rail skyrockets due to the opening of Capitol Hill and UW Stations. Secure bike parking is one way to limit the number of people bringing bikes on light rail trains. A couple people with bikes is not a big deal, but it doesn’t scale well. Sound Transit’s rules only allow four bikes per car, and bigger cargo and family bikes are not allowed (news that got some pushback from biking families).

There’s still a lot of work to do improving bike parking at light rail stations, but this is a promising improvement. UW Station is ripe for a more ambitious bike parking situation, though it would need a much larger cage than the one on Beacon Hill.

The biggest issue I see with the bike cage is the mail-in application, which makes it more difficult to access (especially if you don’t read English, common in such an international neighborhood). Creating an easy-to-use, obvious and secure way to help people access the cage is vital. Imagine if you could use your ORCA Card, for example (and imagine if ORCA Lift users got a discount). There are only so many people who are going to go through the trouble of mailing in an application.

Though I suppose that’s a bit of a catch-22: Make it convenient enough to use, and you’ll run out of bike spaces. But that would be a good problem to have.

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17 responses to “Bike-and-Ride: New bike cage opens at Beacon Hill Station”

  1. NickS

    Another catch seems to be that, since it’s a shared use cage, it’s only more secure than a bike rack if it keeps bike thieves out.

    It’s easy enough for someone to lurk nearby and nicely hold the door open as a cage user enters or exits, then enter. Or stuff something into the latch, while nicely holding the door open for an entering user, so that the door appears to lock, but doesn’t. I know from personal experience that it feels uncomfortable to tell people “Sorry, I can’t let you in” as they try to follow you inside a secured entrance, and many people simply will just let someone follow them inside.

    Because of the apparent security of the cage, cage users may also be less inclined to lock up properly, if at all, on individual racks.

    If you think this isn’t likely, I’ll just point you to the rash of break-ins in shared, cage style enclosures in apartment buildings. Maybe it’ll be less of an issue since this requires an annual membership, and is likely to have fewer casual users?

    The individual bike lockers at, for example, Rainier Beach station are more secure, but of course capacity is greatly reduced per square foot.

  2. Josh

    Good to see more awareness of bike capacity needs.

    Remind me, how many spaces are planned at the Rainier Avenue station when light rail runs on I-90? vs. how many thousands of commuters live within bicycling distance of the station?

    As for the security of bike cages, at some point we have to admit the Dutch, French, Germans, Danes, and Japanese all have a point when they choose to commute to transit using boring, inexpensive bikes.

    Is it really reasonable to expect secure individual parking for hundreds of bikes that cost as much as a decent used car? Especially for people who aren’t “cyclists,” just people riding a bike ten minutes to get to the train? When bikes are just tools for making short trips, there’s a lot to be said for a hi-ten three-speed.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      I know of people who have “light rail bikes,” basically beaters they didn’t spend much on that they feel OK locking all day. There are also people who fly a lot and have “airport bikes” they leave locked for days at a time. And honestly, that’s a solid option if people have space for another bike at home, but not really one I expect to catch on with the masses. Most people have one bike, and they don’t want to lose it.

    2. Clark in Vancouver

      A friend of mine got a new expensive bike last year and then gave away his old mountain bike. That was fine but now he realizes that he doesn’t trust the bike parking at certain places like Wreck Beach or nightclubs in shifty areas for parking his very nice looking new bike.
      He’s now looking for a beater to use for those destinations. Something that still rides well but that he won’t care about if it’s stolen.

  3. Tom Fucoloro

    NOTE: Due to a tech hiccup, any comments posted after 8 or so last night have been lost. I apologize. Feel free to repost them.

  4. Gary

    The cage at my office used to get broken into all the time. Thieves just cut the chain link fence, and opened the door. What seemed to deter them was just having someone nearby, ie the parking lot attendant. Here at Beacon Hill they need a food truck, or an espresso stand that has a view of the cage. And nothing like a cash reward for the phone call to 911 if someone starts to cut their way in.

    1. Patrick

      Once the new El Centro buildings are occupied there should be a fair number of eyes in the ground level retail spaces looking over at the cage. And it’s made of narrow steel bars, not chain link – I think you’d kill the battery on any hand held grinder before you got through enough to make a person sized hole.

  5. Southeasterner

    So the $50 per year fee will cover part of the $150 per year administrative burden ST put on themselves through an antiquated registration/payment process. Instead they could have used any number of easy on-line processes that would have cost them a couple dollars and used the rest of the money for actual bike cage maintenance or capital improvements.

    Nice job ST, and you wonder why many of us are reluctant to back another huge property tax levy that will put billions of dollars in your hands for you to use responsibly?

    1. William

      I think a streamlined registration process is part of the draft ST3 plan.

  6. RDPence

    I got a chuckle out of the bikeshed map illustration. Beacon Hill Station is at the top of a major hill. Riders in the eastern and western areas of that map won’t be riding uphill to BH Station — they will access the much closer stations, the ones with no hill impediments (Mount Baker and SODO stations). The bike cage is a great improvement, for riders already on top of Beacon Hill.

  7. Southeasterner

    Also the bigger question. Why is parking cars on expensive land in expensive parking structures free at ST park and ride facilities, and parking bikes in an fairly exposed cage that entails an application form cost $50 per year?

    Most of their revenue is coming from sales tax and property tax not vehicle tabs so I would love to see how much drivers who use the park and ride are subsidized compared to people who walk or bike to/from the stations.


    1. Chefjoe

      Does ST provide any park and rides near beacon hill, free or not ?

      1. Patrick

        No, only in the suburbs. The lot across the street used to be (private) paid parking and is now being developed into midrise housing. Nearby Mt. Baker station also has private paid parking adjacent.

  8. AW

    This topic sort of dances around what I feel is the fundamental impediment to more trips by bike – bike security. I know that there are many trips I’ve not taken by bike simply because I do not know if there is a safe place to leave my bike. I would even go on to say that the primary value of bike share would be that it is someone else’s bike that is in jeopardy and not mine. That said, it seems that a far more effective use of resources to promote biking would be to build lockers/cages/racks/whatever where if I left my bike that I would know it would be there when I got back. And just like paid car parking, I would be ok paying for this.

    1. Chefjoe

      You should start a non-profit and create a secure bike parking network with an annual subscription, by the day, or by-the-hour option. Don’t worry, if it doesn’t work out, SDOT will probably buy you out.

  9. EHS

    Yep – paid bike storage and free parking is absolutely absurd. And yes, secure, out of the rain storage majorly changes the bike+transit equation. And yes, the station next to the Burke should get the bike cage, not the one at the top of a steep hill. And lastly, pronto is a great solution to the bike theft problem – where’s the pronto next to university station?

  10. […] Transit already charges for secure bike parking, and bike parking costs a minuscule fraction of that $80,000 per car […]

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