Thousands of bikes spread throughout the city available on-demand for $1, what could be wrong with that?
The private, free-floating bike share companies serving Seattle are already changing how people get around the city by providing a new fast, healthy, low-cost and very environmentally-friendly mobility option. Combined with an expansion of safe and comfortable bike routes, bike share is poised to be part of a significant transportation shift in Seattle (if city and regional leaders choose to follow through with the bike route plans, of course).
But there is one downside to the stationless bikes: They sometimes block walkways, bus stops and accessibility. Only a very small percentage of the thousands of bikes cause issues, but they can be especially problematic for people with vision impairments and people who use mobility devices or otherwise can’t easily navigate around a blocked curb ramp or bike toppled across the sidewalk.
Sometimes the problem is that a vandal has pushed a bike over, and that’s a hard issue to remedy. The same thing happens to trash cans, newspaper boxes, signs, construction fences and any other movable thing in public space. Sometimes the problem is inadequate kickstand design or maintenance on the bikes (they should be able to handle a strong gust of wind without toppling). But sometimes, the problem is due to a bike being parked in the wrong spot either due to ignorance of the rules or by accident or because the user doesn’t care.
To help remedy this issue, SDOT is trialing a handful of low-cost, painted bike parking boxes in five Ballard locations. Users are not required to use the boxes, but they are there to help guide use to be more orderly and maybe even teach people visually about how they should park the bikes. Details from SDOT:
- North side of Market just west of Ballard Ave (in front of Shakti Yoga).
- NE corner of Leary and Market (Ballard Beer Company).
- SE corner of Leary and Market (AT&T store).
- SW corner of Tallman and Market (All the Best Pet Care).
- North side of Market just W of Russel (Kangaroo and Kiwi).
For each of these five spots, we identified areas that:
- Have space for a 6’x10’ parking area, leaving a full 6’ clear continuous pedestrian path.
- Were 3’ back from the curb if adjacent to travel or parking lane.
- Are not blocking access to buildings, transit, curb ramps, or loading zones.
- Are an area where bike share bikes are often found.
How we’ll measure use.
We’ve monitored these areas for bike parking compliance rates before installation. In the next few weeks, we’ll monitor usage, organization, design resilience, and compliance rates in the immediate vicinity of the locations, on the same block-face, and neighborhood-wide. Data points we will monitor:
- The number of bikes in the immediate vicinity of the parking area and how many are parked correctly.
- The number of bikes in the neighborhood and how many are parked correctly.
- Do the bikes appear more orderly?
- How are the markings holding up?
While the sidewalk-located bike share parking is a pretty cool experiment, my favorite idea for painted bike parking is to add space to new and existing on-street bike corrals. Because a bike that is parked in the street can’t easily topple into the walkway or in front of a bus stop. And since it is illegal to park a car within 30 feet of a stop sign or traffic signal or 20 feet of a crosswalk anyway, there is 20 or 30 feet of potential bike parking space at just about every street corner in the city.
Imagine if there were at least one bike corral at every intersection in our city’s business districts and near major bus stops that could serve both personal bikes and bike share bikes. Bicycle Security Advocates, a group led by Brock Howell that is working to create better bike parking in Seattle, even created a mockup of what such a corral could look like:
Our recommendation for bikeshare parking is to put as many of these spots in "corrals" in the 20'-30' no parking zones near intersections.
— Bicycle Security Adv (@BikeSecurityAdv) March 15, 2018
What’s particularly promising about this idea is that existing corrals could easily be expanded at very little cost to include the extra rack-free bike parking space. And since it is paint-only, there’s no need to worry about covering maintenance holes or other utility access concerns that sometimes limit bike rack placement.
Bike share is an enormously promising zero-emission mobility option for our city, and it’s in Seattle best interest that it succeeds. Creating better spaces for bikes is one great, low-cost way to help things work more smoothly for everyone.