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Bike share parking still an accessibility issue, but it’s getting better

Next to Alki Beach, a new bike rack and designated bike parking area includes a line of Lime bikes all inside the designated white lines.
New Alki bike parking. Photo from SDOT.

In June 2018, 4% of bike share bikes were parked in a way that impeded a walkway or curb ramp. Today, that figure is fewer than 2%, according to the latest SDOT bike share audit, the Seattle Times reports.

Bikes impeding on the safety and accessibility of our sidewalks is a problem. Yes, people do far worse with cars all the time (and cars are a lot harder to move out of the way than bikes), but that doesn’t mean it’s OK for bikes to also block sidewalks or cause tripping hazards or obstructions for our neighbors with disabilities.

But in recent reporting, I feel like it is important to note that not only are there solutions in the works, but bike parking habits are improving fairly significantly. The improvement is likely due to a variety of factors:

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  • There is more bike parking now, including some SDOT experiments with lower-cost painted bike parking spaces in congested areas.
  • Users are likely much better educated about parking rules now, since the companies and the city have been spreading the word for nearly two years now.
  • The bikes have better kickstands now. First generation LimeBikes and Spin bikes had faulty or unreliable kickstands that were prone to break, making them nearly impossible to park correctly. Those have all been replaced at this point.
  • ofo left town (and the continent). Though I don’t have data to back this up, ofo seemed to be less concerned with maintaining order with their bike fleet.

Concept image of a sample city street, noting areas where bikes should be parked (such as the furniture zone of a sidewalk or on-street bike corral) and areas that are off-limits (such as bus stops, walkways and curb ramps).
Annotations by Seattle Bike Blog. Base image from SDOT’s draft update for their Right of Way Improvement Manual.

In fact, the city has responded to the low non-compliance rates by (rightfully) moving the goal post to make the standard for bike parking more stringent. By their new metric, 14% of bikes are causing problems. This is important, because now there is a new goal to work toward.

And it is important that companies and SDOT work together to increase compliance through further public education and by providing more designated bike parking space. Much of the bike share permit fees, which are significant, have been earmarked for bike parking installation, which will be an ongoing effort to continue improving the bike parking supply over time.

And you all can help out by moving any bikes you see improperly parked as a favor to your neighbors.

A larger percentage of bikes are technically parking incorrectly, but aren’t in a place where they would cause an issue.

Designated bike parking is still grossly inadequate for the demand in most parts of the city. And the city needs to especially focus on on-street bike parking, since installing bike racks is more difficult on crowded sidewalks. The parking lane on a street is public space intended for the parking of vehicles so that they don’t impede space for people, so that’s exactly where our bike parking belongs. If there were a bike corral at every business district intersection, for example, that would take a lot of stress off limited sidewalk space. And if a bike falls over in an on-street bike corral, it likely won’t impede anyone’s walking path.

Bike share continues to serve a huge role in increasing the number of trips people are making in our city by bike. Thanks in largely part to these services, more people are biking in Seattle than ever before. And the numbers continue to grow. Along with this growth, though, comes the need to continue getting better about bike share parking. And I also hope people keep some perspective here, since cars remain the biggest impediment to safe walking in our city by a long, long shot.

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10 responses to “Bike share parking still an accessibility issue, but it’s getting better”

  1. Southeasterner

    So with the thousands of intersections without curb ramps, bikes blocking sidewalks are the focus for improving the lives of people with disabilities?

    I agree it’s an issue that should be highlighted and addressed but where is the outrage from the Seattle Times on the bigger picture issue of non-ADA compliant infrastructure in Seattle? We are missing curb ramps at thousands of intersections, we have ped crossing times that are far too short for people with disabilities or the elderly to make it across, and we completely fail the disabled every single time there is a construction “detour.”

    It would be nice if the Times could occasionally provide just a bit of objective reporting on cycling instead of continually stoking the anti-bike flames that are burning through our city.

  2. Skylar

    Improperly parked bikes are an issue, but are they as big an issue as immovable cars blocking sidewalks and crosswalks?

  3. Apu

    1. I see parked cars blocking curb cuts and crosswalks all the time. I’m not a fan of whataboutism but it’s worth mentioning that the focus on bikes is disproportional to the reality.
    2. But I do think the bike parking problem needs to be addressed, given the bikeshare explosion, and in particular the effect on people with accessibility needs. The most effective way to deal with bikeshare parking is to convert more city-provided on-street car parking into bike parking (this has the additional benefit of providing something like a 5- to 10-fold increase in vehicle parking spots since a bike uses a lot less space than a car).

  4. asdf2

    Traditionally, the city has only bothered to put in bike parking in commercial, not residential areas, since people store their bikes at home in their home, not out on the street.

    With bikeshare, suddenly, we need bike parking in residential areas too. But, when the demand per block is only 1-2 bikes, rather than dozens, it’s hard to do.

    One easy suggestion I have would be to legalize bikeshare parking on-street against the curb anywhere that car parking is allowed. Even if the car parking is full, bikes are small, and can easily squeeze into cracks where a full sized car won’t fit.

  5. Dave R

    One aspect of bike share is that the companies can know who parked the bike. I can imagine it would be relatively easy to set up a system for reporting, warning, adding an additional charge etc. This would go a long way to fixing the problem.

  6. (Another) Tom

    My neighbors routinely block the sidewalk with their cars even though they have plenty of room in their driveway to pull further forward. I’m able-bodied but I tried to push them out of the way and they wouldn’t budge. WHERE IS THE TIMES??!

    This is right up there with ‘E-scooters/bikes need to be speed-limited for safety’ but this new Furd F850’ll do 0-60 in 7 seconds and tops out at 125mph. And that’s if you don’t opt for the ‘sport’ package. Why do we allow motor vehicles that have higher top speeds than any road’s speed limit in the city? Next these motorists will just start parking their vehicles anywhere they feel like; even right on the road that is supposed to be a public thoroughfare. Some of these miscreants will even purchase a vehicle without having any private space to store it whatsoever, counting on exploiting public space to store their personal property. Oh wait…

    Give me a break.

  7. ronp

    we need to get ride of all the cars scattered around our streets taking up billions of dollars of valuable real estate.

  8. Lammy

    This post grossly misrepresents the Times’ article. The actual misparked rate is %14. And as mentioned in the Times’ article SDOT will be using that formula going forward.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      I did not misrepresent that. Perhaps you missed this entire paragraph? “In fact, the city has responded to the low non-compliance rates by (rightfully) moving the goal post to make the standard for bike parking more stringent. By their new metric, 14% of bikes are causing problems. This is important, because now there is a new goal to work toward.”

  9. FlorafrmHI

    At 10:15 am, Sunday, May 12, 2019, I found a Limebike blocking the narrow pedestrian/bike path on the Ballard bound side of the Ballard Bridge. Behind a man with three (3) kids on his bike was also blocked. I had to lift the bike to a slightly wider place so bikes and pedestrians could pass. The bike was so heavy I couldn’t move it to a better spot. Isn’t there a way to find the person who parked illegally. Maybe a fine would stop this person from using Limebike. They are giving Limebike a BAD reputation. I want more bikes but also thoughtful bike users. I sent Limebike copies of two photos showing the illegally parked bike with the code ID. Hope they institute a fine or ban for bad use.

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