By John Greenfield, Erik Neumann, and Kristen Steele
Photography: John Greenfield, Erik Neumann, and Steve Shay
How “Pay-and-Display” Impacts Bike Parking
The last time Lisa Phillips pedaled her three-year-old daughter Violet to Spanish class in Chicago’s bike-friendly Logan Square neighborhood, she had a tough time finding a place to lock up. Most of the parking meters on the block had vanished, removed as part of the city’s plan to convert 36,000 metered spaces to “pay-and-display” parking. “It’s awful,” says Phillips. “There’s absolutely not enough bicycle parking anymore.”
Chicago is one of many North American cities that are switching to multi-space pay boxes as a way to streamline money collection, but the result can be fewer spots to dock a bike. As a former employee of Chicago’s Active Transportation Alliance (ATA) and Bike Parking Program Manager for the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), I contacted my old employers for details and talked to folks in other cities about their experiences with this challenge.
Last May, many Chicago cyclists panicked when the city announced plans to uproot most of its parking meters. “There was a lot of anger and frustration,” recalls ATA’s Executive Director Rob Sadowsky. He sent an urgent “Save Chicago bike parking!” memo to the advocacy group’s members, asking them to lobby their aldermen to include money for replacement bike parking in the city’s 2010 budget, but such funding wasn’t included.
Talks between ATA and the city led to a policy of leaving one out of seven meters in place on retail blocks with no bike racks, says CDOT spokesman Brian Steele. The city is also using much of its annual supply of federally-funded “inverted U” bike racks to replace parking on blocks where meters were removed. In the future, CDOT may retrofit the remaining meters, removing the heads, capping the poles and bolting on rings to create “post-and-ring” bike racks, said Steele.
“We certainly would have preferred to have more meters remain,” Sadowsky said. “But it was a negotiation and we settled on something both the city and Active Trans could live with.”
New York recently removed all the meters along many Manhattan retail streets before the city began addressing the bike parking issue, said Transportation Alternatives’ Wiley Norvell. Roughly half the meters on Madison Avenue will get rings and the DOT vows to install 5,000 bike racks over the next three years, but about 15,000 meters are already gone. “The lesson for other cities is not to play catch-up,” said Norvell.
Likewise, when Oakland, California, began removing some 5,000 meters for “pay-and-display” in early 2007, there was no plan to replace bike parking. Bicycle and Pedestrian Program Manager Jason Patton says the city is now saving two meters per block and has installed about 400 racks this year. “But it’s better to integrate the bike parking needs into the conversion project so that when the “pay-and-display” kiosks go in and meters go out, racks also go in,” he said.
Toronto is a shining example of this strategy. Before conversions began in 2001, a bicyclist who sat on the board of the parking authority advocated for preserving all bike parking. “He said, ‘The city’s promoting bicycle use and yet we’re going to put all these cyclists at an inconvenience,” recalled Dave Tomlinson from the Toronto bike program. The parking authority agreed to bolt rings onto all the meter poles or, in cases where meters were too close to the curb, install new post-and-rings. These retrofits and racks account for half of Toronto’s 16,000 racks – the most of any North American city.