Planning Commission Approves Higher Bike Parking Requirements

New buildings in San Francisco will be required to provide more secure bike parking under legislation approved by the Planning Commission yesterday. The ordinance is expected to be approved by the Board of Supervisors next month.

Employee bike parking at Atlassian. Photo: ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/sfbike/7160856136/in/photostream/##SFBC/Flickr##

As we reported in December, the ordinance will overhaul bike parking requirements for new residential and commercial buildings citywide, which have been put in place on a piecemeal basis since 1996. Planning Department staff said the legislation will set consistent, stricter standards that are more in line with those set in cities like Portland, Vancouver, and New York.

“We need to make sure that new buildings will provide secure bike parking for today, tomorrow, and the future,” said Marc Caswell, program manager for the SF Bicycle Coalition. Until now, the planning code only required building owners to provide bike parking for about 2 percent of tenants, he said. With bicycling already exceeding 15 percent of commute trips in some neighborhoods, the legislation will help ensure new buildings are designed with the increase in bicycling in mind.

Debate at the commission was mainly focused on a provision in the legislation that would have defined bicycle parking as an “active use” — the same category that a storefront, apartment, or lobby would fall under. Josh Switzky of the Planning Department said that measure was intended to make it easier for architects to include bike parking on a building’s ground floor. Because the planning code allows only “active uses” within 25 feet of a building’s frontage, a special permit is currently required to provide space for bike parking in that area.

The Planning Commission voted to remove the “active use” provision, so providing bike parking within 25 feet of the front of a building will still require a permit. The alternative is to place the bike parking closer to the rear of a building or on a different floor.

The strongest opponent of re-defining bike parking as an active use was Commissioner Katherine Moore. While she fully supported the rest of the ordinance, she said that a parked bicycle “is an inanimate object, not an active use.”

Switzky pointed out that providing secure, dedicated bike parking in buildings is key to making bicycling a normal, everyday means of transportation. “The extent to which we treat bicycle facilities as an afterthought in building design and require cyclists to find marginalized ways of storing their bikes, whether it’s stuffing them under stairwells, squeezing them in their small apartments and dank basements, or on balconies and decks, that marginal treatment is often reflected back in the way that cyclists view their status in society,” he said.

  • Having a bike – in particular a cargo or kid-carrying bike that can do the most to replace a car for many trips – not on street level near the street is liking keeping a car on its side and having to ask neighbors to help roll it over every time you need to use it.

    So how will it be in reality since “active use” was dropped? Will the market demand bike parking in the best place? Or will bike share promotion include text like “… more convenient than your own bike.”?

  • Anonymous

    Way cheaper for landlords and businesses to provide bicycle parking spaces than car parking spaces. They should embrace this law.

  • Anonymous

    Does anyone know if landlords of older buildings must provide free bike parking? I ask, because I live in a 1920s 19 unit building with no access to the garage and no bike parking although space available. Does the owner have any obligation at all in San Francisco? I rent a storage space in the building, but it is unsuitable for an electric or cargo bike due to many stairs to exit.

  • No obligation.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks, Todd.

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