Planning Commission Approves Higher Bike Parking Requirements

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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: 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.