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Berkeley Bike Station Contract Extended — For Now

Downtown Berkeley Bike Station in the Shattuck Hotel Building

Downtown Berkeley Bike Station on Shattuck Street

Buried in Tuesday evening’s Berkeley City Council agenda was a resolution to extend the contract on the Downtown Berkeley Bike Station for one more year, at its current terms.

The station moved to its current street-level storefront location in the historic Shattuck Hotel building in 2010 after extensive renovations to the former retail space, and this month is coming up on the end of the five-year initial lease agreement between BART, the City of Berkeley, and the building owners.

According to the city, the contract extension is necessary because “the property manager and BART have not been successful in negotiating a renewal of the lease at or near the current lease rate,” which is considerably lower than the current market rate for retail spaces in downtown.

The current Bike Station was designed and constructed with funding from BART and the city of Berkeley, and the two entities continue to split the costs of operating the service. BART contributes around $130,000 per year for operations, staffing, utilities, and some rent, and the city of Berkeley pays $60,000 a year for rent.

BART has already signed the contract extension with the property owners at the original terms, and the city council approved the contract as part of its consent calendar Tuesday evening.

Also approved at the meeting was a request to apply for funding to expand the Bay Area Bike Share into the East Bay.

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Mission Boasts USA’s Largest Bike Corral; 55 Across SF Park 668 Bikes

The new bike corral at Mission Cliffs, six car spaces long, is the “largest bike corral in a U.S. urban environment,” according to the SFMTA. Photo: Jessica Kuo

Four years after the SFMTA started converting curbside car parking into bike parking with bike corrals, the city now has 55 corrals that can lock 668 bikes — and still more are on the way.

Most bike corrals replace one car space with about five bike racks, each parking two bikes, and are requested by merchants who want to efficiently re-purpose street space to serve more customers. As the corrals proliferate, they’ve started to vary a bit in configuration to serve more purposes.

The Mission Cliffs corral uses a different type of rack to squeeze in more bikes. Photo: SFMTA

One of the newest corrals, installed in front of the Mission Cliffs indoor climbing gym at Harrison and 19th Streets, has replaced six car parking spaces with parking for 54 bikes. It’s “the largest bike corral in a U.S. urban environment,” according to an SFMTA report [PDF]. This corral uses a novel type of bike rack, purchased by Mission Cliffs, that fits more bikes into the space by vertically staggering them.

Other bike corrals have been placed strategically to open up visibility at street corners, or “daylight” them, and to help keep Muni trains moving. At Carl and Cole Streets, drivers often used to park in a red curb zone intended to provide turning room for N-Judah trains entering the Sunset Tunnel, thereby blocking Muni’s busiest line. The curb space has been filled with five bike racks placed parallel to the curb, making it impossible to leave a car there (well, without running over the racks) while still leaving space for passing trains.

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Silicon Valley’s First “Bike to Shop Day” Set for May 17

Bike Trailer at Trader Joes

It’s rare for cities in Silicon Valley to accommodate cycling shoppers with adequate parking. Photo: Janet Lafleur

Planning to build on the wave of enthusiasm for bike commuting generated each May by Bike to Work Day, transportation and health advocates in Silicon Valley are promoting a spin-off called Bike to Shop Day on Saturday, May 17, to encourage people to shop by bike at local businesses.

Retail businesses offering discounts to bicycling customers are shown on a smartphone-friendly map on the event’s website. organizers expect many more to sign up in the three weeks remaining before the event. Any retail business located in San Mateo County or Santa Clara County that can offer some type of discount to customers who arrive by bicycle is eligible to participate. Shoppers are encouraged to upload photos of their bikes in action – carrying groceries or other items — to win gift certificates and other prizes.

“For the past 20 years, Bike to Work Day has achieved huge success motivating people to hop on bikes for their work commutes, including me,” said bicycle lifestyle blogger Janet Lafleur, who created Bike to Shop Day in collaboration with the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition (SVBC). “Now it’s time to do the same for their shopping and errand trips that are shorter and easier for most people than commuting to work.”

Lafleur, a marketing professional who writes two urban cycling blogs, Bike Fun and One Woman, Many Bicycles, called for a National Bike to Shop Day last month to promote shopping by bicycle. She came up with the idea after it became clear that Mountain View was simply disregarding the need to improve access and parking for bicycles as part of expansion plans for the San Antonio Shopping Center.

“I can’t see people biking to shop here,” said a planning commissioner at a city meeting on the project. ”Shopping is all about driving your SUV to the store and filling it up.”

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Supes Narrowly Reject EIR Appeal Against Car-Free Condos at 1050 Valencia

The proposed parking-free, 12-unit condo and retail development at 1050 Valencia Street narrowly cleared a hurdle Tuesday after a 6-5 vote by the Board of Supervisors, which rejected an appeal that contended the project should be required to have a full environmental impact report.

A rendering of the 1050 Valencia project. Image: Stephen Antonaros via Curbed

The project, approved by the Planning Commission more than a year ago, has faced continued opposition for several years, organized by the Liberty Hill Neighborhood Association and the neighboring Marsh Theater. LHNA contends that new residents will own cars despite the lack of dedicated parking — even though a growing body of research shows otherwise – and take up street parking spots. Meanwhile, the Marsh’s protests focus on potential noise and shadows.

The latest appeal protests the Planning Department’s determination that the project does not require a full EIR under the California Environmental Quality Act because it complies with the zoning of the Eastern Neighborhoods Plan, for which an area-wide EIR was already done. Five supervisors voted to uphold the appeal — David Campos, John Avalos, Malia Cohen, Eric Mar, and Jane Kim. It next goes to the Board of Appeals.

Stephen Williams and other LHNA reps argued that the project’s location on Valencia at Hill Street, between 21st and 22nd Streets, was not a “transit-rich” area where residents would be able to live without cars, though studies show that residents who move into units without dedicated parking are less likely to own cars, and about half of residential parking garages in the Mission aren’t used for car storage.

“What does ‘transit-rich’ mean? No one knows,” Williams said in response to Supervisor Scott Wiener, who pointed out that the location is within one block of Mission Street, which has some of the most frequent Muni service in the city, and less than half a mile from BART’s 16th and 24th Street stations. Valencia is also one of the most heavily-traveled streets for bicycle commuting, and the building will have indoor parking for 28 bikes.

“I don’t think anybody should consider that transit-rich,” Williams said.

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Civic Center Bike Station Delayed Another Year, Riders Left Crossing Fingers

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Photo: Bryan Goebel

The bike station that was supposed to be installed at Civic Center Station in June won’t come for at least another year, according to BART Bike Program Manager Steve Beroldo. No word yet on what’s caused the delay, but Beroldo said the station hasn’t even been fully designed yet (it’s at “95 percent”). BART does have full funding to build the station, however.

The delay is sure to be a big disappointment for BART and Muni Metro riders looking for a bit more peace of mind when leaving their bikes at the station. Streetsblog SF’s founding editor, Bryan Goebel, would’ve been one of the latest victims of theft this week, had BART police not saved the day.

Goebel had parked at Civic Center to take BART to Oakland to report on the agency’s labor hearings. When he returned, he found that BART officers caught a thief stealing parts off his bike and others parked at the racks, which are accessible to anyone inside the fare gates.

In the thief’s bag, Goebel said police found his rear bike light along with ”items which lead them to believe he’s been picking parts off other bikes.” The thief was arrested and will reportedly be charged with burglary.

Goebel noted that it’s “frustrating” that the only options for getting to the East Bay by bike and BART are to take his bike on the train or bike to Embarcadero — the farthest station on the east side of Market, and SF’s only BART stop with a bike station — to find secure parking. Bike stations, like those at the Downtown Berkeley, Ashby, and Fruitvale BART stations, are typically accessible only by electronic card or key and are sometimes staffed.

“Having [a bike station] at Civic Center will be so convenient when I need to go the East Bay,” Goebel said.

Until then, BART might want to consider trying to scare off thieves with a cardboard cutout of one of its officers. Seriously.

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Revamped Bike Parking Requirements Clear Final Hurdle at Board of Supes

A citywide overhaul of bicycle parking requirements for new development will be adopted after the Board of Supervisors approved the legislation unanimously on Tuesday.

Bike parking at Zynga. Photo: SFBC/Flickr

The ordinance will, by and large, increase bike parking requirements for new residential and commercial buildings, 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.

Whereas the guidelines adopted about a decade ago generally required one bike parking space for every 50 tenants, the new ordinance will help provide “infrastructure to support bicycling for the 21st century,” said Supervisor John Avalos, who sponsored the legislation.

The overhaul would apply to new construction and building expansions, and bike parking requirements would vary according to a building’s size and type. Residential buildings with four or more units will be required to provide one secure bike parking space per unit. Smaller buildings would only have to meet the standard of providing indoor storage space, like inside a garage.

Commercial developments would also have to provide more bike parking for customers and employees. For example, under the old planning code, a new grocery store of 30,000 square feet would have been required to have only three bike parking spaces, be they provided with secured lockers or cages (“class one” spaces), or outdoor racks (“class two”). Under the new requirements, such a store must have at least four class-one spaces and 12 class-two spaces.

A new office building of 100,000 square feet would have previously only needed 12 bike parking spaces. Under the new regulations, it must provide 100 class-one spaces and 22 class-two spaces.

Existing city-owned and -leased buildings and parking garages will be required to retrofit facilities to accommodate bikes. ”We want the city to be a model in providing bicycle parking,” said Kimia Haddadan of the Planning Department at a recent supervisors hearing on the ordinance.

Developers can also pay a fee in lieu of providing some of the required class-two parking spaces, said Haddadan. The fee is $400 per space (or $800 per rack), which would go toward a citywide bike parking fund managed by the SFMTA.

“We need to help people live and work in our urban environments,” said Leah Shahum, executive director of the SF Bicycle Coalition. “That is the way of the future, and we need to think diversely about how we’re moving people.”

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Maker Faire: A Model for Encouraging Car-Free Transportation to Big Events

Bike Valet Parking at Maker Faire.

Space for parking up to 2,000 bicycles was provided at Maker Faire this year. Photos: Andrew Boone

The runaway success of Maker Faire, the annual San Mateo festival that celebrates do-it-yourself technology and crafts, has led organizers to get creative in encouraging attendees to come without a car and avert a traffic mess.

Fire Sculpture at Maker Faire

One of the ever-popular fire sculptures on display at Maker Faire.

Since Maker Faire’s debuted in 2006, organizers have developed a model program for managing traffic demand for the growing number of attendees — estimated at more than 120,000 this year — who flock to the two-day event to see the eccentric and occasionally practical inventions of 1,000 “makers.”

At this year’s event, held last weekend at the San Mateo County Event Center, the valet bicycle parking lot “had 735 bikes at 1 p.m., and about 1,000 bikes at 3:30 p.m., which was about the peak,” said bike parking organizer Gladwyn de Souza.

“It’s also part of the attendee experience. We want people to have a good time, so we want to provide them with choices that don’t involve driving,” said Katie Kunde, Maker Faire’s senior sales manager.

Maker Faire’s website provides comprehensive details on how to get to and from the event by transit, bicycle, walking, car-share, driving, paratransit, and even combinations of those modes.

Maker Faire also coordinates with local bicycle clubs to organize group bike rides to the event on Saturday from San Francisco and San Jose, and gives riders free copies of Momentum, an urban cycling magazine along with a free “I Rode My Bike to Maker Faire 2013″ patch. Read more…

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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.

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As Bike to Work Day Booms, Some San Mateo County Cities Lead the Way

Commuting to work on Gateway Boulevard in South San Francisco. Photo: Andrew Boone

Among the record-breaking 9,000 bike commuters celebrating Bike to Work Day in San Mateo County on Thursday, County Supervisor Dave Pine led a convoy from downtown Redwood City to the Oracle energizer station, crossing Highway 101 using the Ralston Avenue bike-pedestrian bridge in Belmont.

Dave Pine and Diane Howard - Bike To Work Day 2013

San Mateo County Supervisor Dave Pine and Redwood City Council candidate Diane Howard at the Oracle energizer station. Photo: Andrew Boone

“We really have to look at bicycling as a viable and important part of the transportation network and not just a recreational pursuit,” Pine said. “The county needs to take more of a leadership role to publicize bike routes and get cities to work together to construct practical bicycle infrastructure so that people can get to work more easily.”

Bike to Work Day is booming throughout San Mateo County, with ridership increasing 33 percent since last year, and more than doubling since 2011, according to the Peninsula Traffic Congestion Relief Alliance.

Commuters were greeted with 37 energizer stations along popular bike commuting routes, where volunteers from the PTCRA and the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition helped them fuel up with coffee and snacks. Nearly 1,000 cyclists enjoyed an outdoor breakfast at Oracle’s energizer station at the company’s headquarters in Redwood Shores, which lies along the Bay Trail, a route favored by many bike commuters for its long sections of off-street bicycle and pedestrian paths and beautiful views of the San Francisco Bay.

Each year, more Silicon Valley employers — from tech giants like Genentech, Facebook, and Google, to other major businesses like Kaiser Permanente (which partnered with Whole Foods) and Food Service Providers — are holding their own events to encourage participation in Bike to Work Day as a way to promote employee health and reduce traffic congestion.

“Bike to Work Day provides an opportunity for people who are considering biking to work to try it along with thousands of others, while being cheered on at the energizer stations along the way,” said PTCRA Executive Director John Ford. “Once people try cycling to work, many of them make it part of their regular commute.”

While improvements to make bicycling in San Mateo County safer and more convenient have been hampered by a lack of bureaucratic coordination between cities, a few are starting to take the lead. The city of San Mateo is currently planning safer crossings over and under Highway 101: a bike-ped bridge at Hillsdale Boulevard, and a bike-ped path along the 16th Avenue canal under the freeway.

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Bike Station Coming to Civic Center BART/Muni Station Next Summer

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A BART bike station at Embarcadero. Photo via Oakland Local

BART and Muni Metro riders who bike to Civic Center Station would have less reason to worry about getting their wheels stolen if a planned bike station is installed next June, potentially adding a sectioned-off parking area and a fix-it-yourself repair station.

The bike station, which is currently being designed, would add 150 to 175 bike parking spaces outside of the paid areas, allowing it to be used by both Muni and BART passengers. The number of regular bike racks inside the paid BART area would also be expanded.

“The existing facilities are at capacity, and projections for demand just keep going up and up,” said Maria Lombardo of the SF County Transportation Authority in a recent presentation to the agency’s board of directors.

Currently, Civic Center Station has 63 bike racks, which can be reached by anyone inside BART’s paid fare gate area. Muni Metro riders, who aren’t allowed to bring bikes aboard trains, have no bike parking available in the station.

Bike stations, which are typically accessible only by electronic card or key and are sometimes staffed, already exist at Embarcadero Station as well as Downtown Berkeley, Ashby, and Fruitvale BART Stations in the East Bay. BART also plans to open a bike station at 19th Street in Oakland by the next Bike to Work Day in May.

Existing bike racks at Civic Center are located inside BART's paid fare gates, but still leave bikes susceptible enough to theft to deter many would-be bike commuters. Photo: bsii/Flickr

Expanding secure bike parking is a key piece of BART’s recently-adopted Bicycle Plan [PDF], which sets out to double bike-to-BART ridership in the next ten years. BART surveys [PDF] show that the existing bike stations are one of the system’s largest draws for bike commuters. Surveys at Downtown Berkeley and Fruitvale stations revealed that 17 percent of bike station users would bike to BART less often without the security offered by a bike station, while another 19 percent said they wouldn’t bike to BART at all. Twenty-one percent said they would instead bring their bikes on BART trains, which are already regularly at capacity.

The Civic Center bike station is expected to cost $830,000 and to be funded with BART Prop 1B Lifeline funds, Prop K sales tax funds, and the Prop AA vehicle registration fee.