Supervisor Avalos Introduces Landmark Bicycle Access Legislation

Photo: ##

Groundbreaking legislation introduced by Supervisor and mayoral candidate John Avalos yesterday would allow the thousands of people who pedal to work in San Francisco to bring their bikes into the office.  The “Bicycle Access and Safety Ordinance” [pdf] would require the owners and managers of all commercial buildings to allow bikes in the building if there is no secure bike parking.

“Creating a safe, secure place for cyclists to store their bicycles while at work will help to promote alternative modes of transportation and contribute to the City’s effort to cut emissions, improve air quality, maximize public transportation and ease congestion,” the legislation reads. “Allowing bicycles in office buildings is an effective way to encourage cycling.”

The legislation is an improved version of a 2009 bill passed in New York City, the only U.S. city with a bicycle access law. One big difference is that SF’s version wouldn’t only apply to buildings with freight elevators. Bike commuters would not be forced to enter work through dark, garbage strewn alleys and could roll their bikes into front lobbies along with strollers, wheeled briefcases and all the other belongings workers schlep in on a daily basis. If approved, San Francisco would have the country’s strongest bicycle access ordinance.

“I think this is a great step toward ensuring more secure bike parking for the growing number of people riding to work in San Francisco. It’s sorely needed,” said Leah Shahum, the executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. “We’ve heard a lot of unfortunate stories from people who would bike to work if they had secure bike parking at their office, and there’s a lot of buildings that don’t allow it.”

San Francisco law already requires secure bike parking in all new commercial buildings. Shahum said a growing number of employers and building owners are recognizing that more and more employees are biking to the office and that it translates into a healthier, more productive workforce. That’s why many companies are negotiating bike parking into their leases, realizing that attracting the best and brightest means providing a safe, convenient place to park your bike.

Building owners could still opt out under a few exceptions, but only after a city inspection. Saying no triggers a comprehensive Bicycle Access Plan. The exemptions would be granted only if:

(i) the building’s elevators are not available for bicycle access because unique circumstances exist involving substantial safety risks directly related to the use of such elevator; or
(ii) there is secure alternate covered off-street parking or secure alternate indoor no-cost bicycle parking available on the premises or within three blocks or 750 feet, whichever is less, of the subject building sufficient to accommodate all tenants or subtenants of the building requesting bicycle access.

Dave Snyder, the executive director of the California Bicycle Coalition and an occasional Streetsblog contributor, was happy with the proposed ordinance but suggested it be strengthened to add language ensuring that the alternate bike parking requirement listed in the exception (ii) complies with the city’s bike planning code.

  • Would be nice to see the definition of “secure” fleshed out a bit more. The building I work in has “secure” parking, although all this means is that there are some bike racks inside the parking garage 100 feet from the exit.

    The security cameras naturally point towards car parking, not the bicycle racks, and it should be noted that there is a sign notifying anyone willing to park their bike that the building is not responsible for theft / vandalism.

    So in my mind “secure” would mean a locked cage / separate room / etc., but that’s my interpretation only.

  • rose

    I agree with Sean Rea.  Parking in a parking garage is not “secure” in most cases.  Friends of mine have had wheels and other parts stolen from their bikes while “secured” in garages.

  • Davistrain

    “A lot of buildings don’t allow it”—it would be more accurate to say “a lot of building managers/owners don’t allow it.”  A building is a structure; it can’t allow or prohibit anything.

  • Masonic will be the death…

    I too am interested in how “providing secure parking”is defined.  Is charging a patron of an office building to leave their bike in an unlocked space within the confines of a lobby attended building considered secure? Yeah I’m looking at you building to remain nameless on Sutter st.

  • Anonymous

    I live in NYC and I hope we learn from the proposed SF legislation and get rid of the freight elevator nonsense. My office’s building management allows access via the freight elevator, but only from 9 to 6. After hours, the elevator is in “manual mode” and doesn’t respond when you call it, because it is reserved for building maintenance. A lot of people here are still working after 6 pm.

  • Anonymous

    Oh, great; so now we’ll have bicyclists cramming their bikes onto crowded elevators. Memo to Supervisor Avalos: they are called passenger elevators for a reason.

  • If someone is cramming their bike onto an elevator when it’s crowded, that’s just a function of someone being inconsiderate. And we have risen to a level in this society where that is certainly not a province occupied solely by cyclists.

    There are plenty of buildings that allow this, and no flurry of problems.

  • mikesonn

    I don’t know, murph. Clearly cyclists are the the absolute worse subsection of the homosapien species. @pchazzz:disqus is able to produce example after example of this on a daily basis.

  • Paving the roads and separating the bike lanes from 40 mph traffic is a much bigger priority. 

  • J

    I just hope you guys get the enforcement part of this right. I worked in NYC, and my company tried to get bike access, but the building refused. I’m pretty sure the building owners were hit with fines, but they still refuse bike access and the building would not renew the lease for my company. For what it’s worth, the building is an old loft building with wide hallways, and plenty of extra space. As far as I can tell, the building owners simply hated bikes, and the fines weren’t steep enough to make them change their minds.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe he was afraid that bikes would damage the flooring.

  • Ewonline

    475 Sansome has NO BIKE SECURITY! I am a brand new employee in that building and rode my bike to work today. The security guard wouldn’t let me bring it into the office, per some policy that they never shared with me, as a new employee. They made me buy a lock and the only thing I could find was a $20 lock from Ace. Of course the bike was stolen from the “lockup” area and the building claims NO responsbility. Any ideas to help with this?? 

  • There needs to be a lot more CCTV/surveillance video deployed over public and private property where cyclists park their bikes. Had my bike stolen from Moscone Center, but at least I have the rat bastard’s face on video!


San Francisco Could Require Bicycle Access in Downtown Buildings

Commercial buildings in downtown San Francisco could be required to provide indoor bicycle parking accommodations under a proposal introduced at last week’s Board of Supervisors meeting. “One of the ways that we can really assure our bikes are safe from theft is to be able to bring them into our buildings,” said Supervisor John Avalos, […]

Downtown Bike Access Ordinance Clears Key Hurdle at Board of Supes

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors today gave preliminary approval to what advocates call the strongest bicycle access legislation in the country. The ordinance [PDF], which would require downtown building managers to provide secure indoor bicycle parking for employees either on-site or nearby, is expected to receive final approval from the board next week and […]

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. 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 […]

Can SF Improve Upon New York’s Bicycle Access Bill?

Flickr photo: kate at yr own risk Now that the New York City Council has approved a Bicycle Access Bill requiring commercial buildings to allow bicyclists entry, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition is ready to push for a San Francisco version of the requirement "by the end of the year." New York’s bill, which is […]

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. As we reported in December, the ordinance will overhaul bike parking requirements for new residential and commercial buildings citywide, […]