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Bicycle Infrastructure

Planning Department Looks to Boost Bike Parking Requirements

Buildings in San Francisco would be required to include more bicycle parking under legislation being developed by the Planning Department.

The proposal [PDF] would set consistent guidelines for the number of bike racks required for different types of buildings -- covering both on-street bike parking for visitors or in an enclosed area for residents and workers. The Planning Department’s Kimia Haddadan told the Planning Commission last week that the move would bring SF’s standards more in line with cities like Portland, Vancouver, and New York.

Providing sufficient space to lock bicycles will be increasingly important for the city to attain its official goal of 20 percent of trips by bike by 2020. "Clearly these bike parking amendments are a great way to show the ability for someone to ride to and from work, play, shopping, and whatever it might be," said Marc Caswell, program manager for the SF Bicycle Coalition. "Bike parking is obviously a very important component to the bike network beyond simply bike lanes. With approximately 86,000 bicycle trips each day, and approximately only 3,000 sidewalk racks currently in existence, these people need a safe and convenient place to park their bikes."

Haddadan said the proposal would be the city's first "holistic update" to its bike parking requirements since they were first adopted for city-owned and leased buildings in 1996. They have been expanded "on a piecemeal basis" to most other types of buildings in the years since, which resulted in some inconsistencies in the planning code.

The proposed overhaul would apply to new construction and expansions of all types, with city-owned and -leased buildings and parking garages being required to retrofit existing facilities to conform to the new law. Bike parking requirements would continue to be set according to a building's size and type.

Under the proposed changes, residential buildings with more than four units would be required to provide one secure bike parking space per unit. Smaller buildings would only be required to provide a minimum amount of indoor storage space -- for example, in a garage without a rack.

The legislation would set clear guidelines for the layout of bike parking areas, as well as for converting car parking spaces to bike parking. It would also make it easier to supply ground floor bike parking areas by categorizing them as an "active use" in the planning code, and it would provide incentives to developers -- including a five-foot increase in the height limit in certain districts -- who build more bike parking. If developers can't provide on-site bike parking due to physical limitations, as determined by the Planning Department, they may be able to instead provide parking in a nearby building or pay a fee which would help fund the installation of on-street bike racks citywide, Haddadan said.

The proposal was praised by Tim Colen, executive director of the Housing Action Coalition. "What I've noticed over the years I've been at the HAC is how many more people in our community are using bikes as their preferred way to get around and how much more support has developed in our community around this," Colen told the Planning Commission. "This is a sensible, logical advance in urban policy."

The Planning Commission is expected to consider the proposal in January, followed by the Board of Supervisors.

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