SFMTA Postpones Expansion of Bike Parking in City-Owned Garages

The SFMTA has held off on installing mandated bike parking in seven city-owned garages due to “very low usage,” as SocketSite reported this week. Bike advocates say the parking hasn’t been advertised well.

Photo: SFMTA
Photo: SFMTA

Under an ordinance approved in 2013, bicycle parking requirements were increased for new development as well as city-owned and -leased buildings and parking garages. “We want the city to be a model in providing bicycle parking,” a Planning Department staffer said at a City Hall hearing at the time.

The SFMTA has installed “significantly more bike parking” in its garages since 2013, said agency spokesperson Paul Rose. But after a six-month study which found that, “in many cases,” less than 25 percent of available bike parking spaces were used, the SFMTA requested “permission to delay full implementation in certain garages of bike-parking increases required.”

According to SocketSite:

The Union Square, Sutter Stockton and Civic Center garages are among those facilities for which reductions in the number of bike parking spaces required to be installed have been requested, with observed average daily utilization rates of 26.5 percent, 48.1 percent, and 14 percent for their existing racks respectively.

Keep in mind that businesses and buildings which have installed private racks, such as Twitter, Dolby and City Hall, have impacted the demand for publicly-accessible bicycle parking.

But many people just don’t know that there are bike racks in city garages, said SF Bicycle Coalition Policy Director Tyler Frisbee. “There hasn’t been great signage and awareness. Let’s give this bike parking a fair shot before we decide it’s not working.”

Frisbee said that more employers are installing bike parking in their buildings to meet the 2013 mandates, “but for companies that are not capable of doing a remodel, or aren’t building out a new space, there are many employees who are relying on public spaces to park their bikes.”

The SFMTA’s 2013 Long-Term Bicycle Parking Strategy [PDF] acknowledged the need for signage:

Many existing long-term bicycle parking facilities are not visible to the public due to their location within parking garages and are not always obvious to those who work in the buildings and do not arrive by car. Additional outreach efforts to provide information about the location and accessibility of bicycle parking will help to ensure that city investments are well used and will provide encouragement to potential bicycle commuters. Additionally, wayfinding signs helps ensure that the public is aware of these facilities.

The strategy recommended that the agency launch an awareness campaign with materials like a fact sheet, “a comprehensive, high-quality brochure, including a map showing bicycle parking locations in appropriate detail,” and “a web-based map application showing bicycle parking locations.”

While that campaign hasn’t been rolled out yet, the SFMTA did install 32 electronic bike lockers at three city garages last year, and plans to expand them. The agency also said in 2013 that it plans to install on-street bike lockers, though a timeline for implementation hasn’t been announced yet.

Rose said the SFMTA “will continue to monitor utilization on a regular basis” over the year for which the installation delay was granted.

  • It wasn’t the lack of advertising that sunk this project — it was the lack of eyeballs that would be on the bicycles at any given point in time. These things were stuck in cavernous corners, and it never seemed like anyone would lift a finger to stop a theft.

  • murphstahoe

    It’s not that we don’t know the parking is there, it’s that we know the bike thieves know it’s there.

  • Gezellig

    Which kinds of bike parking are they talking about? There’s a big difference between open-air racks in the bowels of a parking structure where no one’s looking and the following (BikeLink), which are in some SF parking structures, as well:


    I use BikeLink pretty often, but it does have an unnecessary hurdle to usage in that you need to procure *yet another card*. Not only that, it’s not that easy to get. It’s available for purchase only at very limited locations/hours/payment methods (where I got mine it was cash-only).

    Anecdotal but I do tend to see plenty of other bikes in BikeLink storage so there does seem to be demand.

    Imagine if they actually integrated it with Clipper!

  • Several years back my husband had the seat of his bike stolen in the Fifth and Mission garage. Ever since then the only time we park in garages is if the location is directly in front of where a human being is stationed whose presence might possibly deter thieves. (In the past, bike parking in the garages for the Kabuki and the AMC 14 on Van Ness have fit the bill.) Otherwise, I’m happier parking my bike on the street in front of a cafe or some other well-lit busy place. (Although I also had the seat of my bike stolen right outside the Metreon after dark. Returning to a bike with no seat is one of the unhappier moments in any bicyclist’s life.)

    I will say that our perception of where it is relatively safe or unsafe to park our bikes (especially at night) does influence our choice of movie theaters/restaurants/other evening entertainments we might go to.

  • Gezellig

    I got my seat stolen just over a month ago also outside the Metreon after dark! It’s a real hotspot for bike theft.

    However, I’ve never had a problem when I parked it in BikeLink lockers at the parking structure across the street from the Metreon. I definitely recommend that!

  • Greg Costikyan

    I knew about parking availability in SFMTA garages, but it never seemed relevant to me. I had the luxury of bike parking at my employer, to be sure, and carried my bike into my apartment at home… and a garage was never handy when I went elsewhere. On-street racks seem a lot more sensible to me, and if the in-garage facilities are underused, I can’t really object to them being reduced in number.

  • Prinzrob

    I would say that signage and security are both problems. Even with the BikeLink lockers at the garages there have been some security issues, specifically because they are so isolated and unmonitored that a potential thief can work on them for a long time and feel confident about not getting caught.

  • Prinzrob

    When Oakland parking management came to the BPAC about installing BikeLink lockers in city-owned garages they were told
    1) Install them at or near the garage entrance so that bicyclists can reach them without having to ride all the way through the garage
    2) Have them visible from the street (ideally) and/or the garage attendant/security cameras
    3) Include street-side signage so bicyclists know both that the lockers are there plus how to reach them from the street safely (should be able to ride in/ride out just like drivers)

    If an effort is made to create a safe, appealing space for bike storage then people will use it, as opposed to just doing the bare, legal minimum. Here’s a great example (also in Oakland): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5x6YqS0dvys

  • Jeffrey Baker

    Can’t wait to blow up that garage, though.

  • whothewhat

    Protip: use a seat leash! Get an old bit of chain and a length of old tube. Place chain in tube (so it doesn’t scratch your frame) and run the chain-tube combo through the rails of your saddle and through your frame. Use chain breaker to attach the chain to itself (ie make a loop) and voila! Not total seat safety, but a major deterence.

  • M.

    Known fact: Most people regardless of mode don’t like parking structures and until they’re made the main – safe – option, they’ll underuse them.

  • shamelessly

    Wow, I never knew there were bike lockers across from the Metreon! I just take Muni when I go there to avoid putting my bike at risk for theft.

  • shamelessly

    Lots of comments pointing out, rightly, that parking garages aren’t necessarily safe places for parking bikes. This seems like one of those instances where merely trying to adapt accommodations created for cars to service bikes doesn’t work, and we need to instead focus our efforts on other options that work well for bikes. For instance, bike corrals, which are generally exposed to foot traffic, outside businesses, and obvious to anyone looking for a place to lock up a bike. Though clearly monitored bike parking in a garage in some locations would be better than on-street bike parking.

  • datbeezy

    Clever doublespeak by Mr. Frisbee – SFMTA is requesting to delay implementation, Frisbee claims they’re saying it “isn’t working”.

  • thielges

    I use a 2′ length of thin vinyl coated steel cable. Create one loop around the seat stay part of the bike frame, put the other loop around the saddle. Use aluminum ferrules crimped onto the cables to form each loop. I make the saddle loop big enough to wrap around the whole “knuckle” that at the end of the seat post which clamps down on the saddle rails. That way you can replace the saddle and reuse the loop.

    A 2′ length is long enough to be able to remove the saddle when cramming the bike into a small space like the back of a car. It will still be tethered to the frame,

    This is just enough to stop an opportunist thief from flipping the quick release and running off with the saddle and seatpost. whothewhat’s chain solution is more secure although a but clunkier.

  • thielges

    I forgot to mention that you can get the stuff needed for the cable leash at OSH for about $2.50. You’ll need a knife to strip the vinyl coating at the ends and pliers to crimp the ferrules.

  • Ms.

  • I haven’t seen it myself, but I hear the bike parking racks have been replaced in The Fifth & Mission Parking Garage (AKA Metreon garage) with bike boxes so unless you’ve planned ahead and gotten whatever special fob/dongle/account you need beforehand you can’t park your bike there anymore.

    That’s another clever way of removing useful bicycle parking and reducing theft (and occupancy).

  • Can’t complain too much if they apply the SFPark 80% occupancy rates, can we?

  • I haven’t seen it myself, but I hear the bike parking racks have been replaced in The Fifth & Mission Parking Garage (AKA Metreon garage) with bike boxes so unless you’ve planned ahead and gotten whatever special fob/dongle/account you need beforehand you can’t park your bike there anymore.

    That’s another clever way of removing useful bicycle parking and reducing theft (and occupancy).

    I’ve/partner only had bike seats stolen from our open soft-story parking area (I can tell you, I don’t bicycle around THAT neighborhood anymore*) but we haven’t had any problem in the 8 years after that because we switched away from Quick Release anything.

    * because we moved away.

  • To be honest I don’t see much sense in putting bike locks in garages as opposed to having more on the street. I’m way more inclined to lock to a sign in front of wherever I’m going as it feels much safer than leaving a bike out of sight in a garage. If I knew the garages were secure and monitored I’d consider it more often.

  • egoldin

    It took me months, MONTHS, of walking through the Sutter-Stockton garage to finally discover there was bike parking in there. It’s tucked into the back corner, behind some huge posts, with no signage to indicate it’s there.

    Bike parking is a great use for a garage, but within sight of both the public and attendants. If it’s hard to find and there’s no one watching the area, it’s kind of pointless. Also, in 3 years and probably 100+ visits, I’ve probably spotted 1 bike in the Sutter-Stockton racks on the second floor. Though in fairness, I don’t think you could get parking spots there because it’s behind a structural post.

  • Gezellig

    For those who are curious, here’s a map of BikeLink (secure bike locker) locations:


    Also attached a couple screenshots of where the lockers are located in SF. Note that though the V (for “Vendor”) in the Presidio crowds out the L (for “locker”) there, there’re also secure bike lockers there (I’ve used them).

    Embarcadero Station has G for secure shared “garage” parking within the station.

  • Althaea

    For a city that likes to claim being so bike-friendly bicycle parking royally sucks. There are many blocks downtown in busy shopping areas with no bike racks or sometimes just a paltry one for show. Its absolutely outrageous. They claim to want to see people change to using alternate modes of transit like bicycling. But if people are going to do that as an alternative they need places to actually park their bikes. Its only when I’m downtown and need to go to some place that is so well-served by motor-vehicle-oriented infrastructure that I realize how much BS most of what the city claims is.

    But then again, we’re talking about the city where the bike part thieves are pushing their overflowing shopping carts full of stolen goods down Market St. in the middle of the day.


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