Bike parking at transit stations

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A large bike parking structure in Amsterdam. Source: Crystian Cruz

Introduction

Bicycles are a convenient, green tool for completing the last mile connections for transit riders. Once riders get to the station they have two options: bringing their bike aboard of leaving it at the station. Bring a bicycle on a crowded train is not practical, so the latter option is often desirable. Providing welcoming, secure bicycle parking facilities helps customers feel at ease leaving their bicycles, and in turn expands the catchment area for transit station use.

Some transit systems, such as San Francisco’s MUNI Light Rail, do not let riders bring bicycles onto trains at any time<ref>San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA). "How to Ride Light Rail."</ref>. When bicycle access is prohibited or limited, it is even more essential that systems provide secure bike parking.

Class II Bike Parking

Some transit users who cycle to a station will only need to park for a couple of hours. This type of short-term parking is known as class II, and is characterized by simple metal bike racks that a rider can secure a bike to using a personal lock.

Stacked bicycle parking at a Southern Railway station in Sutton, England. Source: [http://www.southernrailway.com/southern/news/news-archive/2011/07/sutton-station-gets-double-deck-cycle-parking/ Southern Railway

Types of Racks

There are many class II options on the market, including basic sidewalk bicycle racks, rings that can be attached to parking meters, and multi-bicycle corrals. Whatever type of rack is used, riders secure their bikes using their own personal lock(s). To provide sufficient security, a rack must allow a rider to lock the bicycle's frame as well as the wheels. Racks that allow for two points of contact with each bicycle have the advantage of keeping the bikes upright; when bikes fall over they can become damaged, damage other bikes, or become tripping hazards.

Some transit agencies have begun to experience with stacked bike parking, which increases capacity in limited space<ref>Southern Railway. "Sutton station gets double deck cycle parking." 2011.</ref>.

Location

Bike parking should be easily visible from the entrance of a transit station, and signage should be provided where appropriate. Bike access to the station should be made easy through elevators, escalators, or ramps and agencies to work to avoid requiring customers to carry bikes up or down stairs, if possible. Class II parking should be placed within 50 feet of a stop or station entrance<ref name="nacto">National Association of City Transportation Officials. "Bike Parking."</ref>.

For additional security, bike parking can be provided on the interior of the fare gate to reduce potential for theft. If there is a station agent, it is recommended the bike parking be located in their line of sight for further deterrence. The area should be well-lit and in view of pedestrian areas for both personal safety and theft deterrence<ref name="nacto" />.

Class I Bike Parking

Some transit users do not feel comfortable using class II bike parking. This could be because they are leaving their bike for an extended period, because the bike is especially valuable, or because the weather is bad. To accommodate these users, agencies should consider class I parking, which provide enhanced security for long-term parking. Examples of class I parking facilities include lockers, monitored parking, or restricted access areas.

LA Metro has bike lockers available for long-term rental at stations. Source: Oran Viriyinci

Long-Term Locker Rentals

Some transit systems, such as LA Metro, offer long-term locker rentals. Long-term rental programs often require the public to be added to waiting lists and prevent casual use of lockers, but since they require little technological investments they are often less costly than other programs.

Electronic Lockers

Modern technology allows for easy pay-per-minute locker rentals. Depending on the provider, these programs can accommodate immediate sign-up for casual locker users and require little oversight by agency staff, especially if integrated with the transit users fare card.

Concerns with Lockers

Transit systems often have lockers both inside and outside stations, though security is sometimes a concern for underground stations. Lockers are large and bulky and are often an attractive canvas for graffiti. Lockers take up much more room per bike than other solutions, so it can be impractical to install enough to meet demand. At major stations, the waitlist for an LA Metro bike locker can be dozens of people long<ref>LA Metro. "Metro Bike Locker Program Registration."</ref>.

Limited Access Rooms

The BART stations at Embarcadero and Berkeley have locked rooms where customers can gain access to the room only by using a membership-based BikeLink card. The Embarcadero Station room is available to users during station hours, while the Berkeley Station facility is available 24 hours a day for subscribers. These limited-access facilities qualify as class I bike parking and reported thefts are rare, but riders need to use the same locking procedures they would for class II parking since the rooms are relatively open. Since these types of facilities require user registration, users must plan ahead and request an access key weeks in advance, which can limit acceptance from a broader base.

Valet/Monitored Stations

Just like car valet or monitored parking garages, some transit stations operate programs where bicycles are either parked or watched by a paid staff member. BART Stations in Fruitvale and Berkeley and CalTrain in downtown San Francisco operate street-level bike parking that also operate as bike repair shops and bike accessory shops. The City of Long Beach operates a Bike Station in a transit-only mall near the LA Metro Blue Line station in downtown. These programs are often funded in part by the transit systems and operated by private for-profit companies. Valet stations park bikes during the day at no or low-cost and operate during operational hours of the transit system. Some locations offer 24-hour access for members in addition to monitored station for an additional fee. Los Angeles Metro currently operates one Bike Hub, and plans two open at least two more in 2017<ref>"Metro Bike Hub."</ref>.

Abandoned Bike Policies

An example of tags used to mark abandoned bicycles to be removed. Source: Philadelphia Mayor's Office of Transportation and Utilities

One of the most challenging aspects of providing public bike storage is managing abandoned bicycles. While the overwhelmingly majority of bicycles will be locked and removed in a timely manner, there will inevitably be bikes that are left for an extended period of time, reducing capacity. Transit agencies should post clear signage that bicycles may not be stored longer than a designated period (for example, 72 hours) and are subject to removal after that time has passed. These regulations do not require daily enforcement - a periodic sweep of all parked bicycles can be enough to keep bike racks available to customers.

During these sweeps a staff member may place a tag around the bicycle’s handlebars or wheel stating that the bike is subject to removal after a certain period unless this tag is removed. Those who retrieve their bicycles in a timely fashion can simply remove the tag, and those who have left their bikes an extended period can be removed. This process would likely be required no more than 2-4 times a year for most stations.

Bike locks are relatively easy to remove, and there are a variety of agencies, such as local YMCA’s, homeless shelters, or other non-profits who would likely accept the bicycles as a donation for those in need.

References

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Additional Reading

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. "Bicycle Parking: Standards, Guidelines, Recommendations."

This report provides comprehensive guidelines for bike parking at transit stations.

Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals. "Essentials of Bike Parking." 2015.

An illustrated summary of the organization's full bicycle parking manual, this short document runs through essential concepts in bike rack design, material, and placement.