Saturday, August 8, 2009

Chicago's recent bike parking challenges

As meter privatization gives drivers road rage, bicyclists face speed bumps of their own.

by John Greenfield

[This piece also runs in Time Out Chicago,]

Three recent bike parking setbacks have cyclists racking their brains for a safe place to dock their rides. As a former Active Transportation Alliance employee and parking division manager of the Chicago Department of Transportation’s Bike Program, I contacted my old employers to get the lowdown.

Problem: Last month, cyclists panicked when the city announced plans to replace 30,000 parking meters with pay-and-display boxes by year’s end. Meters are often the only secure, U-lock–friendly place to park a bike. Since CDOT only installs 600 federally funded bike racks a year, Active Transportation Alliance’s Rob Sadowsky sent a “Save Chicago Bike Parking!” bulletin to members, urging them to lobby for more replacement racks in the city’s 2010 budget.

Response: CDOT has so far installed racks on a handful of blocks where meters have disappeared, and when new blocks are converted, one to two bagged meters will be left standing for several months pending a permanent solution (e.g., installing more racks, cutting off the meter heads and bolting on rings to create “post-and-ring” racks, as in Toronto), says CDOT spokesman Brian Steele.

CDOT is studying how cities like Toronto and Portland, Oregon, dealt with meter loss and is looking for new funding sources, such as federal stimulus money, to pay for more inverted U or post-and-ring racks, Steele says. In the meantime, if you notice blocks with neither meters nor replacement racks, you can request installation at or call 311. Installation generally takes a month.

Chase Bank pulled its sponsorship of the Grant Park bike valet, a “coat check for bikes” at Monroe Street and Lake Shore Drive, which parked a total of 16,000 cycles at last year’s Outdoor Film Festival, Taste of Chicago and other fests.

Grant Park bike valet sponsored by Chase (formerly Bank One)

Response: The Mayor’s Office of Special Events is placing an undetermined number of self-park racks at the former valet location, says spokeswoman Cindy Gatziolis. Meanwhile, a few blocks away, Millennium Park’s bike station (239 E Randolph St, 312-729-1000, can accommodate up to 75 bikes for daytime fests, and bike valet will still be available at Lollapalooza.

Problem: Last year, CDOT and the CTA spent $1 million to build parking areas with double-decker racks and space for a total of 382 bikes at four El stations: Midway, Jefferson Park, Damen (Blue Line) and Sox/35th. However, the racks sport a small, fixed locking ring that doesn’t allow locking both a bike’s frame and a wheel to the rack with a U-lock.

Cyclists such as Howard Kaplan, webmaster for the Chicago Stolen Bike Registry, ( say the racks aren’t secure.

Response: CDOT will retrofit the racks with more effective, moveable locking arms this summer, according to Steele.

To get your voice heard on these issues, attend the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council meeting, Wednesday June 17 at 6pm at Daley Bicentennial Plaza (337 E Randolph St).


Eric said...

Bike racks are cheap. The City should just pony up the money. Better yet, allocate part of the parking revenue from the pay and display conversion. Also, bolting rings onto old parking meters doesn't always work. Often parking meters are too close to the curb, making it difficult, unsafe or impossible to lock a bike to the curbside, particularly when a car is there.

collector baseball cards said...

These parking spaces are essential to prevent theft of bicycles that are happening today in the city very good implementation

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