Safe Parking
by Henry Kingman

San Francisco car drivers think they have parking problems?!

Without a safe place to park, many cyclists simply cannot ride to work. Bike lanes are nice and everything, but I see parking as the biggest issue keeping otherwise capable people in cars.

That’s why, when bikes were outlawed in my office, I got involved. About 40 out of our 250 employees signed up for a bike parking mailing list. Many of us wrote to the Facilities Department and various company executives. The executives rallied behind us. They, too, wanted bikes inside. But Facilities refused to budge, offering a series of somewhat lame excuses followed by "because the owner says so."

Determined to find out the truth, we met with the James Lang Wooton Building Manager, Ty Shettron. The truth was a surprise. Shettron identified just one big obstacle. Our office was moving from the third to the fifth floor. If bicycles were let in, he said, someone might try to ride through the hallway next to the five-story atrium and topple over the balcony. There is no logic that can argue with that kind of reasoning. Rumor has it that building codes now mandate 4-foot 6-inch atrium railings - ours are 4-feet even - and that building owner Zorro Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) had the lower railings grandfathered in.

I suspect that fear of personal injury lawsuits keeps many San Francisco building owners and managers from letting in bikes. If you negotiate for parking inside your office, consider asking about the possibility of your own company carrying an insurance rider to cover bicycle-related mishaps in the building.

If you ask for bike parking in your cubicle, you might also ask for a sheltered place where bikes can be locked to drip-dry on rainy days. Alternatively, you can advise riding co-workers to carry a rag on rainy mornings. It is possible to cube-park for years without leaving a geologic record.

If you are working toward creating a bike room, be sure to ask for one that opens to a non-public space. Thieves could try to force their way into a bike room that opens onto the street. Also ask for a camera for security.

The day our office moved, a small bike room was opened on the first floor. It has a poor-quality rack and a cheesy combination lock on the door. About 10 people are using it — a far cry from the 20 to 30 bikes in our offices when you could just lean your bike up against your desk. But it is better than nothing and more than we might have gotten had we not fought at all.

We will probably lose the bike room if the parking garage attached to our building complies with the law passed last fall requiring San Francisco garages to offer bike parking. Or, the garage may find a loophole. The same law also "requires" buildings undergoing renovation to provide showers and lockers for bike commuters.

"We looked into that law," Mr. Shettron noted. "But even if the six-month clause had not been added, we still would have been exempt for lots of other reasons."

So don’t be fooled by feel-good headlines. There is still much work to do before bike parking is safe and convenient enough for anyone who wants to actually ride their bikes to work. If you are denied bike parking at work, I urge you to start a campaign. Just try to keep things more civil than your average executive tussle over the prime parking spot in the lot.