Bike Parking in the Workplace by Nicole McMorrow

We have all heard motorists demanding places to park their vehicles, and the proffered solutions. What is being overlooked in this stampede toward building parking garages is adequate and secure bicycle parking, particularly for the everyday commuter. Sure, a cyclist can lock his or her bike against a parking meter or a railing, but in addition to impeding the flow of pedestrian traffic, that leaves the bike vulnerable to theft and inclement weather. If safe and sufficient bike parking was widely available, more folks would choose to ride their bikes, and the demand for motor vehicle parking would diminish.

Some office buildings in downtown San Francisco allow bikes to be brought inside the building through the lobby; in most cases, however, building managers force cyclists to use freight elevators, often through a side or rear entrance, relegating them to second-class citizen status. And many building managers do not allow bicycles in at all, citing space restraints in elevators, risk of accidents, and the perception of grimy bikes on valued carpets.

These same building managers nevertheless tolerate delivery people bringing their hand trucks into these very same elevators, and rolling their cargo along these very same carpets. As for muck and grime, bicycle tires don't roll through anything that people do not walk through—shouldn't building managers also require their tenants to remove their shoes at the door before walking through the lobby?

POOR, BETTER, BEST: At left an example of an inadequate bike parking facility. This outdoor rack is exposed to the elements in an unsupervised location that leaves the bikes vulnerable to thieves. To add insult to injury, the rack is right next to air vents spewing out dust.

The middle example is better: Bikes are stored securely in this separate locked room. However the photo may not clearly show the room's condition: cramped, dank, and mildewed--hardly the ideal place to leave your bike.

The third photo shows an ideal facility: located in City Hall, this clean and sizable bike room has a locked door accessible via combination, lockers and benches.

Some buildings that do not allow access for bikes do provide outdoor or parking garage bike racks for their tenants. This is better than nothing, but hardly ideal. One cyclist reported that his office building's "pitiful" bike racks were located at the back of the building, next to the trash compactor. He preferred locking his bike to a parking meter in front of the building, where there is at least a steady flow of foot traffic. Still another cyclist would park his bike in an underground garage where the racks were frequently blocked by delivery trucks, or he'd come out at the end of the day to find all the bikes coated with dust from unidentified origins.

The ideal bike parking facility is a separate, locked room within the building that includes racks for u-locking bikes, lockers, and showers. If bike racks must be located outdoors, they should be placed with the safety of the cyclist (who may be retrieving his or her bicycle alone, after dark) and the security of the bicycle (bike racks clearly visible from the street or other buildings, with enough foot traffic to discourage would-be thieves) in mind.

In 1998, the Board of Supervisors approved then-Supervisor Leslie Katz's Bicycle Transit Enhancement Plan requiring that all commercial buildings with parking garages provide adequate and satisfactory bike parking and requiring new commercial buildings, and existing buildings that undergo major renovation, to provide showers and lockers for tenants.

The current Board of Supervisors will soon consider additional legislation sponsored by Supervisor Mark Leno that would fill a big hole left in the 1998 Bicycle Transit Enhancement Plan, which happened to omit any bike parking requirement in new commercial buildings without garages. Closing this loophole will go a long way toward encouraging people to bike to work. The hearing on Leno's legislation is scheduled for June 14 (see Quick Releases).

The City and County of San Francisco requires any office building in which City employees work to make available sufficient bike parking for those employees. This is wonderful for the 10 percent of San Francisco's workforce that is employed by the City, but what about the rest of us? Beyond supporting Supervisor Leno's legislation, what can we do to develop a better bike parking network in office buildings?

According to Dave Snyder, SFBC Executive Director, "The SFBC has little clout with building managers; pressure must come from the tenants themselves." Ways to influence building managers to provide bike parking can range from simply writing a letter to the manager requesting the needed facilities to demanding them upon lease re-negotiation. On the SFBC's to-do list is the creation of a brochure advising people on how to petition building managers to provide bike parking facilities. If you would like to help with this effort, call 431-BIKE.