Business community seeks flexibility in bike parking rules (updated)
This bike parking at the Himmel Library is close to the front door, which makes it easy for cyclists to see and use.
Proposed changes to the City of Tucson’s bicycle parking regulations are raising concerns in the business community.
The bicycle parking rules are being moved from the city’s development standards document to the city’s land use code.
Adam Smith, a principal planner for the City of Tucson, said the move makes it much more difficult to request exceptions to the bicycle parking rules.
“Modifications for things in the land use code typically require going to the board of adjustments for a variance,” Smith said. “That is a much more onerous process. It can be very expensive and it is very time consuming.”
The regulations require businesses to locate their bike parking within 50 feet of a public entrance and that it be visible 180 degrees from the entrance.
Jason Wong, a member of the committee working with the city on the changes, said some businesses are designed in such a way that meeting the 180 degree requirement is impossible and some businesses use the space outside their store to sell merchandise.
“There are some businesses out there that have a business model that requires they display certain merchandising out front,” Wong said. “The question is, are we hurting the business by saying you have to put bicycle parking in the prime retail area for that particular business?”
Tom Thivener, the city’s bike and pedestrian program manager said other bike-friendly cities require the bike parking to be within 50 feet and that Tucson has required it for some time. It has just been easy to get an exception in the past.
Thivener said they provided options to help businesses that want to use the sidewalk area for merchandising rather than bike racks.
According to Thivener, the new rules allow businesses to locate the bicycle parking in the vehicle parking lot as long as it is protected from cars.
“It is still really close to the front door,” Thiverner said. “And, it isn’t obstructing the sidewalk area to sell.”
Smith said 50 feet is generally considered the maximum distance cyclists are willing to lock their bikes up to a rack before looking for another object to lock to.
Portland also uses a 50 foot requirement for their bike parking.
“Usually for a small development it is just one or two small racks so they are not exactly the most visible thing that you notice when you pull up,” Thivener said. “What you will notice when you pull up is you’ll look for any pole, any object that is affixed to the ground that you lock your bike to. The bike parking standard puts bike where they belong — on a rack.”
Wong said they want to find a balance.
“We are working really hard with everyone involved to make the land use code work to improve bicycle ridership, yet at the same time make sure the interest of the property owner and business owner is taken care of too,” Wong said. “Everyone is trying to find that right balance.”
Smith has suggested creating a process that will allow developers to more easily request an exception to the bike parking regulations while working with the city to ensure the bike parking is still visible and functional.
“I am hoping I can work out some kind of compromise,” Smith said. “Something that is acceptable to everyone. It really depends on how determined the cycling community is of having a rigid number because that gives them some certainty that the bike racks will be within a certain distance.”
If a compromise can’t be reached, Smith said they will take two different recommendations to the city council, who will make the final decision. Smith said he is hoping to take the proposal to the council in January 2011.
Other changes to the bike parking rules:
- Number of bike parking spaces will be based on development’s square footage. In the past it was based on number of vehicle parking spaces.
- Less long-term bike parking will be required
- Developments with several businesses will be required to disperse bike parking throughout the entire development.
What do you think?
Update: Based on Colnagonut’s comment, I changed the poll wording, which is totally unscientific, but it obviously wasn’t in the first place.
Update #2: Here is an illustration by Tom Thivener showing the difference between 50 feet and 120 feet when it comes to where to place bike parking.
Click the image for a larger view
Since there have been several updates, the poll is essentially useless, so I removed it. I’m still curious what you think. Leave a comment about it.