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.

Thivener agreed.

“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.

16 thoughts on “Business community seeks flexibility in bike parking rules (updated)”
  1. The poll could use a bit more clarity. At many CVS and Walgreens, the rack is easy to see from the front door BUT it’s all the way at the back corner of the store, about 120 to 150 feet away. This makes it essentially out of sight/out of mind (except to thieves) of store customers coming and going, who’s presence can help deter theft. That is why we got the development standards changed five years ago to require the racks to be within 30 feet from the front entrance. The change to 50 feet is actually favorable to a business or other facility. In working with Walgreens, as a prime example of excellent parking we were able to get front-entrance protected parking at the Walgreens on Speedway just east of Country Club. I’d suggest revision of the wording on the “yes” option to point out that a rack can be easy to see but may be up to 120 feet or so away from the front entrance, which many cyclists might not use.

  2. What is less long time storage? I love bike lockers. I wouldn’t mind walking more than 50 feet if my bike were in a locker that was free of spiders and debris. You can put your shopping bags in a locker then keep shopping from store to store. I would especially like to see some bike lockers downtown somewhere because I usually park then walk all over, sometimes blocks away. Check out the two stripped bikes between the library and City Hall to see why lockers are better than poles. I vote 50 or lockers. Thanx

  3. Bike boxes are a great idea on paper, but tend to go unused for their intended purpose mostly because they require a different type of lock than most cyclists normally carry. As a result they either become de-facto homeless camps and get trashed, or the businesses tire of constantly cleaning/fixing them and just lock them up perpetually empty. It’s a shame because it would take only a slight modification on most of them to allow use of either a padlock *or* U-lock, but the bike box suppliers apparently don’t offer it.

    Personally I’m good with any place to lock up that is in *any* high public visibility area nearby – it seems a little silly to be willing to ride a bike 5-10 miles to get there, to then stress about having to walk an extra 70ft to the door.

  4. I think the issue with flexibility is who is reviewing/approving the exceptions. It sounds like exceptions have been approved in the past too easily, resulting in rack locations that were counter to the intent of the 50-foot rule. I’m not fond of 1 size fits all regulations, but if developers take advantage of the flexibility, there’s really no point in having the regulation.

  5. Home Depot, some grocery stores and Borders Books, I think that’s who we’re talking about. Why can’t they have bike racks out front? Many of them can put in a bike corral right in front of the store.
    Really tho, they need to start thinking about us cyclists from the beginning stages of their architectural and landscape planning. It’s cheaper and better to design racks in from the beginning. The hardship cases are caused by forcing business owners now to fix the sins of business owners in the past. Retrofitting bike racks to places where they hadn’t been given proper design priority before can be expensive. However, bike corrals should work well in many locations, even some shopping centers. The “cost” of bike corrals is they are highly visible and remove one or two car parking spaces. The most challenging situation would be in a shopping center with a traffic lane that runs right along the storefront sidewalk. Since there are no parking spaces right in front of these stores, the traffic lane would have to be re-routed around a bike corral. That could be very expensive.

    Those drug stores with the corner entrances – they didn’t give us cyclists any thought at all, did they? Since they don’t value you, you may not want to give them your money.

    As for putting a rack distant from a store entrance – every foot further out is another foot you’re giving to the guy who’s stealing your bike as a head start.

  6. It isn’t about the distance cyclists have to walk to get to the door! It is hidden out-of-the-way bike racks where bikes get stolen. And if you have to park your bike at night, it is nice to do it where people are coming and going from the entrance rather than far from sight – just makes cyclists feel safer.

  7. I still vote for 50 feet even with the updates to this post. 120 feet is called a nice head start. Where are the bike racks at Home Depot? I always lock up to the carriage corral thing. Also, there are vertical bike lockers that homeless people can’t sleep in and that u-lock idea is a great idea.

  8. Why can’t we have both proximity and quality?

    Bicycle racks should be:

    a) as close to the main entrance of the store as possible;
    b) shaded from the sun*; and
    c) of a good design, like those racks around the University

    Businesses, even established ones, should not be able to exempt themselves from creating decent bicycle parking. Imagine if every business had the right to ask for an exemption from new health or labor laws that come up. It would be anarchy.

    This is something that companies need to just get over as a cost of doing business in the city. And if a business can’t afford to put in a decent bike rack in a suitable location then they probably won’t last long as an enterprise anyway.

    * See the Albertson’s market on Wilmot and 22nd. They have a shaded area for shopping cart storage, but the crappy bike rack they have is right in the middle of a sunny sidewalk.

  9. As an example of what I was saying yesterday, last night I met up with some friends for a beer at the Claim Jumper on Broadway – in the very back of the restaurant, in the exact opposite corner of the entrance, there is a single inverted U rack and three lockers, all three in unused condition and all locked empty with identical padlocks, the kind that you buy as a set all keyed alike. Now I’m just guessing here, but since this is such a common sight in this town, I’ll bet that the installation of the lockers is a condition of getting the variance that allows them to hide the bike parking away where it won’t offend the tender sensibilities of their “normal” customers, but the variance only covers installation, without requiring that the business actually make them available for use.

    And true to what I said about locking up in any high public visibility area regardless of proximity, I chose to lock up to the always excellent post-n-loops set in concrete next to the entrance of the Target across the parking lot as a safer alternative. Now if CJ had their bolt-down inverted-U within 30ft of the door I might have used it, but since there wasn’t much customer traffic while we were there, it may have *still* been safer to lock up to the better spot at Target.

    And yeah – parking at that Alberson’s is like parking in a solar oven. The bike is always hotter there than in the sun elsewhere; must be the reflection off the wall.

  10. Actually, I really like the idea of just taking one car space out in the parking lot (perhaps instead of one of the “cart return” stations), set a concrete parking block in front of it and sink some inverted-U or post-n-ring racks. I think there may be some sort of zoning rule that requires islands with trees in parking lots – that also seems like a good spot for racks that are out of the way and very cheap and painless to implement.

  11. I just remembered, a good example of this is the bike parking in the lot behind Fromino’s on Speedway.

  12. Dear businesses,

    If your bike rack is out of sight of the entrance of your store I will not use it. I will bring my bike inside instead. If you refuse to let me in your store with my bike I will go else where.


  13. These bike racks shaped like an upside-down U are cheap, but don’t work well. So are you supposed to lean your frame on the metal? What if you have a nice bike that you don’t want scratched? Are you expected to have a kick stand? I have seen cyclists try to lean their rear wheels on this type of rack. The bikes slide out. What ever happened to the style of rack which has a slot you slide a rear wheel into?

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