Creating a Bike-Friendly Building
66 million Americans rode bicycles in the past year,[i] and between 2005 and 2014, there was a 46% increase in the share of commuters who cycled to work or school.[ii] Bicycle parking can ease the demand for vehicle parking, and is a much more space efficient option.
A lack of adequate bicycle parking forces dedicated cyclists to lock their bikes to any available anchor point. Light posts, railings, benches, and trees often fall victim to this improvised parking, becoming dented or scratched by bike locks in the process.
Other cyclists might opt to carry their bike inside, damaging doorframe, wall, and elevator surfaces with their handlebars and pedals.
Bicycles locked to stairway railings aren’t just unsightly; they can also impede access to the elderly and disabled, or even interfere with emergency response teams.
What should you consider when selecting bike parking?
Bike parking design should consider the area and its users to optimize space, minimize obstruction, and provide an appropriate level of security.
Some facilities have bike parking located in a far corner of their lot, only to then be disappointed when it goes unused. When installing bike parking, it’s important to ensure that everything is visible and accessible. It can be helpful to provide signage directing cyclists to the bike parking station. Many cyclists are concerned about theft, and feel uncomfortable leaving their bikes out of plain sight.
If a parking facility is placed far away from the cyclist’s intended destination, they may not be motivated to walk the distance, or may miss the racks all together. The best place for bike parking is near the building entrance, no further than the distance of the closest car parking space. Bike parking should also be placed level with the cycling route or accessible by a ramp that is not shared with cars.
Bikes take up more space than the racks they’re parked at. Make sure there is enough space for bikes to maneuver in and out of parking without obstructing pedestrian paths.
- Plan for about 10 to 15 inches of parking width per bike. This allows for some overlap; be aware that one bike’s handlebars can be up to 30 inches wide.
- Bikes can measure up to 7 feet end-to-end.
- Provide 3 to 4 feet of swing room for bikes to maneuver in and out of parking racks.
- Leave a gap between racks, walls, and nearby walkways or other amenities.
Even with strict adherence to these guidelines, bike parking is highly space efficient. A single standard car-parking stall can fit 10 to 12 bicycle parking spaces.[iii]
Security is incredibly important to cyclists – hence their attempts to lock their bikes to the sturdiest available anchor point. There are a variety of secure bike locks available, but some are more compatible with certain rack types than others; it’s important to make sure that cyclists in your building can use the bike rack you’ve installed.
The most commonly used bike locks are U-locks or cable and chain-style locks. Careful cyclists will usually avoid bike racks that only lock to a single wheel (thieves can simply remove the attached wheel and take off with the rest). Secure bicycle parking should provide for multiple locking points.
It’s important to evaluate the expected usage and weather conditions of a site when researching the best material for a bike parking facility. 316 stainless steel is a good option for locations near seawater or where de-icing salts are often used, as it is corrosion resistant and easy to maintain.
Powder-coated steel is another durable, weather- and wear-resistant option. It can be found in different colors to complement the building design or increase visibility.
Ductile iron is sometimes used for decorative or hitching-post style parking. It can be cast into intricate shapes and textures for a distinctive design.
Evaluate your installation site before selecting your bike parking. Bike racks can be installed on new or existing concrete surfaces, but require different mounting systems for each.
Is there landscaping to consider? Tiles, bricks, and asphalt may require sections to be drilled and filled with cement to provide a mounting anchor. Installation on grass, soil, mulch, and other dirt surfaces isn’t recommended – repeated wheeling and walking damages landscaping, and will likely track dirt around the facility.
Bike parking can be mounted directly onto a wood surface, provided the wood is thick enough.
Before installing bike parking on any surface, ensure that there are no underground utility lines or pipes that could pose a hazard.
Bike Parking Options
Bike parking facilities should be secure, accessible, and simple enough for cyclists to recognize and use. Some of the most common bike parking options include:
Bike Racks—Considered the most accessible form of bike parking; stand-alone bike racks are usually made from high-grade steel pipe configured into a circular, square, or inverted-u shape. With two points of contact available, they can securely store up to two bikes at a time. They are a good option for buildings with less sidewalk space, as they provide enough room for both bikes and pedestrians passing by. Stand-alone bike racks can be installed in a variety of patterns to accommodate the surrounding structure.
Bike Lockers—Bike lockers provide cyclists with a fully enclosed parking space; most lockers feature a solid door-locking mechanism secured by padlock. They offer the most security and weather protection, but also require more space than other parking options.
Bike lockers are a solid option for easy-installation on grass and gravel. They can also securely store electronic bicycles, mopeds, and scooters.
Corral-Style Bike Racks—The most space-effective bike racks are corral-style. They are similar to stand-alone bike racks, but with repeating designs to allow for greater bike density. This is the best option when trying to maximize capacity in a smaller space; corral-style racks can hold approximately 12 bikes per 200 square feet, or about 10 bikes to one car.[iv]
Bike Bollards (also known as bike hitches)—These are metal posts with locking-arms. Bike bollards, like stand-alone bike racks, allow the greatest room for both bikes and passing pedestrians. Decorative design can also make them a complementary addition to a building’s architectural features. With two points of contact available on each side, bike bollards can securely store up to two bikes at a time.
Removable options are available for instances where bike parking needs are seasonal or temporary. Some bike bollards can also be installed over steel security pipes, which offers the added value of crash protection
There are many reasons to provide secure, convenient bicycle parking outside your building, not least of which is decreasing the amount of property maintenance required. Instead of asking yourself “why” you should introduce bike parking to your facility, consider asking “what type should I choose?” Remember to evaluate the space, types of users, weather conditions, and aesthetics when selecting your bike parking.
Where to go from here? Check with your municipality. Many cities subsidize new bike parking installations, and some have specific installation requirements. Make sure to consult your local authorities for details on any applicable codes or bylaws.
Brad Done is the vice president at Reliance Foundry Co Ltd. He has more than 25 years’ experience in the manufacturing of commercial bike parking and other outdoor metal products.
[i] Statista. “Number of people who have been cycling within the last 12 months in the United States from spring 2008 to spring 2016 (in millions).”
[ii] The League of American Bicyclists. “Where We Ride 2014: Analysis of Bike Commuting.”
[iii] Tims, Dana. “Can 6 to 20 bicycles fit into a single-car parking space?” Politifact Oregon.
[iv] Tims, Dana. “Can 6 to 20 bicycles fit into a single-car parking space?” Politifact Oregon.