More Bike Parking News From City Council: 20,000 New Spaces on the Way

parking_garage.jpgIntro 780 will require commercial parking facilities to add spaces for bikes -- and signs announcing the availability of bike parking. Photo: 12th St David/Flickr.
Somewhat lost amid the excitement over the Bicycle Access Bill, last week the City Council passed a second law that will significantly expand options for bike commuters looking for a better place to lock up. Intro 780, which we mentioned briefly in June, requires commercial garages and parking lots to provide spaces for bikes at a specific ratio relative to spaces for cars. Prices for the new bike parking will be left up to the market.

All told, the law will eventually create more than 20,000 new bike parking spaces in nearly 1,700 locations, according to estimates given by DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan at a City Council hearing on the bill. Most, but not all, of those locations are in Manhattan.

Sponsored by Council Member Oliver Koppell of the Bronx, the bill applies to commercial parking facilities with more than 50 car parking spaces. It requires facility operators to provide one bike parking space for every 10 car parking spaces, up to a threshold of 200 car spaces. Beyond that, one bike spot will be required for every 100 additional car spots.

The bill was drafted specifically to encourage bike commuting, said Koppell's staff counsel, Jamin Sewell. "By encouraging New York City residents to use cycling as a means to commute to work through providing increased opportunities to safely park bicycles, New York City is making an important step towards increasing the wellbeing of its citizens," Koppell said in a statement.

This marks the third major step to improve bike parking options taken by the City Council this year. In April, the council approved a zoning amendment mandating bike parking in new buildings, and then, of course, the Bicycle Access Bill passed on the same day as Intro 780.

Bike advocates applauded the bill's passage, but until the Bicycle Access Bill had a clear path toward becoming law, they worried Intro 780 might serve as a substitute measure. "Our fear was that it would supplant Bicycle Access," said Transportation Alternatives director Paul Steely White.

The Real Estate Board of New York, the high-powered lobbying group which opposed the Bicycle Access Bill, didn't contest Koppell's bill quite as much, but still frowned on it. Among the parking industry, positions were divided. Edison Properties, one of the largest parking companies in the city, supported Intro 780 and was already exploring ways to supply bike parking, said White.

A caveat: As one city official put it, mandating space for bikes in garages is "a blunt instrument." We're talking about spaces designed for autos, with car traffic coming and going around blind corners. Accessing these spaces as a pedestrian or cyclist can feel awkward or dangerous, and storage areas are not necessarily as theft-proof as keeping a bike in one's workplace.

That said, Intro 780 should serve as an effective complement to the Bicycle Access Bill, especially for commuters who can afford commercial bike parking fees and whose workplaces manage to circumvent the new bike access rules. The Intro 780 requirements take effect in about three months, when facilities with 100 or more car parking spaces will have to comply. Facilities with between 51 and 99 parking spots will have to comply two years after that.