Second Life: NYC Parking Meters to Reincarnate as Bike Racks

naked_meter_pole.jpgHeadless meter poles on Madison Avenue, awaiting rebirth. Photo: Wiley Norvell.

New York's trusty single-space parking meters are a dying breed. They've served commercial corridors admirably, but they're rapidly giving way to muni-meters (which are much better suited for innovations in curbside pricing, like DOT's PARKSmart program).

The downside of the shrinking meter supply: New Yorkers have even fewer options to lock up their bikes. While DOT is in the process of adding 5,000 bike racks in the next few years, the rate of rack installation hasn't kept up with the rapid pace of meter removal. So cyclists could breathe a little easier last week, when DOT revealed that it will repurpose defunct meter poles as bike racks, a policy that advocates had been urging the agency to adopt.

We're already seeing signs of re-born meters out on the street. Transportation Alternatives' Wiley Norvell sent this pic of headless poles on Madison Avenue, where DOT will convert four meters per block (two on each side of the street) into bike racks.

Prior to voting overwhelmingly in favor of protected bike lanes at last week's Manhattan CB 8 meeting, the board also approved a motion to convert meters to bike racks on Madison from 69th Street to 90th Street. But not before a lengthy debate prompted by the board's liaison to the Madison Avenue BID. Apparently concerned about sidewalk clutter, the BID doesn't want converted bike racks on the avenue itself, but on the corners of each side street instead. (This would defeat the purpose of the conversion, since there are no parking meters on side streets.) The notion that customers ride to their shops has yet to gain sway with this particular BID.

As Norvell told Streetsblog, more official bike parking is good news for everyone who uses the sidewalk. "Lack of on-street parking is why bikes end up chained to anything and everything that's nailed down," he said. "Converting these existing poles to bike racks is a fast and inexpensive way to increase the supply and keep sidewalk clutter under control."

So, what will the meters look like once the conversion is complete? We have a request in with DOT for an image of the final product. Norvell tells us the re-purposed meters will incorporate the "hoop" design of the city's new official bike rack. For some out-of-town previews, here's how they do it in Sacramento and Baltimore. And Matt Roth at Streetsblog San Francisco wrote up a great piece this summer detailing how several other cities handle the disappearing parking meter problem.