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Businesses Agree: More On-Street Bike Racks Needed In TC

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Businesses Agree: More On-Street Bike Racks Needed In TC

~ by guest contributor James Bruckbauer, a transportation specialist at MLUI. This summer Jim is getting back on the bike after having a bad run-in with a door last year.


Yesterday evening in front of Union Street Station, eleven bikes were on the sidewalk tied to light poles, trees, and signs, including one sign that read: NO BICYCLES OR COASTER TOYS ON SIDEWALKS.”

Meanwhile, an adjacent parking space, reserved for cars, sat empty.

Parking disconnect at Union St. Station

When I asked a Union Street Station waitress about parking, she said most of their customers that drive to the bar park in the back of their building. She said people who park in front are shopping across the street. She also said the build up of bicycles on their sidewalk in front of their bar is a problem by blocking foot traffic. She wishes there was a way to provide bike racks for bikers who frequent the business, but there really isn’t the room on the sidewalk.

“But that’s a city thing, we can’t control that,” she said.

Now, more than ever, downtown Traverse City customers ride their bikes to get to their favorite shop, restaurant or bar. But for many of those customers, finding a legal and secure place to park can be difficult. There is bicycle parking in downtown TC, but not consistently where a person on a bike is likely to use it.

Downtown businesses are taking notice, and they want more space for bikes near their businesses.

Jason Kasdorf, General Manager of 7 Monks Taproom, said he’s been asking for additional bike parking for a while. When he moved to Traverse City he was surprised at the amount of safe, secure, organized bike parking that’s missing from city streets.

Can this be improved upon?

He said his staff and customers need additional bike parking and he would rather not see the bikes tied to the light poles and trees outside of their building.

“Summer is here and we’re going to have bikes everywhere,” he said. “I’d rather see them organized in racks rather than tied up to trees.”

Right now, because of the lack of secure parking, 7 Monks staff keeps their bikes in the basement. And the city says additional bike parking can be added to the back alley.

But Jason thinks there’s plenty of space out front.

To respond to the need, the Downtown Development Authority’s Parking and Access committee is looking to add more bicycle parking downtown. After the success of the bike TART Trails moveable on-street bike corral, more on-street parking could be part of that strategy.

TC’s first on-street racks

Recently, TART Trails and the City of Traverse City hosted a webinar by the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals about on-street bicycle parking and invited local leaders, DDA staff, and Parking Committee members–slide presentation (PDF).

The presenters explained how leaders in many cities want to increase their share of cyclists, so they set very ambitious goals and specific strategies to make it happen.

Even cold climate Midwestern cities like Milwaukee and Minneapolis have executed ambitious plans to become bike-friendly. In those cities, bike commuting is on the rise and so are the health care savings.

On-street bike parking is a big part of their strategy.

Many cities found that once on-street racks are installed, more demand usually follows. In Portland, 144 auto parking spaces have been removed, 85 corrals have been installed, 1442 bike parking spaces are provided, and over 75 locations have requested more on-street corrals. The visuals from Portland’s bike corral program are certainly enticing.

Show me the money!

The data on consumer spending per sq. ft. of parking is also worth noting, too. Researchers in Melbourne found that for each square meter of space allocated to cars reaps just $6 per hour in downtown spending, yet each square meter of space allocated to bikes reaps $31 per hour, or five times as much.

Placing the racks in the street also removes bicycles from sidewalks, leaving more room for pedestrians, sidewalk cafes tables and benches. They increase the district’s overall parking capacity. They allow more customers to park close to their favorite shop or restaurant.

If placed around a corner, they can also provide more visibility for drivers. In front of Union Street Station for example, limited visibility around the adjacent alley has caused many near-accidents. Opening up the viewing around the corner can help. (See photo)

A typical moveable rack can cost anywhere from $3-6,000, and most cities pay for them with some combination of private donations, sponsors or advertising, grants, business district money, and, of course, revenue generated from automobile parking.

Check out the Streetfilms video about on-street parking:


What do you think?
Is the next bike corral in front of Union Street Station?

If you have comments or want to participate in the planning for on street bike parking downtown, please send them to Rob at the DDA (rob@downtowntc.com) or to me at james@mlui.org.


* Photos by James Bruckbaur

  1. Richard Miller
    June 11, 2012 at 9:07 am

    Clearly Traverse City, having done some, needs to do more in providing for safe, convenient, and visible bicycle parking. I find the statement, “city says additional bike parking can be added to the back alley” very unsettling. When choosing a location to lock my bike I look for the nearest, HIGHLY VISIBLE, spot, a place where a thief is most likely to be observed, not around the corner in an alley or in the back of a building.

  2. June 11, 2012 at 8:30 pm

    Nice post, Jim. The heavy use of the on street rack near Pangea’s is evidence that the city needs more bike parking and that riders will use them (if you build it, they will come!!). Also like data on the economics of bike vs auto. It’s not rocket science that foot/bike traffic generates more $$ than autos, but it should help strengthen the cause.

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