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The Beauty of Bikes is in the Parking

Indianapolis has been pushing hard to catch up with leading bicycle cities such as Portland and San Francisco. Seeing all that two-wheeled traffic in downtown and surrounding neighborhoods has been a blessing in so many ways – less pollution from cars, less vehicle congestion, better public health outcomes, and especially watching people get outside and reconnect with their city.  But I wanted to share what I consider the key benefit to bringing back bicycles:  the opportunity for dense downtown development without parking lots or subsidized garages!

Bicycles and Cities, together again!

Bicycles and Cities, together again!

Bicycles seem to be sprouting everywhere in Indy

Bicycles seem to be sprouting everywhere in Indy

Our current renaissance of downtown required some big bites of that dreaded sandwich of compromise. While many of us at Urban Indy have taken a stand against subsidized vehicle parking, seeing it as a continuation of the old “highways first” policy that doomed many downtown areas to begin with, it is true that city leaders and business developers have a hard time seeing how any modern city could function without adequate parking. Finding a place to park is the most important concern for many commuters and shoppers, especially since densities have been creeping ever lower and people have to travel further for their jobs. But bicycle infrastructure gives us that magical silver bullet to end this concern, and reverse the trend in our cities.

Bicycle parking is radically more efficient than car parking

Bicycle parking is radically more efficient than car parking

Bicycle infrastructure generates beautiful cities!

Bicycle infrastructure generates beautiful cities!

I certainly don’t want to imply that everyone should be riding bicycles, but it is clear that bicycle infrastructure does benefit everyone. Every dollar not spent on gasoline (or expensive cars, insurance, and vehicle maintenance) is a dollar that is likely spent on local goods and services. The economic benefits are huge! Every bit of mode share (the percentage of people using a particular type of transportation) that bikes can capture means that Indianapolis sees real job growth, real increases in quality of life, and real improvements in household savings.

And never forget that bicycle infrastructure can serve double-duty for accessible routes - Vastly improving Quality of Life for some citizens

And never forget that bicycle infrastructure can serve double-duty for accessible routes – vastly improving Quality of Life for our citizens

Coming back to the issue of parking, this is where bicycles really deliver their benefits to Urban Design. Building a city to mimic the old streets of Paris or Brooklyn is impossible when everyone must drive. Instead, we end up with a “stroad” and collector system, typically with a design life of 20 years before the cancer of dead mall syndrome takes over.

Car lots don't leave room for the cities they serve

Car lots don’t leave room for the cities they serve

Filling car lots requires this kind of infrastructure

Filling car lots requires this kind of infrastructure

But a city with intensive bicycle infrastructure means that beautiful cityscapes don’t have to remain a fantasy. Because bicycles require so little space for their parking needs, they encourage well-designed traditional urban landscapes. Old-style city blocks become feasible, and in fact become more economical than the sprawling parking lots of suburbia; houses can once again use narrow lots when they don’t need a driveway and triple garage door; and streets can once again use names like “lane” or “avenue” without sounding like a cruel joke.

This clever addition to the old meter means I never look for parking near the Circle anymore

This clever addition to the old meter means I never look for parking near the Circle anymore

Bike parking can pull in new customers no matter the location

Bike parking can pull in new customers no matter the location

So here are some examples of great bicycle infrastructure that I’ve collected in the past few years. We may never “catch up” with the great cycling initiatives of the West Coast or Copenhagen, but trust me when I tell you that in the case of bicycle infrastructure The Deed is its Own Reward.

A new kind of garage, fit for a modern city (image credit: unknown)

A new kind of residential garage, fit for a modern city (image credit: unknown)

Portland's bike lockers remind us that some bicyclists demand higher levels of protection (image credit: H. Simmons)

Portland’s bike lockers remind us that some bicyclists demand higher levels of protection (image credit: H. Simmons)

New York's bike lanes next to the Flatiron remind us that bicyclists are part of the city too and deserve space on main routes

New York’s bike lanes next to the Flatiron remind us that bicyclists are part of the city too and deserve space on main routes

Munich reminds us that multi-modal commuters need a place to store bikes, or people will make their own

Munich reminds us that multi-modal commuters need a place to store bikes, or people will create their own

Milwaukee's "Marsupial" bridge reminds us that there is always room for innovation in bicycle infrastructure

Milwaukee’s “Marsupial” bridge reminds us that there is always room for innovation in bicycle infrastructure

Just because Milwaukee is known for gas-fired two-wheel monsters, there is always room for new technology

Just because Milwaukee is known for gas-fired, two-wheeled monsters, there is always room for new technology

Black Rock City reminds us that bicycling can be a joyful shared experience

Black Rock City reminds us that bicycling can be a joyful shared experience

Bicycles, and their smaller parking requirements, allow us to create the cities that people like to inhabit. Bicycle parking holds the power to invigorate our local economies and unleash the power of our local architects.
Support for bicycle infrastructure is support for a city of humans, rather than a city of vehicles.

Option #1: Cede the city to parking spaces, Detroit style (image credit: Sean Doerr/WNET.org)

Option #1: Cede the city to parking spaces, Detroit style (image credit: Sean Doerr/WNET.org)

Option #2: Help people build a better city with bicycle parking, as in Amsterdam (image credit: Airbete/Wikimedia)

Option #2: Help people build a better city with bicycle parking, as in Amsterdam (image credit: Airbete/Wikimedia)

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12 Responses to “ “The Beauty of Bikes is in the Parking”

  1. ahow628 says:

    This is one of my favorite posts of all time on Urban Indy.

    I think I’m going to build one of those bike locker drawers (in the picture below the Triton one) for my front porch. That would beat stashing it in the garage on a hook all the time.

  2. Tim J says:

    I thought the bike locker was amazing, too. Someone could start a local business constructing and selling them. I’m thinking one would fit great in my side yard.

    • The example shown in the photo looks really nice, and completely changed my thoughts on bike parking possibilities. It even has a green roof! I would definitely enjoy storing my bike somewhere easily accessible as well.

  3. Matt says:

    Great pics!

  4. Brandon says:

    I know Louisville has a similar bridge for the peds, want to try it.

  5. connie says:

    Indianapolis has bicycle lockers in downtown Indy that are accessible by cell phone and are free to use after paying a nominal $5.95/year fee. For more info go to http://www.inbikeport.org. you can also purchase bike lockers either for yourself or encourage your employer or landlord to purchase them.

  6. Kevin Whited says:

    I’m with Andy, I loved the covered bike drawers! Maybe i could take a woodworking class and start selling those through IndyCog. Great work Graeme! We miss you in the Circle City.

    I did want to point out that IndyCog has a bike parking program and we’re the ones with help from ParkIndy, IDI and CIBA Foundation, are installing meter rings downtown and Broad Ripple (in full disclosure we haven’t got any in BR yet). We have got ~60 installed downtown. Here is the link for info if you want to sponsor one or you work somewhere that will buy them: http://indycog.org/rack-em-up

  7. Rhonda Lee Starr says:

    There are bike lockers at several locations downtown already (Capitol Building, Ohio & Senate, Merchants Garage, IUPUI along the White River). I wish there were more at more diverse locations (Bankers Life, Lucas Oil, Mass Ave, Broad Ripple, Fountain Square, Monon Trail & Main St. in Carmel, etc.)

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