Awards for the best bike parking in Chicago

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Bike parking at the new, LEED-certified Dominick’s at Foster and Sheridan. This installation has several good qualities: it’s near the entrance, sheltered, has good clearance, and an acceptable rack style. Please nominate the best bike parking! 

At the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council on Wednesday afternoon at City Hall, Bicycle Parking Program manager Christopher Gagnon recapped the year by saying the City installed 749 standard u-racks on sidewalks (more than usual because 2010 saw few installations), Wicker Park-Bucktown Special Service Area (SSA) donated 20+1 racks (including the City’s first bike corral), and Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce donated 20 racks (you can see some on Clark Street).

That’s great! But what about that little part of the zoning code that requires property owners to provide bike parking? What do we know about them?

The code, Sec. 17-10-0300, says, “Except as expressly stated in this section, bicycle parking must be provided in accordance with the off-street parking ratios of Sec. 17-10-0200 [this is a table saying for X car parking spaces at this property use, install Y bike parking spaces]”.

It also says “Racks and other fixtures used to provide required bicycle parking for nonresidential uses must be of a design that is approved by the Chicago Department of Transportation” [emphasis added]. I don’t think CDOT would approve of the design below, a grill rack (also known as grid or school style), or other hard-to-use rack styles.

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Jewel grocery store at Roosevelt and Ashland with a grill rack.

So Samantha of Ding Ding Let’s Ride, famous for her bike parking hall of shame, and Grid Chicago have teamed to create the first Chicago Bike Parking Awards. We want to highlight the property owners who’ve done things well when it comes to providing bike parking.

Please nominate the best bike parking!

We have two additional categories to prod some property owners into providing better bike parking: “most in need of improvement” and “most in need of bike parking”. You have until January 20th.

This is one strategy we’re undertaking to uncover why so many bad bike parking installations find their way for use by the public. As a former employee of the Chicago Bicycle Parking Program, I believe that they are the best qualified staff to review and approve good bike parking designs at private property development for use by citizen cyclists.

Notes

If you represent a business, Special Service Area, or Chamber of Commerce, and would like to explore providing bike parking for your customers or the public, either on private property or in the public way, contact Gagnon at the Bicycle Parking Program.

I am on the transportation subcommittee at the Wicker Park-Bucktown Special Service Area and helped select the locations at which 20 orange-colored, specially-designed u-racks were installed on Division Street, Ashland Avenue, Damen Avenue, and Western Avenue. I also consult for Active Transportation Alliance on school and municipal bike parking plans. Lastly, I operate Simple Bike Parking, a website that describes the three simple steps to good bike parking.

Also notable in the zoning code: The code doesn’t require bike parking at residential uses (but it should be). The code defines the minimum footprint necessary for each bike parking space (2 feet by 6 feet).

8 thoughts on “Awards for the best bike parking in Chicago”

  1. “Racks and other fixtures used to provide required bicycle parking for nonresidential uses must be of a design that is approved by the Chicago Department of Transportation” [emphasis added].

    One loophole in that piece of the zoning code is that there is no oversight built into the permit or inspection process to ensure that racks are of a suitable design or properly installed.

    1. This may be a loophole, but if the design is approved by the right representative of CDOT, it should not be a problem. I know from my experience working there the designs that CDOT (well, the bike parking program manager) would approve and disapprove. 

      The code (and its writers) may be right to not specify a design or installation as styles and techniques may change. 

      1. Actually, Chris and I have an ongoing dialogue about this issue.  CDOT has its guidelines.  APBP has its guidelines.  There does not seem to be a mechanism in the process to ensure that CDOT has review and approval of a planned installation for a new building to ensure that whoever will do that installation is familiar with the guidelines or has chosen a rack in accordance with current standards. 

        That is the loophole in the zoning code – no pre-installation plan review, no post-installation inspection.  Chris confirmed it.  The contractor or architect may say “we are installing bike parking for __ bikes” and the city has to trust that they will do it right, even though they often don’t.

  2. Who makes those grill racks? They all look the same, there has to be  a manufacturer. Is there a way to go after them? Like maybe embarrass them into discontinuing the bad design and start producing good ones?

    1. A lot of companies make those racks. Almost all bike rack designers will sell them, but also fence companies, sitting bench companies, trash can companies, and Global Industrial Supply. 

      I asked a major bike rack designer and manufacturer whose products I select to include in my bike parking reports for suburban schools and municipalities why they still sell the grill rack, knowing how terrible they are. They said it’s because people keep asking for them (what they didn’t say is that they want the business – I assumed that). 

      It’s up to that business to convince the client that a different model is better for the users (a different model would also make the business more money). I think we should legislate this design out of existence. 

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