Not everyone is an expert on bike parking. Thankfully, you don’t need to install in ignorance and hope for the best – use this guide to make your bike parking project a success.
Yes, you do need bike parking.
Offering bike parking at your location is a good way to support healthy lifestyles in your community. For businesses, it also means attracting customers.
Retailers tend to overestimate the number of people who drive to their business, and underestimate the number who cycle. Studies suggest that replacing traffic lanes or motor-vehicle parking with bike lanes or bike parking has little to no negative impact on local businesses. In fact, making streets more bike friendly actually increases business. There are a few factors at play here.
Most of the money cyclists save in vehicle costs, insurance, fuel and parking is spent at local businesses. While cyclists tend to spend less than drivers on a single trip, cyclists make more local trips—visiting stores more frequently and spending more overall.
Bike parking also requires much less space than vehicle parking. You can fit up to 10 bikes for every parked car – and the more vehicles you fit, the more customers you’ll have.
It's important to note that it doesn't need to be an either-or situation. Many commercial facilities have space for onsite bike parking that doesn’t interfere with existing vehicle space. Wide sidewalks, shaded areas beneath trees, and unused parking areas can be prime locations for bike racks.
Installing appropriate parking will satisfy your current customers, and attract new cyclists who may have ridden on by before.
Assess supply and demand
The first step of planning a bike parking installation is to assess supply and demand.
The supply is the physical space you have available to install bike parking. Depending on municipal regulation, you may be limited to private property lines, or you might have the option of sidewalk or street space. In either case, break out the measuring tape and take note of how much surface area you have to work with.
Demand is a bit trickier to assess. If you already have cyclists visiting your business, they are likely frustrated and forced to improvise. In lieu of proper racks, cyclists are notorious for chaining their bikes to the nearest available anchor point: railings, trees, sign posts or parking meters.
You can get a rough estimate of demand by tracking these improvised parking jobs, but be warned: the number of cyclists who would stop at your business if secure parking was available is likely much higher.
Modify your estimate by looking around the neighborhood. You should increase your estimate if you notice:
- Regular bicycle traffic
- Nearby bicycle racks that are frequently full or mostly-full
- Busy bike shops
Plan for setbacks
Keep in mind that you don’t just need space for the racks themselves. From tire-tip to tire-tip, bikes can span up to 7 feet. You need adequate swing-room for bikes to maneuver in and out of parking – without obstructing door access, pedestrian right of way, or street furniture.
Many municipalities have detailed setback requirements to avoid crowded or inaccessible parking. Make sure to check the relevant codes and bylaws prior to installation.
In the absence of municipal guidelines, use general setback recommendations.
- 24” min. from a wall
- 3 ft min. between bike racks
- Leave 8 ft of walking space between a rack and the curb
- 3 ft min. from a curb
- 10’6” between bike racks, center to center
- Leave 6 of walking space between a rack and the wall
Know your security
Before selecting a bike rack, it's important to know what hardware cyclists use to secure their bikes. You don't want to spend time and money installing something that cyclists can't use.
U-locksBike lock manufacturers typically build locks with enough reach to secure a tire and the frame to a bike rack with as little slack as possible (thieves can use excess slack to create leverage to break away a lock). U-locks are one of the most secure—and therefore popular—lock types, but they aren't very compatible with "wheel-bender" racks that support a wheel and not the frame. Choose a rack that offers 2-point contact for the frame and wheel.
Cable LocksCable and chain-style bike locks are less secure than u-locks, but still common. These locks are typically made from hardened steel and may feature protective layers of other materials such as Kevlar to protect from cutting. While these locks may offer a bit more play than U-locks, they still require a bike's frame be able to lean directly against a bike rack.
Select your material
Most bike racks are made from steel. There are a few non-steel options, but steel dominates the market for good reason: it is strong, economical, and easy to maintain.
The main choices you’ll need to make are steel grade, gauge, and finish. Better quality steel grades and thicker gauges are more expensive at the outset, but they will save you from replacement costs every few years.
Consider your security needs and environmental conditions.
Cost-conscious installationPowder coated steel is an economical option, but it also happens to be extremely durable and resistant to wear. Several color options are available to suit surrounding site aesthetics.
Frequent theftInvest in a thicker gauge square tubed model; the corners of square tubes make it more difficult for thieves to saw or cut, and the thick gauge makes it even harder.
Wet or salty environmentsWill the sidewalk be salted every winter? Routine salt exposure or wet conditions will quickly rust normal steel. Find corrosion resistant 316 stainless steel to lower maintenance costs and extend the rack’s service life.
Choose a bike rack
The type of bike parking you offer at your site will affect your planning. Be sure to consider a range of options—and how each will best suit your needs.
Bike parking facilities should be intuitive for cyclists to use. Innovative custom bike rack designs might be fun to look at, but they won't be much use if cyclists don't know how to use them. You can usually save money and get better results by sticking to a classic design.
- Stand-alone bike racks are the simplest form of bike parking available. They come in u-shaped or circular designs that arch up from the ground. These racks are typically more compact, storing up to two bikes at a time. When installing several bike racks in an area, they allow for versatile configurations that leave lots of space for pedestrians and other site needs. They can also be installed close together for corral-style arrangements.
- Corral-style bike racks are similar to standard bike racks, but with extended designs to accommodate more storing capacity. They're ideal for areas with spaces dedicated to parking multiple bikes at one time.
- Bike bollards are essentially vertical posts modified to accommodate secure bike storage. They feature only one installation point, and come with a range of removable mounting options. Bike bollards are typically narrower than other bike racks, offering more walking space when not occupied.
- Bike lockers offer the most secure form of bike parking. Fully enclosed storage cavities ensure bikes are protected from weathering, vandalism and theft. Spacious interiors also allow room for other bike equipment. Bike lockers are ideal for longer-term storage—or in situations where cyclists need to store expensive, high-end bikes. They can also be a great solution for storing electric bikes, mopeds and scooters.
All bike parking products can be surface-mounted to existing concrete surfaces. Bike racks and bike bollards can be embedded into new concrete surfaces for the most secure—and most permanent—installations. Bike bollards also have removable mounting options for areas with various day-to-day or seasonal requirements.
- Angus, Hilary. "More Bang for Your B(ike)." Momentum Magazine, April 2016.
- Broom, Nathan. "Essentials of Bike Parking: Selecting and installing bicycle parking that works." Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals. September 2015.
- HUB Cycling. "Marketing To Cyclists Guide."
- Jaffe, Eric. "The Complete Business Case for Converting Street Parking Into Bike Lanes." CityLab, March 2015.
- Jaredkolb. "Are bike lanes good for business?" Cycle Toronto, August 2015.
- O'Melinn, Erin. "How does business benefit from the increase of bicycling?" HUB Cycling.
- Use bike parking to attract cyclists: delta_avi_delta, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Flickr