Use bike parking to attract cyclists
Cycling is an effective means of transportation in North America—and has been growing more popular for decades. The trend is especially prominent in dense urban areas, and cities with strong bike infrastructure. For businesses, offering bike parking at your location is a way to support healthy and environmentally responsible lifestyles in your community. It's also a means to attracting customers.
Business case for bike parking
Retailers tend to overestimate the number of people who drive to their business—and underestimate the number who cycle. Many studies have shown 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, in many cases, making streets more bike friendly has actually shown to increase business. There are a few factors at play here.
While some studies show that cyclists spend less than drivers on a single trip, cyclists tend to make more trips—visiting stores more often and spending more overall throughout the week. One reason for this is that cyclists often have more disposable income than drivers. Cyclists pay far less in vehicle costs, insurance, fuel and parking than drivers—and average income among cyclists is often higher.
Bike parking also requires much less space than vehicle parking. You can fit up to 10 bikes for every parked car in a given parking stall.
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 won't interfere with existing vehicle space. Wide sidewalks, shaded areas beneath trees and unused parking areas can be prime locations for bike racks.
Signs you might need bike parking at your location
A couple of scenarios come to mind when looking to attract cyclists to your business. The first is that you might already have cyclists frequenting your location, and they may be frustrated at the lack of accommodation. Customers walking in with bike helmets and other gear is a good sign that this might be the case.
Bike bollards along a cafe sidewalk
While it might be tempting to think that cyclists will sort their parking in one way or another, you could be ignoring other potential problems around your building. In lieu of proper accommodation, cyclists are notorious for chaining their bikes to the most convenient stationary objects available: railings, trees, sign posts or parking meters, for example.
While these might seem good options for cyclists, they can have negative impacts on the surrounding property. At the least, haphazard parking can create excessive wear on outdoor furnishings or disrupt plant growth in storefront gardens, lawns and other green areas. At its worst, it obstructs pedestrian access—especially for those with strollers or in wheelchairs, which can be a safety hazard.
Alternatively, if you don't already have bike accommodations at your location, there might be a good opportunity to attract a new customer base. Here are a few things to look for that might indicate that cyclists have been passing up on visiting your store.
- You are located on or near a community bike route, where you see people cycling regularly.
- Nearby stores offer bike parking facilities, and they're often filled with bikes.
- The surrounding neighborhood has bikes chained to trees, sign-posts and other objects that aren't bike racks.
- You're located near a local bike shop.
- You're located near popular cycling attractions, such as public parks or waterfront trails.
- You hear about public cycling events, such as Bike to Work Week, Critical Mass rides or Car Free Days.
How to plan welcoming bike facilities
Nobody likes being put in a corner. Cyclists are no exception. To show you take cyclists seriously, consider offering premium location and accessibility on your site. At the very least, avoid placing bike parking facilities further away than the rest of your vehicle parking. Some key things to consider here:
- Place bike parking facilities close to building entrances to avoid excessive walking. Nearby parking will also help prevent cyclists from seeking other non-ideal parking alternatives.
- Make bike parking areas visible—for those approaching and those inside your store. For those approaching, visibility helps them know it's there. For those inside, it's good to be able to keep an eye out to prevent potential theft.
- Consider placing bike racks under covered areas, which will protect bikes from the elements. Even when it's raining, nobody likes to step into a wet saddle.
- Ensure parking areas are well-lit after dark.
- Use bright colors and effective signage to better indicate where to park (and where not to).
Placement and spacing
Spacing is another aspect to consider. Know that bikes always take up more space than the racks they're parked at. You'll want to make sure you leave enough room to fit the number of bikes you've planned for, as well as the space required to get them in and out. Some things to think about:
- Most bikes need a parking width of about 10 to 15 inches—which also allows room for overlap between bikes. Though, for an individual bike, keep in mind that handlebars can be as wide as 30 inches across.
- Bikes have a much longer footprint than most bike racks. Making room for a bike rack is one thing, but making room for the bikes is also crucial. From tire-tip to tire-tip, bikes can often span up to 7 feet.
- For racks placed near a wall, make sure to leave enough roll-through room to allow both the wheel and the frame to be locked to the rack—and to prevent tires from marking up your building.
- For access and removal, most bikes need about 3 to 4 feet of swing room, which can also be shared in an aisle between another set of racks.
- Make sure that bike parking won't interfere with nearby walkways or other amenities.
- Avoid putting bikes and cyclists in harm's way. Racks placed too close to a busy street might require cyclists to step onto the street to lock or unlock their bike. They can also obstruct people exiting vehicles who might accidently door bikes parked too close.
You don't want to spend time and money installing something that cyclists can't use
It's important to note that these are general guidelines, and that your municipal authorities may have strict requirements for installing bike parking facilities on your site. Be sure to consult your local administration for details on any applicable codes and bylaws.
Parking capacity can also be something to consider. You don't want to install more than you need. But at the same time, you don't want to unintentionally create an incentive for clutter. As a general rule, denser urban areas require more bike parking than less-dense neighborhoods. And office buildings and retail locations often need more capacity than other locations. And, again, individual municipalities might have guidelines in place to help in your planning.
Know your security
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. At the very least, 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.
Surface mount bike racks to existing concrete surfaces
- U-locks and other short-reach locks. Bike 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. This is because thieves can use excess slack to create leverage to break away a lock. U-locks are one of the most popular forms of locks among cyclists, but they aren't very compatible with "wheel-bender" bike racks—racks that only support a wheel and not the frame. Locking a wheel and not the frame means thieves can easily release the wheel and make off with the rest of the bike—i.e., not a great option for cyclists.
- Cable and chain-style bike locks are also common among cyclists. 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.
Common bike parking options
Bike parking facilities should be intuitive for cyclists to use—without the need for additional instruction. Innovative custom bike rack designs might be fun to look at, but they won't be much use if they're not secure, or if people don't know how to use them.
Common bike parking products, compatible with most bike locks, include:
Bike racks accommodate versatile configurations
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.
Bike lockers offer fully enclosed storage
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.
Corral-style bike racks feature higher capacities
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 have only one installation point
Bike bollards are essentially vertical posts modified to accommodate secure bike storage. They feature only one installation point and also come with a range of removable mounting options. Bike bollards are typically narrower than other bike racks, offering more walking space when not occupied.
All bike parking products can be surface-mounted to existing concrete surfaces. Bike racks and bike bollards can also 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.
Bike parking materials
Most bike parking products are made from steel, one of the most versatile and widely used materials in the world. Steel is easy to work with and extremely strong, which helps ensure locked bikes will be safe from thieves.
Key elements to consider when selecting bike parking products are surface quality and resistance to corrosion. Smooth, clean surfaces are ideal for bike parking, as these will prevent bike frames from being scuffed. Corrosion is bad for a number of reasons. For one, it looks bad, and it can stain other materials and surfaces. And, if left for long periods of time, it can compromise structural integrity.
Powder coated finishes are available in a range of colors
Powder coated steel is an economical option for bike parking products. Steel is coated with an electrostatically charged powder that is extremely durable and resistant to wear. Several color options are also available to suit surrounding site aesthetics.
Stainless steel is highly resistant to corrosion
Stainless steel is also an option—especially in corrosive environments with regular exposure to moisture and chlorides (e.g. seawater or de-icing salts). Stainless steel offers the same strength and security as basic carbon steel, and it also provides a clean, versatile appearance that suits almost any environment.
Concrete surfaces are the most secure and easiest to work with. Concrete anchors can be drilled into existing surfaces. Embedded mountings come with rebar inserts to prevent them from being pulled from underground.
Pavers, soil, grass and other ground surfaces can also accommodate bike parking. Typically, the best way to ensure a secure installation is to build a concrete footing.
Municipal bike parking guidelines
Looking for more information on how to plan bike accommodations? Many municipalities have comprehensive guidelines posted on their websites. See what resources your city has on hand:
- Use bike parking to attract cyclists: delta_avi_delta, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Flickr