If You’re Biking To A Banquet ...

Christopher Peak PhotoHow will well-dressed diners make it to Yale’s Commons when it moves to temporary quarters on York Street later this year?

Just don’t try to bike over, one planning commissioner warned .

The warning emerged at a City Plan Commission hearing at City Hall Thursday night, where Yale walked through its site plan to convert a former dialysis center at 150 York St. into a swing space for its Commons facility, which will be undergoing a $150 million transformation through late into the new Schwarzman Center.

Commissioners voted to approve the site plan, after a debate about the biking needs of banquet-goers.

Only a dozen parties, like an alumni reunion and traditional freshman holiday dinner, are expected to fill the temporary York Street site annually. But to make the space more welcoming —  the building also houses an eight-level parking garage —  the university plans to spruce up the interior and enlarge the vestibule.

With this change in use, one commissioner at a hearing for the site plan voiced the need for bike racks he felt are lacking in the area.

After the university’s team passed out a map of all the bike racks in the surrounding blocks, Commissioner Adam Marchand pointedly asked, “I take it from this that you’re trying to persuade us not to require additional bike racks? Is that what this is?” Many of the existing pictured racks are already filled up, he said.

Worse, they’re useless, Marchand said. “At least one is antiquated. It’s the kind of rack where your bike is going to get stolen,” said Marchand, who’s also the Ward 25 alder. By connecting only to the front tire, not the frame, “the wheel may stay, but the rest of the bike is going to go.” (The rack is pictured at the top of the story.)

Marchand added, “A lot of Yale people — students, faculty and staff — are biking. The more racks, the better.”

But Commissioner Leslie Radcliffe questioned whether banquet-goers will actually be biking over to an evening gala,

“If I’m in my fancy formal wear, I’m probably not going to be pedaling,” she said. “I’ve tried. It doesn’t work.”

According to the city’s zoning regulations, a site must include one bike rack space for every 10 required car spaces. It also needs one parking space for every four seats inside. So, crunching the numbers, Yale should technically offer 17 bike racks within at least 100 feet of the building’s entrances.

But, because there’s already a Zagster bike-share in the York Street garage, the commission staff didn’t set a firm requirement.

Karyn Gilvarg, the City Plan Department’s executive director, also reminded commissioners that the feasting on York Street will be temporary. If Yale comes back to the commission in 2020 to make the reception area a permanent fixture, the city planners can always ask for more racks.

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