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Cyclists Plan Parking Spot Takeover
by Thomas MacMillan | Nov 29, 2012 3:13 pm
Posted to: Transportation
Pull up on your two-wheeled steed soon outside Au Bon Pain and you might not have to hitch it to a street sign—you might stand it up in a “corral” with its pals instead.
That’s the vision offered by an effort to “crowd-fund” a new bike parking option for downtown New Haven.
Zack Beatty this week posted a fundraising appeal on SeeClickFix’s brand new “projects” page seeking donations to convert a downtown parking spot into a dedicated rack (or “corral”) for up to 10 bikes.
Click the play arrow to watch a video made by Park a Bike, the company from which Beatty hopes to buy a bike “corral.” Converting a space would mean installing a bike rack in the street and surrounding it with curbs or bollards to keep cars out.
Converting on-street car parking into bike parking would de-clutter sidewalks, Beatty said. Locking bikes to sign posts and parking meters can block walking areas and crowd business entrances and outdoor seating areas, he said.
Beatty aims to raise $4,200 to buy the rack, which comes with bollards to mark the boundaries of the parking space. The money would also go toward renting the chosen parking space for a month by paying the city to put a bag over the meter.
Beatty said the effort is an attempt to short-circuit a sometimes slow-moving process for changing infrastructure, to quickly prove the bike corral concept with the hope that the city will get behind it and put in more around town. He said he thinks the new corral should be installed near the Au Bon Pain at the corner of Temple and Elm, where people have long been looking for more bike parking, but he’s open to working with the city to place it in the best location.
Beatty said he hadn’t yet called Jim Travers, the city’s head of traffic and parking, to talk over the plan, but that he was planning to do so.
“It’s unfortunate that no one called me,” Travers said. He said he’s open to the concept in theory but would like to talk about the details before anything happens. The best way to created long-term change is through partnerships, not through acting alone, he said.
Beatty, an off-and-on member of Elm City Cycling, said the bike advocacy group has been discussing the idea of a bike corral for some time, along with other bike infrastructure improvements. He said the group has endorsed the idea. He’s working to earn the support of aldermen and businesses next.
Bike parking is the “low-hanging fruit in terms of improving the lives of cyclists,” he said. “Bike parking could be done by the community as a proof-of-concept ... without having it get bogged down with some long study.”
“In a downtown retail area, I think it’s a win for businesses and win for the city,” Beatty said. Cyclists currently park bikes “all over the place” downtown, locking them to things that were never intended to accommodate bikes, like street signs and handrails, he said.
Beatty predicted his plan to take over a car-parking spot might face some blowback. “Whenever you take anything away from the previous use, there’s always some resistance, but we have to have our first one of these,” he said. “We need 25 of these in the city of New Haven.”
Portland, Oregon, which is “held up as the crown jewel of bike advocacy.” has 87 on-street bike corrals, Beatty said. In Portland, the corrals are built by the public works department.
“If this is successful, I’d love to see the city of New Haven come up with an official plan and start doing that,” Beatty said.
The worst-case scenario is that the project doesn’t raise enough money, Beatty said. “That would just be a buzz-kill.”
If the bike corral doesn’t take off and win the city’s favor after a month, Beatty plans to donate the bike rack to Elm City Cycling, he said. “Elm City Cycling has a good enough relationship with the city that I have no doubt that they would find a use for it.”
Another “risk point” would be the use of a parking meter bag to reserve a parking spot for a month-long experiment in bike parking, Beatty said.
“We definitely need the city to, I guess you could say, play along,” he said. “I will be calling Jim Travers.”
Location, Location, Location
Parking meter bags are usually used by contractors who want to reserve parking during a nearby building project, Travers said. He said the process of getting a bag starts with a conversation about what it will be used for.
Travers said it was unfortunate no one had called him about the bike corral plan. “I think that I have been more than a partner and to be kind of caught off-guard is a little disappointing to say the least,” he said.
If the city were to consider a bike corral, “location would be key,” Travers said. He said he’s often amazed by how many bikes are parked at the corner of York and Chapel streets.
The city allows cyclists to lock bikes to any parking meter, and has been considering ways to make meters more suited for bike parking, perhaps through some kind of add-on. The city is also looking at the possibility of making “mini bike-service stations,” like a “bike rack with a pump on it or set up to help riders change flats, for example. Travers said he’s also interested in setting up “bike lockers” somewhere, for people who want a more secure option for locking their bikes.
Travers said he’d like to work with people on bike parking solutions, rather than have people experiment on their own.
“Anything that is on city streets requires a conversation with the city,” Travers said. “Particularly when you look at winter.”
If this winter is anything like winter two years ago, the city could have a lot of plowing to do, and an on-street bike rack could be a significant obstacle, Travers said.
Beatty’s bike corral fundraiser marks the debut of a new feature for SeeClickFix, the New Haven-based citizen problem-solving website. The site is diving into the world of online crowd-source fundraising, a realm dominated by Kickstarter and Indiegogo. It’s a natural outgrowth of a way that people have been using SeeClickFix and PayPal to raise money for local projects like a cardboard bus-stop bench on Chapel Street and Inside-Out, the community art project that targeted underpasses in East Rock.
Jeff Blasius, SeeClickFix’s chief technical officer, explained how the new platform—called simply “Projects”—works.
First, an “organizer” decides she wants to raise money to, say, set up a community garden. She would set an amount she needs to raise and write a description of the project. She can add images and video to help make her case. She then submits it to SeeClickFix, which reviews it to see that it’s suitable for the site, then posts it.
Blasius said SeeClickFix will be evaluating proposals to make sure they are intended for public improvements. “There are other platforms to help people raise money. We’re geared toward specifically public projects,” he said.
Projects start off with an “insiders round,” during which the organizer can try to build momentum by tapping her friends and family to pledge money by credit card. Then it goes public and she has 30 days to reach her fundraising goal.
If she reaches her goal, SeeClickFix sends her the money. But if the organizer doesn’t reach the goal, nobody gets charged.
SeeClickFix takes a fee of about 7 percent for running the platform. Amazon, which handles the payments, takes another fee of about 3 percent.
SeeClickFix Projects is debuting with a soft launch in New Haven only, but the plan is to release it nationwide once it’s running well, Blasius said. “We want to make sure it’s really tuned in in New Haven.”
Tags: biking, parking, elm city cycling, bikes, cycling, seeclickfix, jim travers, zack beatty
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Let’s not forget that parking lanes not occupied are travel lanes for both cars and bikes,
I would expect pileups of cars and bikes at night if these contraptions are stuck in the roadway and are not also well signed and lit
posted by: William Kurtz on November 29, 2012 4:29pm
Mr. Travers is right; he has been a great partner in the move to promote cycling within the city of New Haven but that said, the wheels do turn slowly and there’s certainly room for private citizens to explore new ways of accomplishing worthwhile goals. I hope that he and other city officials are open to a conversation about how these kinds of crowd-sourced efforts can be aligned with existing bicycle infrastructure planning.
My endorsement of this project, both as an individual and a board member of Elm City Cycling, is based on the assumption that once funded, a bike corral would be deployed in cooperation with local laws and with the appropriate officials.
Walt, what are you talking about? I’ve been driving for decades and never seen anyone use street-parking spots as a travel lane. Only when traveling to an adjacent spot have I ever seen this, and if they’re not looking out well enough to spot a bike corral, they wouldn’t notice a pedestrian either, making this a driver issue, not a road problem.
Like SeeClickFix’s bus bench, this once again shows that we need new ways of making policy that are more flexible to new innovation.
Community innovation will always be ten steps ahead of the ability of policy makers to adapt, but we can all work to narrow that gap. Crowdsourcing is a great way to narrow it.
Until this utopia is realized, individual government officials should recognize that they are the ones who are truly “acting alone,” relative to large citizen groups who have been organizing around community improvement for decades. And, the truth is, in many cases instead of “acting alone” their role is more like “not acting at all”—in the face of widespread public demand for change.
While you may have been driving for decades the fact still remains that there are combo travel lanes/parking spots. You can see these for yourself going northbound on Orange St. just before the Grove St. intersection.
This project could be a real game-changer for New Haven, both in terms of innovative community involvement, and top-notch bicycle facilities. It’s great to see the New Haven community pushing the envelope when it comes to livable streets.
The bike racks downtown are already at capacity on many days. More bike parking, and highly-visible parking at that, will be a boon to the community and the businesses in the area.
I agree, it’s great to see dozens of New Haven residents willing to put up their own money toward the hope of a better city someday. New Haven is a very generous place.
And would those who want the bike corral also feed the meter? Or is the group looking for a free ride? Let me guess.
Good idea. They’re a few spots in New Haven that could use a parklet as well:
These have been really popular with businesses in other cities like San Francisco. I bet the Owl Shop or Greenwell or Miya’s among others would be great candidates.
Did you even read the article? It says right in there that ECC plans to rent the space through the proper channel.
Threefifths and Noteworthy, this is effectively parking meters for bikes, as “The money would also go toward renting the chosen parking space for a month by paying the city to put a bag over the meter.”
While some people opine that until 9PM parking meters are tyranny, there are real costs for automotive infrastructure. While there are costs for supporting cycling, the costs (financial and environmental) are chump change by comparison.
Guys, come on! All the cool cities are dedicating free parking spaces for bikes and scooters. (Miami Beach has perpendicular motorcycle parking, but with discounted meters.) Let’s get with the program, and not be behind the times.
My only problem is with bike racks which somehow cost $420 per bike, with the money going to a California company. Doesn’t this feel like another Other People’s Money boondoggle? (The article fails to question if anyone is potentially profiting as a commissioned sales rep).
Giiven the strength of our bike movement, couldn’t we find a way to accomplish this locally, but for next to nothing? What local company wouldn’t want to be a mellow advertising sponsor for such high visibility, green solutions?
FWIW. This is a great discussion. However the devil is ultimately in the details.
The proposed location near Au Bon Pain (the 1st photo shows Broadway near York) does not seem to know that on the Broadway side near Au Bon Pain is a major city bus stop for 3 of the most heavily used bus routes, the D-Dixwell Avenue, the B-Whalley Avenue and the Goffe Street. Also both the D & B are routes that use the extra long “articulated” buses.
Around the corner on York is not much better since York is one way & already narrow. And across the street from Au Bon Pain, Elm at York, is also a major city bus stop for the 3 routes already mentioned plus the Q-Edgewood Avenue route.
I think the planners have failed to factor that into the proposed location for the first bike “corral.” What about those of us who rely on public transit for getting places? It doesn’t seem right to favor one group of non-automobile commuters over another.
posted by: BenBerkowitz on November 30, 2012 7:54am
The City of New Haven has been one of SeeClickFix’s best City partners to date. They continuously push the envelope on accountability and are receptive to some of ours and SeeClickFix users’ more progressive ideas.
We did launch the Projects platform with the understanding that the City would be a partner on the projects where citizens needed them to be a partner such as the dog park in Wooster Square. In the case of the bike corral the intent was never to put in the bike corral without permission. The idea of many of the projects is that they are done in a lean fashion as a prototype to test the waters ad get buy in from citizens on their value.
If a project is successful in that it makes a large group of folks happier about New Haven then we see folks wanting to iterate towards something better or vie for the permanence of the project. Much of New York City’s pedestrian improvement plan has been done in this rapid public space prototyping mode that has come from the top down but there are many more examples where tactical urbanism has come from the bottom up. I like that New Haven has both.
Mr Travers has been a great asset to New Haven and we’re lucky to have him.
An answer to your question: Cyclists still do not have to pay to park even with a corral. That’s one of the disadvantages of driving your car downtown rather than walking, riding, or using public transit - not to mention how driving affects your health and well-being. And it shouldn’t be strange that those who drive cars would have to pay a little extra. We all equally share the price of having cars in our community. And, when the cost manifests as property devaluation, lost business, dirty air, and generally less livable conditions, you’re actually getting quite the bargain at the current parking rates. Diminishing the livelihood of so many innocent people, and only for $1.25/hour!
A Parking box for bikes only makes sense if we wish to back up our words with action and make a commitment to creating a New Haven Town which is clean, healthy ,sustainable and accessible for all. Installing a bike box accommodating 10 bikes vs. 1 car with one occupant create a very powerful statement for the vehicle owner, city government and residents. I would buy into that!
Pat, there is not a single example where these things are in competition, so I’m not sure where you are coming from. Most of the other tens of thousands of cities that are installing “parklets,” pedestrian “bumpouts,” or “bike corrals” (all essentially the same thing) have better-developed public transit systems than New Haven. Nobody has proposed building one on top of a bus stop. Reducing the number of single occupancy vehicles here would be great for transit riders because there would be more space on the road for buses. This type of infrastructure also tends to reduce traffic speeds, which is the key to the safety of pedestrians and people walking to bus stops.
posted by: Mitchell Young on November 30, 2012 1:23pm
I’m sure a little good will, a little effort, there shouldn’t be a controversy to have some places to park bicycles.
Maybe things would roll along smoother if folks didn’t try to politicize or overstate this type of thing.
The city has laid out bike lanes where it was relatively easy to do so. They have posted signs on roads to remind motorists about cyclists.
For those who want to bike as their means of transportation, it is clear why they would be frustrated in almost every city in the Northeast. But if a concerted effort can get gay marriage accepted, and pot - probably a mature approach to bike transportation would probably be effective too.
I’m sure there are many in city government in New Haven at least that would equally see the need for some paring spaces. Maybe a little respect will go a little further here.
I have been an avid cyclist in New Haven for 15 years. I bike in New Haven 365 days a year through all weather conditions. I am anti-car. We know that they are bad for the environment; we know that we have the technology to drive safer, more ecological cars, we know that these technologies have been intentionally underutilized and their development stunted by the auto industry in the pursuit of profit. I know that throughout my life every major military effort of our country has been either directly or indirectly due to our economic reliance of crude oil and war kills lots of people. Also cars kill lots of people. Much like cigarettes and sugared soda, I think taxation should be high to ween our culture off of our addiction to their use and a great way to do that is to convert the infrastructure to offer incentive to find alternatives.
I absolutely encourage additional cycling infrastructure and lessening of car reliance in the city. Having said that, I find a number of elements of this proposal irritating. First, I believe there are 2 or 3 (possibly more) very large bicycle racks in the courtyard behind York and Broadway near the (I think) Yale architectural offices. Whenever I have needed to park my bicycle in the area these racks have never been anywhere close to capacity. The distance one would have to walk to these racks to local businesses on the block is negligible. Granted, these racks have lower visibility than on the corner of Broadway and York but if a bicycle is appropriately locked its adequately safe. This area is good for longer term bicycle parking, and for short term parking there are a number of standard bicycle racks on Broadway to make up for the occasional run in to the bookstore or Gourmet Heaven, as well as the sign posts and parking meters which have always been adequate. On York St there frequently are multiple bicycles parked in front of the businesses between Elm and Wall, however Wall to Grove never has bicycles locked to the meters. Drivers need to park a block or a few blocks from their destination, and equally there is no guarantee that cyclists will have a meter directly in front of their destination. Its no great hardship to have to cross the street or park a few businesses down.
Also, we’re discussing one of the most densely utilized parking areas in New Haven. Broadway has vastly changed in the past 10 years while still hosting the same minimal parking. Furthermore, I believe I read in the Independent that since Yale’s purchase of the lot between Elm St and Broadway its rates have increased exponentially. Taking a parking space away in this area is a mistake. That space generates serious revenue for the city, and one less space will create an appreciable upset in an already bad parking area. There is a vastly underutilized plaza between Broadway and Elm St that could easily host numerous bicycle racks in a far safer capacity as cyclists locking up their bicycles would be further removed from street traffic. This area would also have the same or even increased visibility compared to the proposed parking space.
The most irritating aspect of this is Beattys reluctance to work with the city or contact the appropriate department to discuss this plan. Its short sighted and foolish of him to even embark on this project without making the initial cursory phone call to find out the general viability of this. I see the execution as similar to the stories of TOC ambushing Mayo/Destefano. Beatty created this proposal which many will think is a good idea, generate funds to execute his plan, and THEN contact the appropriate parties only to be potentially denied making the already unpopular city look like the bad guy. Even with my love for cycling and New Haven I greatly dislike dealing with ECC as they frequently poo-poo the city, often in a subtle and/or back handed manner in forums such as the Independent and blatantly at some of the meetings I have attended. Then, conversely, they are quick to take credit for initiatives put in place by the city that they have had very little to do with. Regardless of whatever pillow talk ECC might offer in response to this comment, they know and I know these things to be true and if their self righteous attitude doesn’t change and they don’t actually start cooperating with the municipality I think they are an as great, if not a greater, hindrance to progress than the bureaucrats they frequently decry.
Has anyone thought about the cities that are being mentioned as examples are cities with no snow fall. What happens when they are ready to plow this street…go around the coral and the snow piles up within its rails.. are the parking spaces in front and back wasted until the snow melts.. all things to consider.
Anonymous, I an going only by the 1st photo in the article which is the view you get turning left out of Au Bon Pain, and the mention of “near Au Bon Pain” as Mr. Beatty’s suggestion for where to install a first bike “corral.” The photo was cleverly taken when no buses were there, but I assure you that is exactly where one or more city buses at a time stop to let passengers on and off. I don’t understand where the bike corral would be located without interfering with buses. I don’t know if you are a bus rider, but I have been a bus rider for the last five years and know exactly where bus stops are located.
NY uses bike corrals. It snows there. As you can see at the below application, though, they require a “partner” for each corral—probably a local business—to keep it clear of snow and debris.
I couldn’t agree with you more. And its nice to know there are other folks out there that don’t quickly jump on issues just because they see a spring board in front of them but rather look at it from a broader, more realistic perspective. You raise some good points about bike parking on Broadway, especially the island in between Elm and Broadway. What a prime location! I could see an off-street bike corral there, as well as one at Chapel & York, across from the Yale Architectural School on that cobblestone section beyond the sidewalk, which is an empty, underutilized space. Another great location would be to have one installed under the Temple Street Garage along George St. That’s covered and would provide cyclists a place to lock their bike for any number of restaurants or the Criterion. I could see some lighting installed for added security but again, its an underutilized, wasted space.
Mitchell: This city is going to continue to decline until people like you realize that our streets need to be safe for children and seniors to use. It’s nice the City had a chance to throw some paint on the roads to make a few able bodied folks feel good about riding or walking there, but let’s face it, that is grossly inadequate - the city has had many a chance to do much better, but has failed. Even many of the City’s own consultant engineers - some of them very highly regarded internationally-have pointed out this fact in great detail in their reports. It is unfortunate when journalists pontificate about things they don’t know much about.
posted by: Mitchell Young on December 1, 2012 3:04pm
First thing - anonymity is not an effective tool for social change,
Second First thing - I would say the tone of your comment helps to demonstrate my overall point.
As far as pontificating without knowing what I’m talking maybe that’s true, that’s for others to decide anyway.
I can offer the following: I’ve been involved in media in New Haven since 1975 - that’s several mayors, many Yale graduating classes, not to mention lots of know it all’s blowing through New Haven telling everyone what’s best.
I helped “pontificate” about and promote the ideas of a Yale professor that gets no mention in New Haven today, but Charles Reich Wrote the Greening of America in what year was it, 1970?
I helped sponsor one of the first what we first called “Alternative Energy Fairs” in the northeast in 1976. I put my income on the line to argue against nuclear energy but of course that was before some “environmentalists” decided to embrace it.
I’ve identified and promoted more than 100 “green” companies, people and efforts in Connecticut in the past three years, in our publications.
And while I haven’t been on my bicycle in a few years, and have never ridden in New Haven, I have logged many thousand miles including in cities, like Montreal which is the most bicycle friendly and Phoenix not so much.
At least a dozen years ago, before there were bike lanes, or painted roads, I suggested to Mayor DeStefano - who hasn’t always liked most of my suggestions or as you say pontifications, that New Haven should consider becoming a bicycle oriented city. I saw it then and now not just as environmental issue but an economic development one. In spite of being an aging publisher, I understand the opportunity of presenting the city as one of youth.
Mayor DeStefano agreed in part (about the bicycles not necessarily the reason) and said some plans were in the works but this would be challenging structurally and politically.
If people want to promote bicycle transportation they will have to do it differently than your post implies, let me say it directly – in a more mature way.
Lastly, New Haven is not in decline. I am no booster, but when we stated Business New Haven, many suggested we not even use the name of city, none would argue that today.
Cyciatrist, those are poor, even laughable, suggestions for where to put bike parking. Instead of spouting out completely unworkable proposals, any rational person interested in economic development in our city would instead look at what every other progressive city in the world is doing… and follow their lead.
posted by: Nhv.Org on December 1, 2012 8:35pm
What it the money is raised and ultimately the city does not approve the project? Perhaps these kind of public works projects require city approval as well as private funds, and probably chronologically in that order. We cannot expect private funding to dominate the causes of public policy. It could undermine our democratic principles, however painstakingly slow it may seem at times.
bike parking is a great idea, but am i to understand the intention is to put this on a corner? does no one see the inherent risks this idea would bring? dismounting, pulling out, etc… on a corner where cars turn? we have narrow streets, fast drivers, and a significant lack of respect for cyclists rights and laws. and a messed up corner like the one at au bon pain is a bad choice. taking a more central spot for a corral seems like a smarter option no?
Two of the locations suggested are highly visible, centrally located areas of the city, surrounded by shops and restaurants and have high rates of bicycle parking on a yearly basis. The one under Temple Street Garage is not great for economic development but it is an unused, covered space. Even if a couple of inverted u-racks were bolted there and a security light added, it would serve a better purpose.
“...those are poor, even laughable, suggestions for where to put bike parking. Instead of spouting out completely unworkable proposals, any rational person…”
Wow, sounds like I struck a nerve. I was just being general in my earlier post but it seems like you took it personally for some reason.
After reading comments posted here, I saw some really good points raised by different readers. Can you take a breather for a minute and actually think about what some of these people have to say rather than just have knee-jerk reactions?
We are commenting about bike parking, please try and stay focused.
Seanm, no specific location for a new bike rack has been planned by anyone. Whenever the City installs a bike rack, they consider those types of issues.
Although you have a valid point (unlike most of the commenters here), your comment seems a bit nitpicky, in the context of the overall story here.
It’s astonishing to see people criticized by “civic leaders” like those above who have never ridden a bicycle in New Haven—simply for pitching in their money for something that thousands of people might benefit from, regardless of where the City eventually installs it.
anonymous, setting aside your comments and mine, by my count there have been 22 good posts versus 3 bad.
Your comment, “Although you have a valid point (unlike most of the commenters here), your comment seems a bit nitpicky, in the context of the overall story here.” is rather unsound.
Anonymous, I certainly am not suggesting that you are a part of ECC or speak for that organization or its ruling board but your uncompromising, condescending and derisive attitude is the poster child of why I feel the way I do about Elm City Cycling and proves my final point thoroughly.
posted by: Nhv.Org on December 3, 2012 10:51am
Other plans could exist. There is an article on my website about another potential plan. Bike racks are not expensive. It’s city approval that could be a greater hindrance than having the finances to do it. Perhaps it would be better to get approval first, and then launch the fundraiser. Approval means perhaps the same level of support that any DOT project would require, through the usual checks and balances that go into any urban design project as it develops from its inception.
This thread certainly does not indicate that there’s any lack of interest in enhancing the amount of cyclist parking in downtown. How about a plan which is 8x the amount of space of 2 parking spots, and does not displace automobile traffic, and is on a piece of land which is central to the Broadway district, but unused…