Minneapolis, St. Paul and other cities in Minnesota operate municipal parking garages, in fact Minneapolis and St. Paul operate multiple garages. Many of these car ramps have attendants and camera surveillance, security and are patrolled to protect the cars parked there. Yet bike parking is almost unusable and non-existent at these facilities.
Typical is a 7th Street E municipal garage in Saint Paul, between Robert St. and Minnesota St. Outside on the sidewalk are 3 "bike lockers" or as I like to call them "pods". I have never seen them used, though I parked in that garage and walked by it for 3 years. No other bicycle parking is provided. The totally covered locker pods must be rented from the city in some sort of obscure yearly contract for a substantial amount of money, certainly cheaper than renting an apartment, (it is rumored that the pods were used for sleeping in,) but as a result they are basically unusable by the public for parking bicycles. The pods are quite expensive and take up much more room than typical bike racks but are totally unusable by the general public. I have never been able to find the pod rental department at the city website or city hall, fill out the many page contracts, pay the substantial fee or even think about how or why this stupid process exists until now.
So why did the city not do the obvious, use a couple of car spaces next to the manned parking booth at ground level to set up a couple dozen bicycle parking spaces out of the weather for a fraction of the price of an expensive unusable pod? Maybe because the city is run by drooling public works morons? No, it is because public works is car-centric and has a hostile attitude to pedestrians and bicycles. A large corporate parking garage one block away has put in a couple racks in its underground car park and it seems to be well used, alas it is also not accessible by the public at large. Guarded out of the weather bicycle parking in municipal garages should be tested vs. "bike pods". I think if the measure is "most use by the public" then it is obvious what the test results would be. If the measure is "most public resources used for bicycle amenities" I think the pods would be an unqualified success.
Again, the question is why "pods"? Kickbacks or mass stupidity seem like possible answers and the pod disease swept many municipalities like an epidemic of sidewalk venereal warts. When people park cars for work they do not drive them into hermetically sealed lockable private parking stalls that are leased yearly, no parking ramp could possibly exist on that business model; how did they ever come up with this stupid pod idea and get all the municipalities to spend what, $1,000 1990 dollars per pod? and institute an expensive permitting and leasing process instead of spending a hundred or so skins for some bent steel pipe that parks several dozen bikes which can be used by anyone at any time.
One of the large barriers to bike commuting is theft. I have an old beater bicycle that I ride to work, I left it downtown locked to a signpost on the sidewalk during the work day only to find some idiot had tried to hammer the bike lock with a piece of tar and scratched the paint of the bike. And that is why I ride the beater to work, now it is just a bit more beat, literally. I am not riding any bike that I care about and parking it downtown, it would just be stupid. I pity anyone who parks a nice bike downtown with quick release wheels and seatposts, with racks or bags or lights or bells or pedals or handle bars or forks or chain rings. Understand that because of the skyway system removing pedestrians from the city streets the streets are quite deserted during the day and most of Minneapolis and Saint Paul are ghost towns promptly after 5:00PM in the evening when the workers are gone. And in the winter it is promptly dark at 4:30PM thanks to "daylight savings".
Guarded and sheltered bicycle parking facilities, even just during the day working hours will remove one of the major barriers to bicycle commuting to the downtowns. In Minneapolis and St. Paul there are multiple car parks that are manned and patrolled during the day, sheltered parking for several hundred or even thousands of bikes could be quickly and cheaply instituted in just the multiple municipal ramps. If regulations were enacted private parking ramps could be required to also have some minimal sheltered bike parking. This may also have the effect of removing bicycles from current haphazard sidewalk-blocking bike parking when bikes are locked to trees, posts and railings and would improve the pedestrian environment. Maybe fund the bike parking program by selling the unusable used bike "pods" to naive municipalities in other car-centric states, gullible crackers in Atlanta and Houston come to mind.
I would propose a couple municipal garages advertise indoor guarded parking ( free ) with a large temporary sign and have a couple car spaces set up for bike parking near the manned parking booths. Count the use of bike parking spaces for a couple months. This means not creating moronic challenges to actual use, like charging excessive bicycle parking fees and having bike parking only available on the sixth floor or upper deck of the parking ramp exposed to the weather or out of site of the manned parking booths. The point is to see what most bicyclers do: park in a guarded sheltered area or lease a bike locker. I think the test results will be obvious.
However the actual "governing of bicycle parking" usability test
has already happened: Municipalities
will not put in cheap sheltered and guarded bike parking in
car park ramps, even temporarily to test this scenario.
They will only spend many thousands of tax monies per bike locker
that will be basically unusable by the general public for actually
parking a bike and because a bicycle locker is expensive there are only
several dozen in the largest cities in this American Siberia state. An
argument could be made that bike lockers are a method to quickly
get rid of bicycle infrastructure money without any effort by public
works departments across the country. It has the added appeal of
being able to say:
"see, we put in these expensive bike lockers and no one used them, so shut up and get back in your car and drive like a real American."
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