August 6


Where Should I Park My Bike?

By Mike Spack

August 6, 2015

bike, bike parking, bike rack placement, bike racks

Humankind invented the wheel. Shortly thereafter, parking problems existed.

As long as humans have had vehicles, where to park has likely been contentious. I am imagining brutal sword fights over arguments about oxen cart parking in ancient Rome.

Over the course of the last decade, we’ve become better at designing parking lots. We’ve considered a lot of different facets of designs; meticulously detailing elements ranging from traffic flow to storm water runoff. However, an important economic decision is often overlooked: bike parking.

In Minneapolis, bike racks are common. But, they are rarely placed in the most convenient places.

At its most basic level, bike parking is becoming a necessity for urban businesses. And, what is often forgotten is that the same rules of parking a car apply to bikes. If a person chooses to ride a bike, and they find proper parking is unavailable or inconvenient, they may choose another option.

Let’s take a quick look at a grocery store near our office (in a walkable, first-ring suburb):

Bike Racks at Grocery Store


Being a prominent bike-friendly city, many people bike to lunch here. Yet, the bike racks are often empty. Instead, people pull up to the front of the building and attach their bikes to the no parking signs, light poles, and trees surrounding the entrance.

Bikes act like cars. They’ll take the closest, easiest, and most convenient spot. A simple solution to this is locating bike racks in the front of the building, near the main entrances.

Worst Practice: Here’s an apartment tower near our office:

Apartment Bike Parking Space

And here is what happens when you place bike parking in the wrong spot:

Empty Bike RackBy locating near the side, it’s less accessible, less convenient, and less safe. By “safe”, I mean theft. If you’re going to steal a bike, no better place to do so than unwatched side of an empty commercial loading zone in a suburban shopping center (or, the invisible backside of an apartment tower garage).

Why do this? The primary motivator should be economics. Think of the loss to this grocery store and apartment building; they’ve already purchased bike racks (money) and locking up to trees and signs is probably not something they want (property damage).

bike rack at Target St. Louis Park, MNIf you’re going to spend money on bike parking, you might as well get the most out of your investment. The adjacent Target store proves to be a good contrast, and exhibits what could be considered a best practice.

Proving good bike parking is simple. Many places are already doing it, so they should make the most of their existing investment.

  • And, as usual, motorcycle and scooter parking are totally ignored. These efficient, environmentally friendly means of travel seem to be invisible to traffic engineers and, the real shame is, you can often wedge in the needed spaces in wasted area during the design. This applies to both on and off street parking. The additional cost is close to zero.

  • Also, make it obvious that it is a bike rack. I can get you a picture of a bus stop with a bike locked to a utility pole, six feet from a rack that doesn’t look like one. And if you want to be really nice to your customers, provide covered bike parking. There’s nothing like sitting on a black saddle that’s been in the sun all day, or is soaking wet.

  • Jeff – Very good point on scooter/motorcycle parking. That’s a good topic for another blog post. Mike

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    Mike Spack

    My mission is to help traffic engineers, transportation planners, and other transportation professionals improve our world.

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