So we’ve had some recent comments on LADOT Bike Blog, and some considerable interest from LACBC here, to C.I.C.L.E. here, to Streetsblog here and here and here, all championing a pilot program for Bike Corrals in Northeast LA. Councilmember Huizar, representative of Council District 14, has introduced a motion for just such a bike corral pilot project. The motion is coming before the Council Transportation Committee on Wednesday, April 14.
We here at LADOT Bike Blog eagerly anticipate the results.
But I guess we should circle back to the start: What the heck is a “Bike Corral”?
The basic idea behind a Bike Corral is to take a single street parking space that would normally be occupied by a car and convert it, with bicycle racks, into an on-street area for bicycle parking. This is especially useful in neighborhoods that have lots of bike activity but very narrow sidewalks. When sidewalks are really narrow, parked bikes can get in the way of pedestrians, outdoor seating, strollers, and whatnot (especially when they tip over and block the sidewalk). By moving parking for bikes out into the parking lane, space is freed up for both bicycles and pedestrians. Some corrals have a perimeter of plastic bollards and bike racks bolted to the ground in the inner area, while others create a metal frame around the perimeter with bike racks built into it.
Bike Corrals are a great idea on multiple levels. It creates more space for bike parking, its reduction of car parking encourages alternate modes of transit, it reinforces the bicyclists’ right to the road, and it creates a 24-hour-a-day buffer between pedestrians and the street. Sometimes bike corrals incorporate landscaping or design elements to beautify the streetscape.
Matt Schodorf, the co-owner of Cafe de Leche on York Blvd., championed the idea of bringing bike corrals to Los Angeles. He already had 4 LADOT U-Racks installed at his business, but noticed that the many customers and employees that arrived by bicycle created more parking demand than he had capacity. After being introduced to the idea of bike corrals, he took that to his CD 14 Council Member, Jose Huizar. He drafted a council motion for a bike corral pilot project at Cafe de Leche last year, and here we are today.
Portland has most famously implemented bike corrals, but other cities in California are also getting on board. Long Beach is rumored to be installing their own bike corral shortly. Santa Monica sorta has a de-facto corral, though that’s more of a curb extension in our opinion. San Francisco, Berkeley, and Chico are other cities that have installed on-street corral parking(PDF). LA will hopefully be following their lead soon, and the Transportation Committee is the first step. Here’s the agenda for the meeting this Wednesday and the motion drafted by Council Member Huizar.
We here at LADOT Bike Blog would like to give you a little peek inside the Bikeways thought process for bike corrals. We applaud any opportunity to increase bicycle parking in Los Angeles, but we also have to work out all the bureaucratic, design, funding, and staffing issues that go along with it. It’s not the most interesting thing in the world, but getting these bureaucratic issues hammered out now means a successful implementation of this pilot program and whatever it leads to the in future.
Bike Corrals, by being in the roadway and not on the sidewalk, are subject to the Caltrans Highway Design Manual. In it, the manual specifically states that you cannot place a permanent structure in the roadway. This might put the kibosh on bike corrals, but we here at Bikeways are of the opinion that a bike corral is a temporary structure placed in the parking lane. Sure, the racks in a bike corral are metal, but they’re bolted into the ground. Theoretically, bolts and the racks that they hold down can be removed. Ergo, temporary structures.
Maintenance is an important issue to consider because bike corrals have a greater chance of being damaged, being that they’re in the roadway. If a car hits a bike corral, somebody will need to either repair it or remove it. Another concern is that once the corral goes in, a street sweeper would not be able to enter the area or the parking spaces next to the corral . A lot of the debris will end up collecting inside and adjacent to the corral with its close proximity to the roadway.
There are a few models that can be taken with regard to maintenance. The original pilot program in Portland had the business which requested the bike corral pay for its continuing maintenance, but the city now takes on some of that cost as well. This model could be taken in LA, but then there’s the question of who maintains a bike corral when the business that requested it closes or fails to maintain the corral as promised. If the city decides to maintain the corrals, one of the departments will need to pick up not only the repair costs, but also the staff requirements to inspect and/or maintain the corrals. The real problem is getting together enough city crews to install and maintain the corrals.
Other concerns are the placement of corrals. The location on the street, and which streets are best suited for corrals, both need to be considered. It wouldn’t make too much sense to place a corral over a storm drain or in the middle of a right-turn lane, even if that’s where the business that requested it was located. Also, it’s better to put bike corrals on streets with low speed limits. The slower the cars, the better chance that the corrals won’t get clipped or crashed into. It wouldn’t be very useful to put in a bike corral only to have some driver take it out the very next week.
If and when bike corrals get approved, Bikeways will be ready. We’ve got all the specifications down for the materials used, the scoping process, and the installation process. If you want to support the Bike Corral Pilot Project let your city council member know or voice your support in person at the Council Transportation Committee this Wednesday.