More and better bike racks

Syracuse needs better bike storage. It’s no good biking somewhere if there’s nowhere to put the bike once you get there. Right now, there’s almost no place in Syracuse with dedicated bike storage for more than one or two people at a time. Bike riders make it work by locking to street signs, fences, benches, etc., but this isn’t a scalable solution. If Syracuse is going to see a meaningful shift to biking, we need better places to store all the bikes.

This concrete pad has enough racks to store 48 bikes. The same space could fit 3 parked cars

University Hill shows how impactful this can be. There’s simply not enough room for every student, professor, and staff member to bring a car onto Syracuse University’s and ESF’s campuses without demolishing half the academic buildings (compare University Hill to Downtown, which did demolish half its buildings to make space for car storage). Bikes (along with quality transit to campus and abundant housing within walking distance of campus) let people get to work or class without needing to bring along a 2-ton steel box that they need to stash somewhere.

ESF handles bike storage better than SU. To see how, look at the north side of Illick Hall. It’s ‘shark fin’ bike racks are more secure than the traditional racks that SU uses, and they pack more bikes into a smaller space. ESF also placed these racks beneath the building’s overhang to keep bikes out of the elements, and there is a publicly available bike pump and tool set to handle minor repairs.

Here are three lessons from ESF and SU’s bike storage facilities. First, they are abundant. Although many people bike to campus, there’s almost always enough space for another person to lock up their bike.

Second, they are secure. The bike racks on University Hill are sturdy and designed to be locked to a bike’s frame (rather than just the wheel, like the sorry schoolyard-style bike rack outside of City Hall). ESF’s ‘shark fin’ racks are particularly well-designed in that they make it easy to use a single lock to secure both the frame and the front wheel while fitting more bikes into less space.

Third, they are out of the way. These bike racks have their own dedicated space where they don’t get in the way of pedestrians. That’s a much better situation than you find Downtown, where a bike locked to a street sign can easily fall over and block the sidewalk.

this otherwise unusable space is room enough for 7 bikes

City Hall can learn these lessons and implement similar bike storage strategies in other parts of Syracuse where a shift to bike transportation would yield similar benefits.

A simple, easily implemented, scalable solution is to build bike corrals below the curb at crosswalks. Bike corrals are just a set of closely-spaced bike racks (enough for 4-8 bikes) protected by bollards or planters. By placing them along the curb at crosswalks, City Hall would improve street safety by reducing the effective length of the crosswalk and by ‘daylighting’ these intersections so that pedestrians and car drivers can see each other. In this way, bike corrals work like curb extensions, but they’re significantly less expensive to construct and they bring the added benefit of quality bike storage.

This simple intervention could make a big impact in places like Downtown and neighborhood centers where lots of people tend to congregate and excessive car storage wastes valuable space that could be put to better use.