How do you add bicycle-parking capacity to a busy business district with narrow sidewalks and hordes of pedestrians?
You put the parking in the roadway.
An innovative strategy to help get more people to choose bicycling as their preferred form of transportation for daily, local trips is by introducing on-street bicycle parking corrals near businesses. In Central New Jersey, the city of New Brunswick has recently been taking steps to make bicycling safer, more comfortable and more convenient, and this fall they’re moving forward with a program that will bring bicycle parking corrals to area streets.
Earlier this year, Mayor Cahill read about bike corrals and liked what he saw. He realized that it would be a logical extension of the program that began last summer where flexible bollards were installed near intersections in no-parking areas to enhance pedestrian safety. The purpose of those soft-hit posts was to enforce the existing no-parking area near crosswalks and intersections; bollards keep the sightlines of crosswalks and intersecting streets clear. The bollards also act like a neck-down at the corners, making the distance for pedestrians to cross in front of cars shorter. While the posts have done a great job of increasing safety by making pedestrians and oncoming vehicles more visible, they did not provide any additional amenities to the city.
That is where the bike corrals come in. Like the bollards, the corrals act to daylight intersections by physically discouraging illegal parking close to corners, and keeping sightlines open. However, by simply using bicycle racks rather than just bollards, the space (where parking was never allowed in the past) is suddenly available for use by up to 18 bicycles.
Corrals help encourage bicycling by making bicycle parking safe, convenient, and plentiful, removing a barrier to riding. Further, by placing the parking in prime locations, with heavy foot traffic, passersby see the racks and realize that bicycling is not simply a great option to get around town – it is also encouraged and normal.
After the mayor asked his staff to look into the idea, Glenn Patterson, the Director of Planning, jumped at the opportunity. The Assistant City Engineer, Tom Valenti, identified a corral system that the city could use, which would be inexpensive (under $1,000 each). Mr. Patterson then worked to identify available funding for the program. The city still had some money available from the Urban Development Action Grant (UDAG) program which was used to develop the Riverwatch Commons apartment buildings. In that old federal economic development program, cities were granted money to lend out for projects, and then able to use the repaid loans for community development.
With the funds in hand, and the corrals on order, the city then looked for optimal locations for the new corrals. Criteria included roadways under city jurisdiction, areas with the appropriate space available, and nearby business owners that would embrace the concept.
The seven locations that have been chosen are:
- Mine Street, at Easton Avenue, outside the Hidden Ground Coffee Shop. This location was the first to be put on the ground, during the last week of August. Owner Anand Patel has been thrilled by the proximity to his business and noted that the rack is already being well used.
- Somerset Street and College Avenue, close to the Barnes and Noble bookstore and train station access path;
- Prospect Street at French Street, adjacent to Kim’s Bikes shop;
- Townsend Street at French Street, near two popular bakeries;
- Bayard Street, in close proximity to City Hall;
- Suydam Street and Remsen Avenue, by the Unity Square Community Center; and
- Condict Street at Easton Avenue, near some of the most popular bars and restaurants in town, including “Stuff Yer Face”. This location may be the last to be installed due to nearby construction.
The chosen locations target all residents of New Brunswick, from Rutgers University students who frequent Easton Avenue, to local residents who shop on French Street.
The corrals the city is installing are intended to be permanent, but their design also allows them to be moved relatively easily. That means that if they are not being used much at a particular location, they could be relocated to another spot where they might be better used. This allows the city to experiment and use trial and error to adapt the system.
The city is eager to get feedback as to how the racks are working out, and welcomes suggestions for where others might go. Right now, there is not a formal application process in place to request a new location, but residents are encouraged to message the City through their Facebook page or Twitter, or to email Glenn Patterson or Principal Planner Mark Siegle. You can also call city hall at 732-745-5050 or the Mayor’s office at 732-745-5004.
Aside from on-street bicycle parking and daylighting of intersections, the city has been taking steps to make walking and biking safer. This summer, construction began on a new road project that will bring bicycle lanes to Neilson Street and Albany Street downtown, connecting two of Rutgers’ campuses. Last year, sharrows began to show up on streets around town where bicycle lanes could not fit. Bike lanes are also planned for Suydam Street later this year. For pedestrians, the city has installed seven flashing crosswalks throughout town, targeted near schools and parks.
The city is also a supporter of “Parking Day,” a worldwide event where some street-parking spaces are converted into public open space. Like the bike corrals, parking day presents a different way to think of streets, and also can improve safety by daylighting intersections and calming traffic. This year, Parking Day will be held on Friday, September 19th on Bayard Street, near City Hall.