An on-street bike corral in Portland, Ore.
By the end of the month, cyclists may be able to park at two proposed on-street bike corrals in central Madison. The concept has taken off in Europe, been imported to bike-friendly cities like Portland, Ore., and Boulder, Colo., and has even gained counter-intuitive traction in Milwaukee, where an on-street bike corral has been installed outside an Alterra Coffee shop.
"It's not a new idea," says Madison bicycle-pedestrian coordinator Arthur Ross. But it will be new to Madison. Plans call for converting one parking stall in front of the Tipsy Cow on King Street, says Ross, and one on Harrison Street at Trader Joe's, each with 10 to 12 seasonal bicycle parking spaces. Each corral will feature on-street bike racks in an area demarcated by rubber car stops. Estimated material costs: $700 to $850 per corral.
The introduction of the concept here is driven by the need for more bike parking at those locations, Ross explains. Existing bike racks installed on sidewalks and terraces there have seen heavy use, he observes, often filling to capacity, "so obviously there's a high demand for bicycle parking."
But there is no space left on sidewalks and terraces at those sites, Ross continues, to install yet more bike racks without impeding pedestrians or conflicting with sidewalk cafes and other uses.
These first two corrals would serve as test cases, Ross adds, "to see how it works and see how it's accepted." He anticipates little objection. The current parking stall on King Street, he notes, is metered with a 15-minute limit. At seven feet wide, he adds, the bike corral will measure one foot narrower than King Street's eight-foot parking widths for motor vehicles.
Letters have gone out to businesses and other stakeholders near the two sites, Ross notes, to solicit feedback. "We need to have a fair level of support before we can go ahead and do this," he says.
Ald. Michael Verveer (Dist. 4) agrees, noting he first heard about the concept "only in the last month" and suggested a meeting be held to give stakeholders near the corner of King, Main and Pinckney streets the critical opportunity to learn about the proposal and provide feedback. During his Madison Common Council tenure, he observes, "I've come to learn that people don't like surprises, and downtown parking is a touchy subject."
As the owner of a Trek mountain bike, on the other hand, the proposal strikes him as "a really cool concept" that may help relieve growing demand for bicycle parking spots. "One thing I've argued for is more bike parking, especially downtown," Verveer notes. If the city's first two bike corrals prove successful, he foresees the possibility that other local merchants might propose additional locations for more on-street bike corrals.
So far, says Madison traffic engineer and parking manager David Dryer, "we've gotten two comments back and they were both favorable." Anticipating more favorable responses to his letter soliciting feedback, Dryer says he hopes the city can begin installing the corrals in the next couple of weeks, and have them in by the end of July.