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Take This Bike and Stick It... Where, Exactly?

As bike utilization increases, parking becomes more and more of a concern in Arlington.

As smug as some cyclists (ahem, mirror check) can be when it comes to the advantages of cycling over driving, cyclists and drivers still share many of the same challenges. In Arlington, parking can sometimes be among them.

Even as the weather cools, racks at every Metro station in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor remain at or near capacity on a daily basis. Fortunately, it’s not terribly hard for cyclists to create their own “overflow parking” out of nearby signs and public racks along the street.

It’s hit and miss along the rest of the corridor. In busy areas like Rosslyn and Clarendon, lots of public racks have been appearing on the sidewalks. Plus, there are always road signs.

In other places – like Virginia Square’s Washington Boulevard or parts of Courthouse – you’re probably going to have to park your bike in a less-than-ideal place. And if there’s a grocery store in Arlington with decent bike parking, I’ve never come across it.

Those with the biggest challenges, by far, are apartment dwellers. While newer buildings are required to have sufficient bike parking inside, most of Arlington’s older buildings are woefully under-equipped to meet the demand for bike parking on their premises. Most apartment racks appear to be an afterthought, with a jumble of bikes pushed somewhere well away from the street. 

So how do we improve things?

Well, Arlington County itself has been contributing, and is responsible for most of the new racks you see on the sidewalks. Developers (with a bit of nudging from the building code) are now including good parking facilities in their buildings. Metro is slowly improving the bike parking capacity at most of its stations.

Residential property managers could certainly step up. Some apartment parking areas look like Jenga puzzles made out of bikes, with the bikes of the latest residents secured to last year’s leaseholders' cycles, which in turn are chained to a rusty core of ancient bikes in the middle. A bit of regular pruning could definitely help address that.

There are also some good lessons to be taken from one of the developments in the Buckingham neighborhood. That area recently and dramatically expanded its bike parking in recognition of how many of its residents use bikes as their primary daily transportation.

Finally, there’s something that most every reader can do – simply ask your office, property manager, or favorite business to provide better parking. It’s not terribly expensive (especially compared to auto parking), and sometimes it’s just a case of more thoughtful positioning of existing facilities. Many places simply haven’t thought about it and may very well respond favorable to a bit of positive prompting.

The next time you’re frustrated with finding a space for your bike, remind yourself that it could be worse. You could be parking a car.

Mark Blacknell is chair of the Arlington Bicycle Advisory Committee, a member of the board of directors of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, and a League Cycling Instructor.

Andrew November 03, 2011 at 12:38 PM
Good topic. Would like to hear ideas on what makes better bike parking. In my 50 yr old building we've put a good sized Nike room near the back door. We register bikes and donate abandoned bikes, roughly annually, to a local charitable organization. We struggle w the key situation. Theft has been eliminated by keeping one key at the office / front desk. People check out the key, get/drop their bike(s) and return the key. That inconvenience leads some to find other solutions like storing their bikes in their small, often very small, homes. We have experimented w other key distribution methods and this is the best we've found to date. Any ideas on what else works?
Mark Blacknell November 03, 2011 at 12:46 PM
Funny, I was going to link this PDF at the end of the piece - http://www.apbp.org/resource/resmgr/publications/bicycle_parking_guidelines.pdf It's the bike parking guidelines from the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals. The key checkout process does sound inconvenient, but I'd rather deal with that than a stolen bike.
Allen Muchnick November 04, 2011 at 06:02 AM
Months ago, the County removed the parking meter heads on Wilson Blvd in front of the Navy League building in Court House. I'm still waiting for the County to mount circle bike racks on top of these parking meter posts, as County staff had promised. The new Giant supermarket in Penrose Square on Columbia Pike has an adequate number of inverted-U bike racks located around that mixed-use development, although these racks were installed in clusters and are often not as conveniently sited as would be optimal.
Allen Muchnick November 04, 2011 at 06:11 AM
Other Arlington supermarkets with nearby bike racks include the Harris Teeter in Shirlington Village and the Safeway on Harrison St north of Lee Hwy.
Andrew November 07, 2011 at 10:47 PM
Thanks for posting the link, Mark. Some helpful guidelines in there.

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