Where the hell am I supposed to park my bike in midtown?

My local bike rack that the security guard said was a "safe bet" for parking. I passed.

With all the hullabaloo about new bike lanes and the nascent bike share program, you would think New York would be a bicycle haven. And this being National Bike Month, and Bike to Work Week, you think everyone would ditch their cars and ride to the office. But there’s a problem that plagues car and bicycle commuters alike: where do I park this damn thing? Midtown’s canyons of skyscrapers may wow the tourist, but to the bike commuter it’s a maze of 60-story tall “No Parking” signs. Where are health- and environmentally-conscious commuters supposed to put these things during the work day?

I got a new job in the big city and was pleased to find a little sign at our lobby sign-in desk that said “Bicycle Access Plan.” With nice weather on the way, I believed could finally wean myself off super-expensive monthly subway passes by riding the 8 miles or so to work under my own power. But bike racks are sparse, the building won’t let me bring it in, and the cost for a bike parking spot (already an absurd idea) makes me feel like I might as well have a car. I took to the internet to do some investigating.

Much to the rejoicing of cyclists everywhere, the city passed the The Bicycle Access to Office Buildings Law in 2009. The law requires all office buildings with a freight elevator to let bicycle commuters bring their rides up to their offices. In theory this is great, but there’s one catch: building management is required to let your bike in the building, but your employer isn’t. And if they don’t want to accommodate you, you’re out of luck. Mine doesn’t and they aren’t budging.

My building’s security guard suggested I park in the garage. When I asked him how much they charge, he kept repeating “It’s too much, if you ask me. It’s too much!” He never gave a figure.

“Garages allow bicycle parking? Great!” I thought. Well, that’s only because they’re legally required to. The city also passed a law (pdf) that requires “garages or lots that accommodate 100 or more vehicles [to] provide bicycle parking at a rate of at least one space for every ten vehicle spaces.” Sounds dandy, except most garages don’t want bicycle commuters. To discourage use, they charge outrageous prices. Icon Parking, the owner of the garage in my building, charges $75 (tax included) for a monthly spot for a bicycle. Most other garages in the area (midtown West) charge that and even higher.

Amsterdam does a lot of things right, including bike parking. Us here in New Amsterdam, not so much.

The only option is the street. The same security guard who refused to name a price suggested I try the city rack by the subway stop around the corner. I am hesitant; I’ve had wheels, brake lines, seats, even reflectors ripped off various bikes over the years, all well under the typical 8-hour work day. A quick peek revealed the rusting carcass of one foolish enough park at 53rd and Broadway (pictured above).

And so up and down the street desperate delivery boys and determined commuters alike illegally tie their bikes up to parking signs, trees, even trash cans, at the risk of vandals, thieves and zealous parking enforcers.

I put it to you, Brokelyn bicycle commuters: where do you park your bicycle in Manhattan? Do you risk the street? Do you pay the extortionate prices at garages? Does your office provide parking? Tell us below!

Follow Conal (but not to his bike rack) @conaldarcy.

15 Comment

  • How is $75/month “outrageous” for bike parking? A parking space in midtown costs easily $400-600 a month. Maybe 8-10 bikes at best can fit in a parking space? Add to that service costs of having staff available and billing costs and $75 is not insane.

    • I’d say more than $50/month is out of the question. At 8 cars/parking space, that’s $400/month. And cyclists won’t always use their spaces because of bad weather.

  • I’d go for a walk around the neighborhood and check out posted bike parking prices at other garages. I’ve noticed ones that have posted prices of $20 a month, which isn’t bad.

    Otherwise, park outside with maximum security. Pick a few racks/posts/whatever (check that they are firmly anchored into the concrete and can’t be taken apart by removing bolts anywhere) and vary between them. Buy a Fahgettaboutit lock as your main lock and make sure to fill up all the space inside it (go around your wheel and your frame if you can) while locking up so thieves can’t get leverage. Use a second mini u-lock or a security skewer on your other wheel; if you use a second u-lock, see if you can get the frame and a fixed object through it, as well. Replace your seat & stem & headset bolts with security bolts, or hodgepodge some by gluing in ball bearings.

    A cheap fixed gear/singlespeed is a good choice to lock up on the street, since it doesn’t have many parts to steal. It’s even better if they’re ugly old parts from Recycle-a-Bicycle so nothing looks like it’s worth stealing/selling. I’ve heard people say that brake pads can get stolen so check your brakes after locking up on the street all day.

    Notice that even on that bombed out bike carcass, the properly secured parts weren’t stolen.

  • I think the answer is just have a bike that looks wholly unappealing to steal.

  • Buy a folding bike and put it under your desk at work. (it will quickly pay for itself compared to $75 for bike parking) If your employer has a problem with that you should seek new employment…

  • The parking garage by my work is $100 a month for bikes, and I’m not paying something as expensive as an unlimited metro card, when it’s something that’s typically free on the corner. That price disparity is too high.

    Luckily, my employer (which is a college), has a program with that same parking lot charging just $25 for the whole semester.


  • I’m not sure if this is still true, but back in 2010 Edison ParkFast announced $1/day and $20/month rates for bicycles. Streetsblog wrote a post about it: http://www.streetsblog.org/2010/09/15/dollar-a-day-bike-parking-arrives-at-all-edison-parkfast-locations/

  • Do what Alan says.

    I work in the city and I asked around and I happen to find a parking garage that allows me to park my bike for free!

    Also, maximum security doesn’t mean you have to carry 40 lbs of chains, etc with you. Get locking skewers for your wheels. You only need quick release wheels if you’re in a competitive race. They also make bolts for your seat and handlebars that are lockable and only unlocked by a special key that you have. Worthwhile investment for sure.

  • I had the same problem. The office manager helped me out by letting me use a supply closet – not official policy but she wanted to help. I would try seeing if you could get someone to help you out. There’s also a loading dock in my building if you have one of those maybe you could kick someone back $20/ month to let you lock it up in there? That would be ideal as I run into the problem of the freight elevator hours which are now 8-5pm – too early as I work until 6pm.

  • I’m in the same conundrum here. My old job in Midtown had a designated bike room which was amazing, but now I am in the Met Life building and with all their amenities, the building seems untouchable by a dirty bike. I will ask my employer as per the 2009 legislation, but if that is not an option, it’s conceivable to look for garages that have free bike parking. There definitely are some! There’s a lot on 43rd street (south side) between 5th and 6th that I’m pretty sure is free.

    The 2014 NYC bike map shows sheltered parking areas for bike; the closest one to Midtown is near Penn Station on 8th ave. Otherwise, I am contemplating sneaking back into my old building and parking in there :)

  • The American bicycling industry is geared towards weekend warrior types; hence, bicycles are thought of as sports gear or worse, toys. The rise of the yuppie cyclist is a relatively recent phenomenon, one that hasn’t translated yet into a revolution of the bicycling industry. Urban bicycles are still modified mountain or road racing bicycles: they are fragile, with lots of easy-to-remove or breakable parts. The emphasis is on lightness as opposed to durability, which is a HUGE design flaw.

    As an urban cyclist, I’m not trying to channel my inner Lance Armstrong. Even a ridiculously over-engineered brick of a bike is going to be faster than walking, so I would prefer durability, no-snag engineering, and anti-theft proofing as opposed to carbon-fiber, quick-release anything in an urban commuter. My bicycle is my car: it should have built-in storage that can’t be broken into short of using an axe or power saw. It should be so sleek and snagless that one can lick it without so much as getting a cut or tasting grease.

    Cars were once as mechanical looking as bicycles, but given the mass-market’s demand for better design and engineering, cars now look like sleek, shiny pieces of candy than a hacker’s Mad Max fantasy. Bicycles look more like engineering than consumer products, and that’s the mentality that needs to change. Hide the cables and chain in the frame. Incorporate the lights and cyclo-computer into the frame as well. Get rid of all the quick-release crap. Hide the remaining bolts in the frame as well. Create one point of entry to access all of the connectors. I don’t care if this adds ten pounds to my bike, I call the extra mass a much needed workout.

  • Buy a used bike for $100-$200. Use 2 decent, but not super expensive, locks. When it gets stolen ( and it will ), you’ll simply shrug and get another.

    The costs of my last few bikes

    FREE – Tricked out mountain bike (diamondback)
    FREE – name brand commuter
    $80 – 8 speed internal
    hub name brand commuter
    $100 – 3 speed name brand commuter
    $60 – 5 speed internal hub off brand commuter
    ‘$300 – off brand commuter

    Shoot most people spend more on a bar tab Friday night.