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.
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.