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Seattle rolls out on-street bike parking

Posted by on September 4th, 2008 at 8:37 am

On-street bike parking in downtown Seattle.
(Photos © J. Maus)

I spotted a nifty on-street bike parking facility outside of the Westin Hotel in downtown Seattle (site of the Pro Walk/Pro Bike conference) yesterday.

The rack not only gives needed space to park bikes, but it also offers a not-so-subtle message. Here’s another shot:

I asked Seattle-based Cascade Bicycle Club’s advocacy director David Hiller about it this morning. He says the rack in the picture above was brought in by the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) specifically for the conference. But, he added, SDOT has six more of them planned for installation throughout the city.

Pro Walk Pro Bike in Seattle - Weds-57.jpg

Hiller is a big fan of these racks. “We’re showing people that in the space of one private vehicle, we can fit 20 bikes.”

I’ve got a call into SDOT’s bike parking manager Monica DeWald. I’ll update this post with more information once I hear back from her.

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  • Ethan September 4, 2008 at 9:25 am

    If they had powder coated it yellow they could have dispensed with the unsightly cones . . . makes it look almost as bad (almost) as our less sophisticated version. Are they afraid someone would miss the rack and try to back in?

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  • Mark P. September 4, 2008 at 9:25 am

    That is cool!

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  • Blair September 4, 2008 at 9:38 am

    Making it look like a car is really, really stupid. Less is more, Seattle.

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  • true September 4, 2008 at 9:50 am

    I think making it look like a car is an interesting idea. The next one could look like horses tied to a rail, maybe, or a line of riot cops. A conestoga wagon? Some burros and cacti? I\’m all for it.

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  • Zaphod September 4, 2008 at 9:55 am

    At first I agreed with Blair, why make it look like a car? Then I considered the arguments that valuable parking real estate is being used. Having the car motif clearly depicts the impact/benefit of having ~20 bike parking spots. It also drives home (sorry), in not so subtle ways, that driving a car is an inefficient mode to get around a city. It might make a driver think about their choice.

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  • Peter September 4, 2008 at 10:24 am


    though, i\’d like to see a David Byrne-ization of these racks, so they look purty, as well as being completely awesome functionally.

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  • wsbob September 4, 2008 at 10:27 am

    That design is just too good. It\’s a great way to get the point across that a car off the road equals room for a lot more people on bikes. Ethan\’s right that the rack could use some color, but accents might be better than the whole thing powder coated. People are surely going to be sideswiping it and scraping any finish that might be applied.

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  • Brad September 4, 2008 at 10:33 am

    Great visual! 10+ bikes take up the space of single car. Extrapolate that to the roads, parking spaces, your cluttered garage and DRIVERS get the meesage about waste and inefficiency.

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  • matt picio September 4, 2008 at 11:29 am

    I think with some individuals, this installation will have the unintentional backlash effect of reminding them that a car \”could have been parked there if it weren\’t for all those crazy bikers\”.

    That said, I agree that it\’s a wonderful illustration of the wasted space taken up by the giant automobile. If everyone drove around in oversized golf carts, the pro-motor crowd would have a little more room for debate.

    But hey, this is America – home of the 8-cylinder, land of the hemi. It\’s your patriotic duty to have the largest off-road vehicle out there, regardless of whether you ever actually NEED a vehicle like that.

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  • Moo September 4, 2008 at 11:30 am

    Too bad the cones make it look temporary…otherwise, good one!

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  • PdxMark September 4, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    The other thing this installation seems to provide is a barrier to protect against a car crashing into the bikes parked there. At a high enough speed nothing of reasonable design would protect the bikes from an errant car, but a bit of a barrier would be nice protection. Of course, the curb blocks included in the Portland bike corrals might be similarly effective.

    For both corral designs entry can be a bit awkward, particularly for a corral mid-block. A gap between the corral and the adjacent car spaces would help with ingress and egress and would help protect the bikes from cars while they do their parallel parking maneuvers.

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  • Donald September 4, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    My first response was: Cute design, but where is the awning?

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  • Mary Sue September 4, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    It looks like a frowny car! 🙁

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  • Grey September 4, 2008 at 1:55 pm

    That is excellent. The visual is wonderful and I\’m always happy about on street bike parking.

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  • Matt Case September 4, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    Hate to say it, but driver\’s can\’t be bothered to pay attention to traffic, never mind a grey parking structure. Preaching to the choir over here folks, preaching to the choir.

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  • Elliot September 4, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    Now PDOT has no excuses left to keep their delay on the roll out of more on-street parking corrals in Portland because of \”aesthetic issues\”. Seattle\’s rack design is U-G-L-Y. Also, it shouldn\’t be up to the city DOT to make that psuedo-political point.

    I\’m also surprised no one noticed that the racks seem to be wheel racks – completely obsolete in terms of secure design. Clearly two points of contact aren\’t available to hold the bike upright, and it\’s not possible to lock both wheels to the rack. I bet Seattle bike thieves are salivating.

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  • Donald September 4, 2008 at 3:24 pm

    \”I bet Seattle bike thieves are salivating.\”

    At least the suit-sporting ones…

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  • destin September 4, 2008 at 3:28 pm


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  • […] Seattle rolled out some on-street bike parking. That’s right, lanes of traffic blocked—not for bikes to ride on—but so they can park. It’s mad, mad, mad, mad world. Thank god Seattle is out there fighting the good fight (with their normal liquor laws). […]

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  • jim September 5, 2008 at 12:19 am

    I don\’t see any parking meters. Another case of bikes not paying their way

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  • Cycling Links For September 4 - 100 KM September 5, 2008 at 1:20 am

    […] Seattle rolls out on-street Parking – BikePortland.org […]

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  • SkidMark September 5, 2008 at 11:37 am

    I like the car shape. It shows how much space a car takes up relative to 16 bikes.

    And jim, if you are tired of \”paying your way\” get a bike and quit whining.

    Based on one space holding 16 bikes it should be about 8 cents an hour…

    Yeah, you should just get a bike.

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  • jim September 6, 2008 at 2:21 am

    8 cents per hr would never pay off the meters, sounds like something Portland would go for. Right now they want to sell the meters for 9 million and lease them back for 12 million and still be responsible for the maintenance…..

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  • SkidMark September 7, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    if each bike paid 8 cents it would be the same as one car parking there. I don\’t see why bikes should have to pay anyways. We don\’t idle at intersections and produce smog, we don\’t tear up the streets, and if we hit somebody we are not likely to kill them. Really, if you\’re all pissy about having to pay to park your car and jealous of the fact that cyclists don\’t, leave your car in your driveway and ride a bike. Quit your whining.

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  • Eileen September 7, 2008 at 6:14 pm

    Jim, this shows that the space bikes take up is 1/20 that of a car. So a cyclist\’s share for parking and building new roads/trails, etc should be about 5% that of a driver\’s. Now, I think a vehicle\’s weight gives a good indicator as to how much damage a vehicle can cause on the roads. I just read taht the average car/light truck in the US weighs 4,000 pounds. The average Bike? I have no idea but maybe 30 pounds? Let\’s say 40 (which I think is high) to make the math easier and a bike is causing 1/100 the road damage of a car. Since the MAJORITY of funding for all this stuff comes from the common tax fund we all pay into, I would say that bikes are paying way MORE than their share and they ought to get free parking, tax breaks and maybe a donut every morning.

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  • jim September 8, 2008 at 12:19 am

    sorry- just being cynical.
    If I could drive without paying gas tax, license & registration fee, insurance, paying again to just park my car on the side of the road so I can shop downtown to support local business, pay the $21.00 ticket for being 1 minute late back to my car, I guess I would be about as happy as Skidmark and Eileen. By the way- dosn\’t smartpark garages charge bikes to park? shouldn\’t it be the same for in the street parking?

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  • jim September 8, 2008 at 12:25 am

    Just looked on smartpark website and didn\’t see any reference to bike parking so I don\’t know if they have any or not? It seems fair that they should. that is for a price of course.

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  • Eileen September 8, 2008 at 10:12 pm

    actually Jim, I drive a car to work. I\’m just not proud of the fact. Getting two kids to the babysitter and driving 27 miles to be at work by 7 am has made me a slacker. But I have a ton of respect for the people who are making the effort to ride their bikes and we try to do car-free weekends.

    Did you hear? They finally found the NW passage – all they had to do was melt the north pole. Gee, Cpt. Cook would have been so jealous. Too bad it also means that Oregon will soon have the climate of Southern California and SoCal will be uninhabitable. At this point it is probably irreversible, so what the hell, let\’s go down in flames driving really, really fast.

    Also, you don\’t seem to get that cyclists DO pay more than their fair share because a bike has so few needs and causes so little damage compared to cars, that just by being a taxpaying citizen, cyclists are paying way more than their fair share of road building and maintenance. Not to mention what they are doing for the environment. Instead of putting them down, you should be kissing their asses, thanking them and bringing them fresh coffee and donuts every morning.

    Whew. Long day.

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  • wsbob September 8, 2008 at 11:57 pm

    Referring to some of the comments above about bikes not having to pay for street parking: It seems that some people either haven\’t heard, or have forgotten that some city governments actually want people to ride bikes rather than motor vehicles, downtown.

    A major reason for this is that such a strategy is simply the easiest, most cost efficient way to address the problem of streets that have reached their capacity for moving people through them by single occupancy motor vehicles. Things like free parking logically encourage more people to go by bike.

    At some point, maybe the ratio of cars to bikes on the street will shift so significantly to more bikes that bikes will reasonably be obliged to shoulder more of the expense that motor vehicles currently bear. Until that time comes, I hope to see lots more bike promoting strategies such as those funky looking Seattle bike corrals.

    Also, I agree with Eliot in comment #16, that some way should be figured out to give the actual lock-up provision of the racks the 2-point capacity, or whatever is needed.

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  • jim September 8, 2008 at 11:59 pm

    I hope you don\’t really believe all that. It is in fact just an algoreism.

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  • Eileen September 9, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    No, actually I did just read a news story about the polar ice caps melting and those waters are becoming navigable for the first time in recorded history.

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  • jim September 9, 2008 at 9:12 pm

    I guess that wipes out the portland to north pole bike ride

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