Thursday, August 12, 2010

Good outcome, wrong mechanism

So, according to Ted Hess-Mahan*, Land Use co-erced Pie into paying for custom bike racks as a condition of a special permit waiving the parking requirement for more seats:

For its special permit, Pie agreed to pay for custom bike racks in Newton Centre. Check out the fork, knife & spoon.

Good that Newton Centre is getting some more bike racks. The novelty bike racks are fun. There is a nice symmetry here: Pie gets seats not by providing car parking, but bike parking. In fact, it suggests a re-write to the ordinance. Allow the parking requirement to be filled with either car or bike parking.

But, in the end, it really is the city's obligation to provide bike racks. And, a decent outcome doesn't change the fact that the parking requirement is out-dated, counter-productive, and bad for our village centers. Using a bad regulation to coerce a small-business owner to donate a bike rack does not equal good government.

Where are they going to go? That's a narrow sidewalk. (If they could get Bank of America to put them on their property near the drive-thru exit, fabulous.)

*This Tweeter Twitter thing is pretty nifty!


dr2chase said...

It might ought to be the city's obligation to provide bike racks, but isn't it standard around here to require that businesses provide "adequate" (as defined by regulations) parking? Why wouldn't bike racks work the same way?

The obvious place for the racks, if the sidewalk is narrow, is to take one car parking space and put the racks there. That's a net increase in places for people to put their transportation.

However, if I may be skeptical for just a moment, I think that this is really silly. When I (or anyone in my family) is deciding whether to bike someplace, we do not ever ask "are there any bike racks there?" Bikes are just not that large, and it is possible to improvise, though perhaps not within the letter of the law. If anything, the lack of a defined bike rack means that I feel free to park the bike I close as I can to where I am actually going, as long as I don't overly obstruct pedestrian traffic (given flaws in the sidewalk, fire hydrants, newspaper boxes, and street lamps, the sidewalk is already plenty obstructed).

Now, COVERED bicycle parking, that might be a little more interesting. With a video camera to watch for thieves, that would help, too.

Sean Roche said...

Is it standard? Yes. Is it good? No.

Pie is a small business. They've had to jump through hoops to put tables into their restaurant, hoops they shouldn't have had to jump through. The bicycling community is the beneficiary of a bad regulatory scheme.

Are bike racks necessary?

Like you, I've never worried about whether there's a rack at the end of the rainbow, except when work is my destination and I need to scout out a covered place to park. But, you and I are not representative. Lots of people list the lack of rack access as an impediment to biking.

Anonymous said...

Ive never called ahead to ask about bike parking, but I do not frequent stores where I know parking my bike will be a hassle, when I can go to a similar location and park my bike with no issue.