Racks to the Future: How Bike Parking Can Make or Break Small Businesses

bike parking on mountain

Small businesses need any advantage they can get in this world of big box stores, online shopping, and chain restaurants. One often undervalued asset for local retailers and service providers is a sturdy, secure bike rack located near the establishment’s entrance. It might not seem like good bicycle parking would make any difference to a business’s bottom line, but studies show that it can have a notable positive effect.

Advantages of having bike parking

Safe routes to and from a business are important, but secure bicycle parking near the entrance to an office, shop, restaurant or cafe can also make bicyclists feel more welcomed and comfortable. Bicyclists tend to purchase less per visit than a motorist because they simply can’t carry as much. But studies show they make more frequent visits than motorists, with the total spent often equalling, or even exceeding, expenditures by motorists.

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Bicyclists also take up less parking space than motorists, enabling more customers access to a business, especially if there is limited parking available overall. Though most cars can hold at least 4 or 5 people, more often than not each vehicle is occupied by only one person at a time. So when a car takes up a parking space, it has provided space for about 1 – 4 people to patronize a business. Bicycle parking takes up much less space, thereby allowing more people to park. In the examples above, there are at least 15 bicycles in the very top photo (taken during New West Fest when parking is at a premium) and 10 in the second image (taken at the same rack, but on an average week day). These examples show just how many more customers can reach an area when there is sufficient bicycle parking.

Bicycle parking can easily double, triple, or quadruple the number of people who can reach a shopping area.

Safe and Secure

Not only is the bike parking in this shopping center old and broken, but it also provides no way for a bicyclist to securely lock the frame of their bicycle.
Not only is the bike parking in this shopping center old and broken, but it also provides no way for a bicyclist to securely lock the frame of their bicycle.

Simply having a bike rack doesn’t mean that bicyclists will feel comfortable. The rack should be tall enough that the cyclist can securely lock up their frame and not just the front tire. The rack should be embedded in or bolted to the pavement in some way so that it can’t be moved. A bike rack should not only protect against theft, but against damage as well. If a pedestrian or another cyclist can accidentally bump the bike, and the resulting fall bends spokes, wheels, or other parts of the vehicle, then the rack is inadequate.

If bike parking is inadequate, the shopper may feel like they need to dash in, grab the items they need, and dash back out again. But when a bicyclist feels like their vehicle is safe and secure, they’re more likely to take their time, browse a little, perhaps pick up a few impulse items.

It’s not necessarily up to the City to provide parking

Just as the City of Fort Collins doesn’t provide all of the car parking in town, so too the City doesn’t provide all of the bicycle racks in town. The City only puts racks in the public right-of-way. So for restaurants, cafes, shops, and offices that are located in privately owned strip malls, shopping centers, or other large developments, it is up to the owner of the property to provide adequate parking for both cars and bikes.

Tenants located in properties without bicycle parking may want to start a conversation with the owners. When a tenant business does well, then the owner of the property will also do well. Since bicycle racks can increase patronage to a shop or restaurant, it’s in the owner’s best interests to make sure bike parking is up to snuff and accessible, just as they’d spend the time and money to have a parking lot sealed or have snow plowed off of it in winter.

These bike racks are located outside of a multi-family dwelling thanks to requirements in our current City building code.
These bike racks are located outside of a multi-family dwelling thanks to requirements in our current City building code.

The development review process does require a certain amount of parking for all new developments within the city. But older buildings and shopping centers, many of which were built during the height of the automobile age when expansive parking lots were king, often lack any bicycle parking at all. And those that do have bike parking have antiquated racks that may secure a tire, but they don’t do much to protect a bicycle from theft or damage. Owners of these properties are used to caring for car parking. They may just need a nudge to add bicycle parking as well.

The City does have a non-profit bike rack program that helps non-profit organizations get a rack through a grant system. The grant doesn’t cover the cost of installation, but it is a helpful and huge first step for many non-profit organizations that might not otherwise be able to afford to add bike parking.

Other reasons to add bike parking

Some bicycle parking really stands out.
Some bicycle parking really stands out.

In addition to the economic benefits mentioned above, adding bike parking is also a great way to promote sustainability and support the City’s Climate Action Plan.

Some shop owners have installed custom made bike racks that further market their product or brand identity. And others have chosen whimsical bike racks that add a sense of delight to the shopping experience.

Whether rugged or whimsical, a secure bike rack can be an inviting point of arrival for our local bicycling community.

 


 

August Letter from the Executive Director – Introducing the NoCo Bike Show

YGR-Live-Flyer-AUG

 

Nearly 5 years ago, back in the Cranknstein era, Dan Porter, editor and owner of YourGroupRide.com, and I hatched a harebrained scheme to put together a regular live bike talk show.

The event was born of my affection for Porter’s flagship event RioSwap, where every year the whole of the bike community in Northern Colorado converged on the Rio to trade bike parts and war stories over margaritas. I always delighted in the wide array of folks who came out for RioSwap, from dirt bags to roadies, to hipster kids, to kids and parents and grandparents, to city leaders to shop staff to pros and everybody else you can imagine. I was really interested in trying to figure out how to capture that spirit on a regular basis and channel it into making NoCo an even better, safer, and friendlier place to ride.

At the same time, I’d become sort of a winter cycling expert (or know-it-all, depending who you ask) and was getting asked to write and speak regularly on tips and tricks and gear. I was always grateful to be asked, and eager to share my hard won insights to make it a little easier for someone considering taking the plunge.

The bummer was that most of the time I was talking to  5 to 10 people, most of whom were already winter commuters.  Likewise, when I was representing NCCE and talking about racing, I found that I spent a lot of my time talking to small crowds of people who were already pretty well informed. Nothing wrong with that, but I was confident there was a better way to get people engaged.

In a big, active bike town like Fort Collins, one of the big challenges is getting everyone together and fostering an ongoing sense of community. I’ve been a roadie, a messenger, a tourer, a gravel rider, a team manager, a race promoter, a parent who taught a kid to ride, an event manager, and now an advocacy leader.  And all of those various experiences have informed how I do my job, and they reinforce my conviction of how important it is that we all work together to break through the barriers we face in creating streets and communities that are truly safe for bike riders and pedestrians of all ages and abilities and in all neighborhoods.

From that interest in fostering a sense of connectedness, we hatched YGR Live, initially as an extension of Porter’s YGR brand. In the first few years we developed a pretty reliable formula- start with community news and events, presented by the orgs and clubs themselves, and then present 3 features: something sporty, something informational,  something weird, etc, and keep it moving!  In my mind, it’s always better to leave the audience wanting to learn more than to leave em checking their watches.

In those first few years we talked racing, we talked trail work, we had a surprisingly emotional conversation with the Rist Canyon Fire Chief in the wake of the High Park Fire, we talked Pro Challenge, we hung out with pros like Georgia Gould, and the more stories we shared, the more we realized we were only scratching the surface.

Life happened and we took a hiatus for a couple of years between USAPC stages, but when I joined Bike Fort Collins, resurrecting the show was one of my top priorities.  I saw so much potential in YGR Live and we’re now 4 installments into the the second phase and it’s been a total blast so far. The only challenge has been that it became apparent early on that we’d pulled in everyone who knew the YGR brand and it was now more of a limiter (“what does YGR stand for?” we were asked all the time).  Maybe it was time to re-brand in a way that invited a bigger, wider swath of folks to come and listen and share.

With that in mind I’m thrilled to invite everyone to the debut of the NoCo Bike Show! If you came to YGR Live, it should look pretty familiar. After years of roaming the Earth as nomads, we’re settling into our new forever-home at Wolverine Farm Letterpress and Publick House. They’re like-minded bike friendly folks who believe in community so it’s a perfect fit.

Bikes are such powerful tools, literally and socially and politically, that the thought of building an authentic connected bike culture that includes everyone who rides, for whatever reason, is really daunting.  But it’s also baked right into the vision of Bike Fort Collins.  We’re barely scratching the surface of sharing all the ways that folks connect with bikes and how bikes help people overcome barriers of all sorts.

I’m so thrilled for the support that you’ve all shown YGR Live, and I look forward to growing together with the NoCo Bike Show.

 

Chris J Johnson

Executive Director

Bike Fort Collins

chris.johnson@bikefortcollins.org

 

The best routes to get downtown by bicycle

TdF

There’s a lot going on downtown during the summer. Carpooling to Old Town can be a smart way to go. But for some events, like New West Fest, parking spots are in very short supply. At times like that you’ll definitely want to travel by bike or bus instead (or both!).

If you’re an occasional cyclist, you might not have a good route in mind that will get you, and your kids, safely and comfortably into the downtown area. So I’m going to outline a few suggested routes to travel.

Fort Collins is longer than it is wide, so the most important routes to know head north-south. Three key bike-friendly ways to travel in the north-south direction are the Mason Trail, the Remington Bikeway, and the Power Trail. (I’ll give some tips for each one below.) In order to reach one of these three, you’ll most likely need a good east-west route that will connect up with one of these. I’ll include some suggestions for connecting routes as well.


The Mason Trail

The Mason Trail is the red/orange line at center. At the north end the dotted line shows where the trail has ended and Mason Street completes the route to downtown. (Other bike routes are shown in yellow. Some aren't completed yet.)
The Mason Trail is the red/orange line at center. At the north end the dotted line shows where the trail has ended and Mason Street completes the route to downtown. (Other bike routes are shown in yellow. Some aren’t completed yet.)

Because the Mason Trail parallels the MAX line, it’s probably received the most attention in the newspaper, so it’s the route you might be most familiar with. It’s a comfortable trail that connects Laurel just north of campus to the Fossil Creek Trail on the south end of town. But the comfort level drops off once you’re on Mason north of Laurel. (Recent restriping of the lanes has made it a bit better, but there’s still a lot of work to be done on Mason Street.) And the intersections including and between Prospect and Harmony can be frustrating (when it takes forever to get a crossing light) and sometimes dangerous (there have been multiple accidents between bikes and cars at the Harmony crossing).

I have traveled this route many times and, as long as you’re alert at intersections (even when you have the crossing signal) you’ll be fine. There are a few concerns once you hit Mason Street, but they’re not insurmountable. You can read more about them in this Pedal Fort Collins post: Tomorrow’s Mason Street.

But if you’re traveling with kids, you might want to try traveling along the Remington Bikeway instead. Or, if you feel comfortable on the trail portion of Mason but not the street section, there are two good options. You can turn east onto the Spring Creek Trail, cross under College, then take Remington north. Or stay on the Mason Trail until you reach campus, then watch for signs that point toward the University Center for the Arts (the old Fort Collins High School building, by the flower gardens). If you pass the new parking structure, you’ve gone too far. Once you pop out at the flower gardens, carefully cross Remington and continue north.


The Remington Bikeway

The Remington Bikeway
The Remington Bikeway

The Remington Bikeway is not just on Remington street. It includes a series of streets that approach downtown from both the north and south. It uses side streets to safely and comfortably get cyclists through the center of town. Despite the fact that it is made up entirely of surface streets (no bike trails), I feel much more comfortable riding through these quiet neighborhoods than I do on the Mason trail where the intersections seem more hectic and busy. And once you reach the downtown area, Remington is far and away the more comfortable street between it and Mason.

Remington’s main fault is that it’s made up of a bunch of different streets. Unlike the Mason Trail which is pretty much a straight line, Remington has more turns, more connections, and more ways to get lost. (If you get lost easily, take Mason. If you’re good at watching for road signs, you’ll do fine on Remington.)

Also, be aware that at the intersection of Laurel and Remington is one of the smallest little roundabouts you’ve ever seen. When you reach that point you can either exit the bike lane and take the sidewalk. Or, if you choose to stay in the street, then be sure to ride in the center of the lane while you’re in the roundabout. This will keep cars from coming up on your left side, then turning right to exit the roundabout and running you over.

 

 

 

Some of the signs are smaller and easy to miss if you're not watching for them.
Some of the signs are smaller and easy to miss if you’re not watching for them.
Many signs include information on nearby bikeways or trails as well as public parks, schools, and other places of interest.
Many signs include information on nearby bikeways or trails as well as public parks, schools, and other places of interest.

 

If you live north of Old Town, Remington trail might also be the best route for you. The northernmost end of this bikeway is at the intersection of Willox and Redwood, near the Redwing Marsh Natural Area.

If you’d like to learn more about the Remington Bikeway, check out this Pedal Fort Collins article: The Remington Bikeway. And if you’d like to know more about traveling through a roundabout safely while you’re on a bike, check out How to Travel Through a Roundabout.


 The Power Trail

The Power Trail is shown here in red/orange.
The Power Trail is shown here in red/orange.

The last main north-south route that I’m recommending is the Power Trail, mostly because it’s easily accessible for many folks on the southeast side of town. It ends at EPIC, so you’ll want to either head west on Stuart, or travel a bit further until you hit the Spring Creek Trail. Either way, watch for signs indicating when to turn right/north to follow the Remington Trail.


Dunbar & Centre

 

The Dunbar Bikeway
The Dunbar Bikeway
The Centre Bikeway
The Centre Bikeway

There are two more north-south bikeways that you could use, but I don’t think signs have been put up along these routes yet, which means that unless you take a map with you that outlines the route, you might lose your way. (Believe me, I’ve tried it. I made it north, but I think I spent more time off the bikeway than on it.) Here are some maps if you’d like to give it a go.

 

 

 

 

 


 East-West Options

The best east-west options are trails. The Poudre Trail travels from the northwest to the southeast and is very comfortable. The Spring Creek Trail travels from the Southwest to the northeast and is also quite a lovely ride. If you’re able to hit either of these, then Yahoo! If you need a few other ideas, though, I’d recommend the Swallow Bikeway.

The Swallow Bikeway
The Swallow Bikeway – It does have signs and it’s a very comfortable ride. (With the exception of the bit between Mason and College. Neither of those crossings are particularly fun.)
The Pitkin Bikeway
The Pitkin Bikeway – There’s also the Pitkin Bikeway. There are still some improvements that need to be made along this route, but most of it is pretty comfortable to ride.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Cross train and trolley tracks at a right angle.

If you’re heading downtown from the west and you take Laporte to Mountain, be careful on the trolley tracks. As best as possible, try to swerve a little to the left right before you hit them, then turn right so that you cross them at a right angle.

Don’t forget to bring a sturdy U-lock with you when you head downtown. Even though Fort Collins is still a pretty safe town, bike thefts are certainly not unheard of. And be sure to bring a water bottle along. It’s important to stay hydrated while you’re out and about on your bicycle. Most downtown events include water stations where you can refill your bottle before your return trip home.

Most of all, have fun not only at the downtown event, but enjoy the ride there and back again!


All maps are from the Fort Collins Bicycle Wayfinding Network Master Plan. Some have been slightly altered to emphasize one route over another.


Meg is the author of PedalFortCollins.com, a local transportation blog that’s part of the Scoop Blog Network. She’s an active member of Bike Fort Collins and the Fort Collins Coalition for Infrastructure and she is frequently involved in transportation and urban planning events hosted by the City of Fort Collins. You can reach her at meg@pedalfortcollins.com.