San Francisco allow bikes in buildings

City looks to encourage commuting with new ordinance

Most city bike commuters struggle with what to do with their bikes, both at their residence and once at their destinations and places of employment. In San Francisco, California a new ordinance has initial approval that will allow riders to bring their bikes into commercial buildings.

Many cities have tried to encourage bicycle commuting with the addition of city sponsored bicycle centers, but the San Francisco Board of Supervisors have skipped the middleman and given initial approval a resolution that would require building owners to allow tenants to bring their bikes inside. The ordinance has the endorsements of both the Building Owners and Managers Association of San Francisco and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

This is already being seen as a game-changing move that could inspire many to use the bike, instead of the car, to get to work. “We think this is very significant,” Leah Shahum, San Francisco Bicycle Coalition executive director told BikeRadar. “One of the major impediments in San Francisco has been secure and safe bike parking for riders while they are at work. We do think there is going to be a boost in riders.”

Shahum cited a report conducted by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency that found that cycling has seen a 71-percent increase among residents in the last five-year span. And key among what residents have clamored for is secure bicycle parking.

Of course not all building owners are likely to support the move, and owners who want to put limitations on bike access to their respective buildings will have to complete a bicycle access plan and submit it to the city’s Department of the Environment for approval.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors board voted 9-2 in favor of the proposal, with Carmen Chu and Sean Elsbernd as the two supervisors to vote no. Chu said in a statement that she was worried that the ordinance would put too much stress on city departments that “are already taxed at the moment.”

However, Supervisor John Avalos responded in a statement, “We could follow up later if we're seeing there's a real issue, but I believe that for the most part there's been embracing of us. We’re not asking anyone to make space for a bike where there isn’t space.”

It was also noted that owners could ask for total exceptions to the ordinance if a building’s elevators were not available for bicycle access or if there was secure off-street parking or indoor, no-cost parking within three blocks of the building. These applications for the exception would require an inspection of the building by the city’s Department of Building Inspection as well as an inspection of the parking site by the Livable Streets subdivision of the Municipal Transportation Agency.

Shahum said that this shouldn’t be seen as a problem and notes that some building owners, and tenants are simply getting creative. “Employers want biker parking because employees want bike parking,” she added that in those cases where there isn’t room for bikes or proper access, some buildings are working together. “We’re hearing from building owners and employers where space is tight, such as in some shops.”

Bike commuters in front of a building's bike corral; building owners are being creative retrofitting spaces and sharing bike storage with other buildings

She noted that the trendy Union Square area is one example, and the really small businesses are working to see if space can expanded and improved in local parking garages. “A lot of garages are building out secure cages,” she said. “This provides a secure bike parking in the garage. And elsewhere, folks are being creative about it.”

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