While St. Louis can no longer proclaim a love of bikes through the Tour of Missouri professional bicycle race, the city will soon have a new bike-centric highlight — a new downtown bike center that will enable and encourage bicycle commuters.
As soon as this fall, riders will be able to show up to work clean with their bikes safely stored for the day. The city’s new 1,300 square foot Downtown Bike Center will feature bike storage, locker rooms and even showers for those who decide to use pedal power to get to work.
In a released statement, Mayor Francis Slay called the project the region's "first public commuter bike center." The city has announced that the Bike Center will open later this fall, and that it will be supported by monthly, daily or annual fees.
"It will be a commuter hub," said Craig Heller of LoftWorks, the company coordinating the construction.
The project is being funded from the Department of Energy stimulus-fund community block grant, which will pay for lockers, the installation of interior bike racks and even fund two years of operations.
Heller also noted the continued rise in popularity of cycling in St. Louis, even though the Tour of Missouri is history.
"Cycling is getting bigger and bigger, and many people are seeing this an alternative to driving their cars to work," he said.
The mighty Mississippi can be crossed on the bike paths that make up the Great Rivers Greenways
For some without access to storage or locker rooms the Downtown Bike Center has the potential to make the bike a viable commuting option. It can also help those who currently ride their bikes to work much easier and it offers benefit those who live downtown and need some extra space to store their bikes.
"Being located in the heart of the downtown is really good for bikers; both commuters and those who live down there," says Todd Antoine, Deputy Director for Planning for the St. Louis based Great Rivers Greenway District. "We're partnering with the city, and will have 77 miles of on street biking."
The Great Rivers Greenway District was created in 2000 and is currently working on a plan that would bring up to 800 miles of bike paths to St. Louis.
A section of the Great Rivers Greenway, which will include nearly 800 miles once planned construction is completed
The larger plan probably won't be finished until next year says Antoine, but he sees the Downtown Bike Center as being a key link in making the city ever more bike friendly.
"Folks have long wanted to be able to have a facility to go and change, and clean up before work," he said.
Antoine adds that many employers provide similar facilities, but the new center makes services available to the general public. It also serves to benefit those who don't commute on a daily basis.
"It is good for those who bike recreationally or those who commute, but it also helps those people who need a place to store their bikes due to space constraints and not worry about it," he said.
The monthly costs haven't been set, but Heller says that the plan is to make it affordable to commuters, and it will likely be comparable to similar bike centers in other cities, possibly costing $10 to $12 a month. The St. Louis Downtown Bike Center will also likely offer daily as well as annual rates; all fees will be announced later this fall.
The facility will be located on the ground floor of the former Farm & Home Building at 1011 Locust, which is owned by LoftWorks and now known as 411. The 1,300 square foot space sits below commercial lofts and provide not only secure storage for a couple of hundred bikes, but adjacent access to a full service bike shop.
"It should be a nice facility for anyone commuting in," says Heller. "It will be a handy option for those who ride their bikes, as it will give them one less thing to worry about."