Bike parking is one of those things you don’t notice… unless it isn’t there (or it’s there, but kind of terrible). Asking ‘how do I get more and better bike parking in my neighbourhood?’ is how Jena first made contact with the local bike advocacy scene when she arrived in Auckland from Canada. (If that’s your first question too, read right through to the end of this post for useful info).
One thing led to another, and now – as a member of the Walking and Cycling team at Auckland Transport – Jena has become something of a bike parking guru.
You might have spotted the new blue parking racks in Britomart, as part of the big moving jigsaw puzzle of the CRL diggings which has closed that part of downtown to through-traffic. Those are Jena’s work – we use it without thinking, but it had a whole lot of thought behind it. I asked her how it came about.
‘It all started with renovations at the Council building on Albert St, which meant the original bike parks were behind the construction fence, so people started locking bikes to hand rails, fences, anything they could find. It wasn’t ideal,’ says Jena. ‘We needed to find a moveable solution, because the construction zones were constantly shifting – but real commuters needed something more than the little portable aluminum racks we use for events.’
So she did some research, and discovered the Dero U-Lock-It: a good price-point, modular, and flat pack for easy shipping. ‘Luckily, Cycle Solutions in Christchurch already had a bunch in stock, so we had them thermo-coated in a cheerful colour – we went for the lighter AT blue – and shipped up here.’
The bike racks were everything she was hoping for: strong and versatile. ‘I am not a handy person. But my husband loaned me a drill and I put them together. They’re very flexible – you can put together in one big unit like the ones on Albert St, where we have a line of five near the door. Or you can bolt them into place separately or in pairs.’
The tricky bit was getting them to town, so they could be installed. They were originally shipped to Smales Farm. But (as anyone who’s drive to town lately knows) in the central city, it’s hard to get parking right outside where you’re going. ‘The Bayswater ferry is handy to my home, so I started bringing a couple over every morning with me, using a wheelie suitcase – and then I realized I could load the heavier bits into my cargo bike (actually, a loaner cargo bike, as my own was in the shop) and then I could bring it right to the building downtown.’
That’s right: this bike advocate turned bike event coordinator used a cargo bike to deliver bike parking. ‘Honestly, every day I’m more and more in love with my cargo bike,’ says Jena. ‘My children will outgrow it, but I don’t know if I will!’
Keep your eyes peeled for more of these units around town. In Jena’s words, ‘It’s a good solid system for this long-term-short-term interim period we’re going through in the CBD. The nice thing is you can configure it into whatever size or shape you want, and use it in different kinds of spaces, so it’s a chance to try out different locations and see where bike parking attracts bike parkers. The Britomart ones were empty at first, but they’ve pretty much filled right up now! We’re keen to see where else we can use them.’
Okay. So how do you request more and better bike parking?
If it’s in the ‘road reserve’ (which includes berms and footpaths), then you can lodge a request with AT, and they’ll add it to their rolling list, which consists of requests from the public and a proactive approach of adding bike parking at locations near town centres, shops, bus stops and public transport interchanges. Officially, the placement, type and number of bike racks depends on the feasibility of the location and available budget. (AT also maintains a list of existing bike parking).
If the location is on Council property – like parks or playgrounds or beaches or town squares – start with your Local Board.
If you think a shop, mall, or other organization could benefit from bike parking, let them know via a friendly conversation with someone in charge. Just as the squeaky wheel gets the oil, the enthusiastic regular customer gets positive attention. Good conversation starters: ‘We love biking to [your restaurant, movie theatre, leisure activity]…’ or ‘Hey, [other great place] has just added the most amazing bike parking which I think would attract more of us if you had some too…’
Or you could just show them this classic image…
If you’re shy, write a letter or drop a note in their suggestion box. Borrow some great words from the wonderful Bikes Welcome, Jo Clendon’s new nationwide initiative to encourage ‘better bike parking, everywhere.’ Jo will also be part of a free live web seminar on the subject of bike parking on the evening of Tuesday 30 August, organized by the national bike advocacy umbrella group, CAN. So if bike parking is your thing, be sure to tune in!