34th Street

Bike Parking Lot, With Attendant, Is Planned for Midtown

January 17, 2008
Patrick McGeehan, New York Times

City officials have been trying to create more places where New Yorkers can ride their bikes safely, but finding secure places to park them is an enduring problem.

Now, a few business executives have dreamed up a private-sector solution: the city’s first bikes-only parking lot, complete with attendant. Already, they have cleared the high hurdle of finding available space in Midtown, on West 33rd Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues.

All they need is a corporation willing to pay as much as $200,000 a year to sponsor the idea.

“We’re really looking for a big number to build something quite spectacular,” said Daniel A. Biederman, president of the 34th Street Partnership. “We want this to be the premier bike parking facility in the country.”

Stonehenge Management, a developer, has offered a 2,600-square-foot lot next to an apartment building it owns on the north side of 33rd Street, Mr. Biederman said.

The partnership, which is financed by businesses and property owners in a 31-block section of Midtown, has developed a preliminary design for the lot and has ordered up a prototype of the racks it would contain, Mr. Biederman said. Initially, it would hold 100 bikes, with room to expand if there is more demand, he said.

Regular users would pay a fee, but some spaces would be free, for short-term use by visitors to the neighborhood. Those fees will depend on how much the partnership can raise from a sponsor, Mr. Biederman said.

“There’s a huge demand out there for this kind of parking option,” said Caroline Samponaro, bicycle campaign coordinator at Transportation Alternatives, a group that advocates for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Ms. Samponaro said a similar concept had worked in Chicago, where McDonald’s became the long-term sponsor of a bike parking lot that charges $149 a year.

That lot, which Ms. Samponaro called a “bike station,” is more elaborate than what the 34th Street Partnership has in mind. It is in a downtown park and offers bicycle rentals for tourists, as well as lockers and showers for regular bike commuters.

Ms. Samponaro said a lot on 33rd Street, just a block from Pennsylvania Station, could be popular with commuters using the Long Island Rail Road and New Jersey Transit. She said Transportation Alternatives had tried to arrange space for bicycles inside Penn Station but could not reach an agreement with Amtrak, which operates the station.

Parking indoors or at an attended lot is critical in New York, Ms. Samponaro said, because otherwise “you run the risk of having your bike stolen or vandalized.”

Still, the city’s Department of Transportation has been installing more bike racks. Last year, it added about 800, bringing the citywide total to more than 4,000 that can accommodate 20,000 bikes, according to Ted Timbers, a spokesman for the department.

The city has no plans to create a bike parking lot, said Jon Orcutt, the Transportation Department’s policy director, but he said he encouraged private-sector efforts to provide them.

In the last few weeks, Cemusa, a company that has a contract to build bus shelters and newsstands on city sidewalks, has installed the first of 37 bike shelters, which provide covered racks and cycling maps of the city, Mr. Orcutt said.