City Wants Your Help In Locating New Bike Parking

By Chris Hamilton. Story is cross posted at KONK Life on June 2, 2023Support ($) our local journalism here. Follow us at  Friends of Car-Free Key West & Duval Street/Historic Downtown on Facebook and Twitter.

If you follow the City’s official government and Car-Free Key West Facebook pages, you may have noticed a pattern over the last few months. Nearly every week they’ve proudly posted one or two pictures of newly installed bicycle parking spaces downtown. 25 percent of the installations are replacing worn out bike racks, but three quarters are additional capacity in new locations. In 2022 they installed 125 parking spaces and this year so far have installed 84, bringing the total number of publicly available bicycle parking spaces to over 3,000. They’re expecting to install perhaps another 84 before the end of this year and hope to have money for maybe another 230 next year. And they’d really like for local businesses and the public to help them locate where these should go.

And while this may seem like a lot of bike parking, there’s still a need for even more. If you’ve been downtown, especially during the season, you know people are parking their bikes to trees, signs, street light poles, fences, and anything that doesn’t move. And our downtown’s narrow sidewalks are crowded with people, tables and chairs and bike racks – so there’s a need to put more of the new bike parking in the streets instead. Let’s look at all of this a bit closer and show how you can help.

Behold the Bicycle Racks Database. Tons of information can be found here.

The Numbers

Ryan Stachurski, the City’s Multi-Modal Transportation Coordinator in the Engineering Department is a data geek. And that’s a good thing. All the bike racks are in a geographic data base by type, number of spaces, public or private, condition and there’s even a picture. Wow! All the new ones will be included so we can track progress. Mr. Stachurski tells us that with the 84 new parking spaces installed this year, there are now 3,038 publicly available bicycle parking spaces. Of these, 2,295 or 76% were installed by the City and 743 or 24% by local businesses on their property accessible for public use.

There are 223 “Post & Loop” style racks that store two bikes per install (pictured at right). These are also called “Post & hitch” and are the kind you’d notice on sidewalks.

There are 261 Other “U’s on Rails” (upside down U) or “Loop” style racks or “Emerson” (patented aluminum style) racks on sidewalks and in the streets. These store anywhere between 2 and 12 bikes per rack. If you have 4 or 5 “U’s” on a rail, that is considered a “bike corral.” A 12-space corral can easily fit in one car parking space. This kind of rack is depicted in the featured picture at the top of the article.

Click to enlarge.

There are 72 racks of other styles. These racks can also accommodate 2 to 12 bikes per install. According to Mr. Stachurski these racks generally don’t meet basic requirements recommended by the Association of Pedestrian & Bicycle Professionals (APBP). They include Wave, Rack, Comb, etc. styles and often don’t support bikes at two points (to prevent tipping), permit securing with a U-lock, or store bikes in a manner that doesn’t damage them. These will be phased out over time, or by request.

We Still Need More Bike Parking

While the City has made strides in the 18 months since Mr. Stachurski has come on board, we’ve documented that for a 3 year period between 2019 and 2021 not a lot of money was spent on bike parking and in 2021 the $45,000 budget allocation was spent to help match a grant to provide bike parking at Lower Keys Shuttle bus stops rather than on replacing or adding new bike parking downtown. So, we’re just now beginning to catch up on a backlog.

With the high rates of commuting by bike (12.4% for Key West residents) and with record numbers of visitors renting bikes to get around, it is common to see overloaded bike racks and bicycles locked to signs, street light poles, trees, and fences along Duval and everywhere in our historic commercial district downtown. Especially during season. We simply need more.

Crowded Downtown Sidewalks Should Be for People

Most of the recent bicycle parking installs, at least if the pictures posted on Facebook are an accurate depiction, have been put on sidewalks. As we’ve documented, our mostly narrow downtown sidewalks are already overcrowded with people. And in some spaces with chairs and tables. Our good friend and chronicler of the Key West condition via Key West Island news Linda Grist Cunningham has made similar observations that sidewalks should be for people.

And why are we putting bike parking and tables and chairs on the sidewalks and making an overcrowded situation worse? Because we seem to value private car storage or parking over people. We should move new bike parking and tables and chairs to the streets in bike corrals and in parklets.

An example of bicycle and scooter parking the way it should be done, at every cross street on Duval. This bicycle corral and then scooter parking is on Petronia Street a few feet from Duval. There should be a lot more of this and less single racks on sidewalks.

Lets Put More Parking In Bike Corrals On the Streets In Predictable Places

A bike corral can accommodate 12 bikes in the space of 1 car. We’ve made the case that not only should bike parking be in the street, but that along the entire length of Duval it should be located in the first car parking space in each cross street. And the next space should be for scooters. The consistency attracts users and it helps intersection sight lines. This isn’t some crazy bike advocates’ idea. This is actually the idea of the City’s Parking Director. Someone at City Hall needs to listen to him.

Every retail shop or group of shops in Old Town should have an in-street bike corral and scooter parking right out front or adjacent to it. We’d fit 12 bikes and 6 scooters in the space of 2 cars. That’s a win for everyone and good for business.

How You Can Help

You can help by letting the Mayor and Commissioners know you want them to spend more money on bicycle parking (that money for 230 bike racks Mr. Stachurski is counting on hasn’t been allocated yet), that we want it faster and that we want it in bike corrals in the streets, not on our crowded sidewalks.

And you can help the City prioritize locations for bicycle parking by telling them where it is needed right now, so Mr. Stachurski can plan to install those 84 spaces the rest of this year and 230 next year where YOU want them most. Here’s what Ryan told us:

“We have hundreds of secure bike parking spaces in Key West and are working to standardize the locations so residents and visitors can expect to find available bike parking wherever they ride. We can prioritize bike parking requests where people tell us there’s a need. The Key West Connect app makes it easy to show us where we need more racks. Just snap a picture, tell us what you think is needed, and then you can track the installation process on your phone.”   

Locate Existing Racks – If you’d like to locate existing racks the City has a great Key West Bicycle Racks tool that shows the location of the 3,038 racks. Click on a specific rack and it tells you detailed information about the kind of rack, who installed it and its condition.

Request a New Rack – here’s where you can Request a Bicycle Rack, Report a Damaged Bicycle Rack and Report an Abandoned Bicycle.

All of this and much more can be found on the City’s Car-Free Key West page here.

When We Make It Easier to Bike, We All Win

Having a safe and reliable place to park your bicycle at work, shopping and play makes it easier and thus more likely more of us will use a bike to get around instead of driving a car. That helps fight traffic and parking congestion, improves our environment, makes us healthier, more prosperous for downtown Mom and Pop Shops, and happier too. It makes our little island more like the paradise it should be. We all win when we make it easier to bike!

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Chris Hamilton
Chris Hamilton

A native of the District of Columbia, where for a couple decades+ he led the nationally renown Commuter Services unit for Arlington County, VA’s DOT, Chris has lived in Key West since 2015. He lives car-free downtown and works and volunteers for a couple non-profits.

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