The Story of Three Bike Rooms
2020 was many things; one of those things was a bicycle renaissance. Cities, businesses, and multi-unit residential buildings faced a significant bike parking shortage after a frenzy of bike purchases spurred by the pandemic. How could this situation be fixed? A large part of the solution should be designing and building highly functional and efficient bike parking rooms that can accommodate many different bikes and cyclists.
2020 was many things; one of those things was a bicycle renaissance. Cities, businesses, and multi-unit residential buildings faced a significant bike parking shortage after a frenzy of bike purchases spurred by the pandemic. How could this situation be fixed? A large part of the solution should be designing and building highly functional and efficient bike parking rooms that can accommodate many different bikes and cyclists. There are five aspects of creating a functional bike room that need to be considered.
1. Desired bicycle capacity – how many bikes do you want or need to fit into the bike room?
2. Usability and accessibility – How easily accessible is the bike room itself? Can the room be reached without using any stairs or ramps? Is there enough room allowed for aisleways and clearances so people can maneuver their bikes around the room? Are there bike racks that will accommodate a range of users and bike types?
3. Security – Is access limited to cyclists? Is the space conducive to being monitored? Are the racks in the room convenient for locking?
4. Convenience – Is the room near showers, lockers, and restrooms? Are there charging facilities for electric bikes? Are simple repairs supported via a permanently installed pump and repair stand with basic tools?
5. Budget – how much money can be invested in the bike room?
One of the challenges of designing and planning a bike parking facility is deciding and prioritizing which items and services need the most significant investments.
The five aspects mentioned above will influence all aspects of your bike room project. Here we will closely analyze what three of these factors mean in terms of bike capacity and cost. Are you planning a bike cage in a parking garage that needs to have the highest possible capacity? Are you planning a deluxe bike room that includes amenities such as personal use lockers and bike repair equipment? Do you need to meet specific goals or ordinances requiring that a percentage of horizontal and oversized bike parking spots be available?
The chart provided shows the relationship between bike parking density and the cost for different types of bike racks. The X-axis represents bike density per square foot, and the Y-axis represents cost per bike space. The least expensive bike rack that yields a high bike parking density is our Vertical+ Wall-Mounted vertical rack. Slightly more costly and less efficient in terms of density are high-density staggered horizontal racks such as our Omnium and Plaza racks. On the other end of the bike rack cost spectrum are premium two-tiered systems like the VelopA Easylift Premium. These are racks that have both a high cost and the highest density. Moving more towards the middle of the graph is where inverted U racks live. These racks are a little more expensive and are less space-efficient than vertical racks. However, inverted U racks will accommodate more types of bicycles and require no lifting to use. The graph above shows a range of options and maps out cost and density. How do cost and density play out in actual bike rooms?
If your primary goal is to fit as many bikes into a room as possible, then the least expensive way to do so is to use mostly vertical racks. The result would be something like the bike room pictured above, located in The Ava in Esterra Park, an apartment building in Redmond, WA. This bike room can accommodate a total of 192 bikes. Of those 192 bike parking spaces, 184 are vertical (Vertical+ Floor Mount), and eight are horizontal (Heavy Duty Inverted U). The vast majority of bike parking spaces available will require some bike lifting; the 8 remaining horizontal spaces will accommodate people who cannot lift their bikes or accommodate bikes that will not fit the vertical racks, like cargo bikes. The Ava bike room has about 50% of available floor space consumed by aisleways and clearances. This space is necessary because it allows room for parked bicycles and aisleways that make the bike room easier and safer to navigate. A total of 11.1 square feet is utilized for each bike parking space. Each bike parking space costs about $130, not including installation. This bike room is accessed via the parking garage, and cyclists can easily ride their bikes into and out of the bike room. The room is secured with an electronic key fob system adding to the overall security of the bike parking. The Ava built a space that can accommodate as many parked bikes as possible. This method ensures an efficient and high-density bike room but has a minimal number of easily accessible horizontal racks that can accommodate a wide range of people and bikes.
If The Ava bike room represents one end of the bike parking scale, high density at a low cost, then The Bike Café located in the Circa Central apartment building in Phoenix, AZ, represents the other end of the scale: highest density and higher cost. The Bike Café utilizes the VelopA Easylift Premium two-tier bike rack system. The Easylift Premium is one of the most space-efficient and user-friendly bicycle racks available on the market. The Easylift Premium has a gas spring that helps lift the upper trays of the upper level of the rack. The gas spring will do most of the heavy lifting so that the user does not have to lift the full weight of their bicycle to park their bike on the upper tray. The lower tray offers ground-level parking spots that requires no lifting to use. One of the best features of a two-tier bike rack system is that you can provide an equal number of elevated minimal lifting required, and no lifting required ground level horizontal bike parking spots without reducing the space use efficiency of the bike room.
The Bike Café has 90 bike parking spots available. 45 of those spots are highly accessible ground-level parking spaces that require no lifting. 51.4% of the total floor space is used for aisleways and clearances. This room also included a bike wash station, repair stand, floor pump, and a vending machine full of essential bike replacement parts. Compared to the bike room in The Ava, this bike room has a more efficient space use. The Bike Cafe utilizes 9.4 square feet per parked bike. One compromise of the VelopA racks is that they cannot accommodate fat tires or cargo bikes. If we only consider the VelopA Easylift Premium bike racks, then the cost per bike parking spot is about $440. However, the Bike Café provided many additional amenities, bringing the total investment per parking spot closer to $670. These added amenities significantly increased the cost of bike parking, but the result is a highly functional and user-friendly bike room that anticipates the needs of cyclists.
Photo Credit: Schlosser Kurt. "Between A Wi-Fi rock and a high-tech place: Expedia preaches connectivity and productivity in new Seattle HQ." Geek Wire, https://www.geekwire.com/2019/wi-fi-rock-high-tech-place-expedia-preaches-connectivity-productivity-new-seattle-hq/, October, 5 2019.
The third bike room we will examine is unique. The room is located in the headquarters of Expedia in Seattle, WA. This room prioritizes accessible bike parking by offering a large number of horizontal bike racks. The bike room in Expedia can accommodate up to 400 bikes and offers 180 horizontal bike parking spaces (Tofino No Scratch®) paired with 220 vertical bike parking spots (Vertical+ Wall Mount). The bike parking density was achieved by placing vertical racks along the perimeter of the room, and horizontal racks are used throughout the interior space. 45.8% of the floor space is used for aisle ways and clearances, 14.0 square feet is used per bike parking spot. The cost per bike parking spot is about $180. Overall, the Expedia bike room has the least efficient use of floor space of the three discussed bike rooms. This is because a large percentage of the floor space is used for horizontal parking.
While the Expedia bike room is not as space efficient as the previous two, it offers the most universal parking of all three rooms. The horizontal Tofino No Scratch® racks can accommodate the broadest range of bikes, including long-wheelbase cargo bikes and e-bikes that might be too heavy to lift. Horizontal racks also provide bike parking for people who may not be able to lift their bikes onto a vertical rack. The Expedia bike room shows that you can achieve a moderately dense and efficient, highly functional bike room and still use a high quantity of horizontal racks.
The three bike parking rooms discussed above help showcase a few different methods of specifying a bike room and how questions regarding usability, parking density, and cost influence the outcome of a completed bike parking facility. The challenge is to juggle cost, density, and usability. If you put too many bike racks in one room, then the intended users will not be able to navigate and park their bikes in the provided spaces. If you only specify vertical racks, then the resulting bike room will not have accommodations for all people or all bikes. Lastly, if the entire budget and space is allocated to bike racks, then cost-effective amenities, like a floor pump, will be missing from the room. If the goal is to design and specify a highly functional space that accommodates a multitude of bikes and people, it is important to consider total cost, density, usability, accessibility, and anticipate the needs of the people who will be using it.