City of Los Angeles Bicycle Parking Ordinance

Bicycle Parking Ordinance: Los Angeles

Overview of the Types of Bicycle Parking

Bicycle parking can consist of a large variety of different facility types including racks, lockers, bike rooms, bike cages, bike corrals, and bicycle transit centers/bike stations. The two most common groupings of bicycle parking found in zoning codes are short-term and long-term bicycle parking.

Short-term Bicycle Parking:

Short-term bicycle parking generally consists of free bicycle racks located outside buildings or on public sidewalks. Short-term bicycle parking is necessary for short stays where the key goal is convenience and proximity to the building entrance. Short term parking does not usually allow for the measure of security and weather protection that long-term parking provides (AASHTO 1999). 

Racks: Racks come in a variety of shapes and styles and are primarily used for short-term bicycle parking in public places. Many cities are specifically vague about their rack design requirements to allow the usage of custom racks by including phrases such as, “Each bicycle rack shall allow for the bicycle frame and at least one wheel to be locked to the rack” in their zoning codes (New York). The most common rack type is the inverted U-rack. However, many cities and businesses have begun to install themed racks shaped like bicycles or other location specific icons. According to the APBP Guide (2010) racks should:

  • Support the bicycle upright on a horizontal plane by its frame in two places
  • Prevent the wheel of the bicycle from tipping or flopping over
  • Enable the frame or both wheels to be secured
  • Support bicycles without a diamond shaped frame or a horizontal top tube (e.g. women’s frames orstep through frames)
  • Allow front-in and back-in parking
  • Allow the use of a U-lock
  • Racks that support only the wheel of the bicycle are not recommended since they often damagewheels if bicycles are knocked over (APBP 2010). 

Bicycle Corrals: Bicycle corrals offer on-street parking for bicyclist by replacing a single car parking space with 8 to 12 bicycle parking spaces. Bicycle corrals can be particularly attractive for commercial venders when bicycle parking on the sidewalk begins to interfere with pedestrian traffic and when car parking is in short supply by allowing more customers to use the same parking space. Bicycle corrals can also serve as a means of increasing the visibility of cycling, which in turn can help increase the bicycle mode share (APBP 2010). Bicycle corrals are not appropriate on streets where traffic volumes require parking lanes to be used as travel lanes during peak periods.

Long-term Bicycle Parking:

Long-term facilities are necessary to provide a high degree of security and protection from theft. These should be installed where cyclists will be leaving their bicycles unattended for long periods at places such as schools, residences, and places of employment. Long-term facilities usually consist of lockers, bicycle cages, or bicycle rooms in buildings.

Lockers: Lockers are primarily used for long-term bicycle parking in public places. Lockers can be rented to a single individual who possesses a key, or they can be made available to the public through the installation of code locks or locking mechanisms provided by the bicyclist such as a U-lock. Security concerns with lockers being used as places to hide explosives have led to many lockers being designed with see-through panels and doors. Lockers can be square or triangular. Square lockers are often stacked to provide additional parking while triangular lockers can be installed back to back or in circular formations to save space (APBP 2010).

Bike Rooms and Bike Cages: Bike rooms and bike cages offer long-term parking solutions for residents of apartment buildings or employees who work in large buildings. Bike rooms are often accessed by a key or a code and are primarily used for residents in multifamily residential buildings. Bike cages can also be installed in parking lots for employees or on school playgrounds. Security cameras or other methods of surveillance can be employed as additional security measures.

Bicycle Transit Centers/Bike Stations: These facilities are indoor facilities that are accessible to members of the general public. These facilities are usually staffed by a team of employees that offers bike repairs, rentals, information, and other
commercial activities. The challenge to providing these facilities is locating them in an area where demand for their services will cover their operating costs.

Short and Long-term Bicycle Parking:

The definitions for short and long-term bicycle parking presented below can be categorized as facility guidelines and performance guidelines.

Facility guidelines for short and long-term parking focus more on the specific types of infrastructure. New York, San Francisco and Santa Monica all provide these types of definitions.

Cities such as Boulder and Portland provide performance guidelines which outline the goal of each type of parking instead of specific facility types. For example Boulder and Portland list employees, residents, and commuters as the beneficiaries of long-term bicycle parking.

Performance based guidelines provide more flexibility for implementation within specific developments than
facility guidelines. On the other hand developers may install poor quality parking facilities unless they are
given clear guidelines on acceptable designs. Clear facility guidelines may also be easier for building
inspectors and other city staff to follow, especially when these individuals know relatively little about bicycle
parking and must make decisions with the information provided in the bicycle parking code.

SPECIFIC FACILITIES ALLOWED:

The chart below lists the types of bicycle parking required by different cities. While most of the short and long-term options discussed above would meet the performance guidelines of the different city codes that were studied, an (x) was placed only in boxes where cities specifically name the type of facility. Therefore while New York requires that all of its“enclosed” bike parking “shall be surrounded on all sides by a solid enclosure, except where a parking garage is open at the sides, and covered by a roof for weather protection,” no (x)s were marked in the table below for long-term parking facilities such as “bike rooms” because these were not specifically mentioned in the codes.

Close examination of the required types of bicycle parking reveals a great deal of creative solutions. For example, Boulder allows for attended bicycle parking and bicycle parking that is observable by employees to count towards bicycle parking requirements. This would allow business to count spaces within offices or employment centers such as the employee’s cubicle to count as a bicycle parking space.

While this flexibility is potentially positive, it does come with several drawbacks that planners should be aware of. In the case of bicycle parking observed by a camera, cyclists are not necessarily guaranteed more secure bicycle parking.
Thieves can disguise themselves, and cameras are often monitored irregularly. Footage can be reviewed after an incident takes place, but bicycles are often never seen again by their owners. In the case of bicycle parking that is observable by employees, locating such spaces in offices may be necessary in older buildings undergoing a change of use where there is no other convenient place to locate bicycle parking. However, long-term parking should most often be located where it provides convenient access for bicyclists. Therefore in office buildings with crowded elevators, it may be more prudent to locate long-term bicycle parking out of the direct line of sight of employees using other secure methods such as lockers.

BASIS OF RATIOS
Before determining the amount of bicycle parking desired for a particular land use, planners must determine the ratio that will be used to calculate the number of parking spaces. In general there are three different ratios used to requiring bicycle parking: a) a percentage based on car parking requirements, b) the square footage of each land use, or c) using specific units (e.g. bedrooms or employees). Each of these metrics offers a different set of benefits and drawbacks. Due to this a mixture of metrics is often used for different uses. 

Percentage of Automobile Parking: Requiring bicycle parking as a percentage of automobile parking is the simplest way of setting minimum bicycle parking requirements. This method allows the planner to set a percentage based on the desired mode share of cycling for all uses with a single number. For instance, if for every ten car parking spaces, one bicycle parking space is provided, we can think of this as a bicycle parking mode share goal of 10 percent. This method is easy becauseonce the number of automobile parking spaces is determined, the number of bicycle parking spaces
required is readily apparent. This method is also easy to understand from a land use stand point because uses that require large amounts of car parking will also provide more bicycle parking. Unfortunately, this method has several drawbacks. Using a single percentage of automobile parkingmay gloss over instances where the demand for bicycle parking at a particular location is greater than the demand for car parking. In addition, if cities move to reduce their car parking requirements the amount of bicycle parking would also decrease. This is problematic because many of the destinations where reduced automobile parking would be desired (e.g. Transit Oriented Development) are places where bicycling should be encouraged. Likewise, using a percentage of automobile parking assumes that car parking ratios reflect the trips generated for each use accurately which may not always be the case (Shoup 2004).

Square Footage: Linking the amount of bicycle parking to building square footage is a common practice found in zoning and municipal codes. This method has the benefit that building floor area can be used as a proxy for demand. In this way, specific uses that attract more cyclists can be targeted individually. In addition, since this is the method most commonly used for auto parking, this method also builds upon that practice within many zoning codes. Basing bicycle parking requirements on square footage means that either a generalized ratio will be used for all uses such as San Francisco or that the planner must determine the appropriate ratio for each use. Donald Shoup has criticized setting ratios for car parking claiming that current data sources regarding trip generation are seldom more reliable than results based on ad hoc guess work (2004). Therefore, setting the bicycle parking ratios based on square footage is also problematic. Unfortunately, there has been little research done to date that correlates the demand for bicycle parking with specific uses and thus planners must use their best judgment when selecting these ratios. Looking to see what other cities have done can help planners understand the range of possibilities available.

Specific Units: Basing minimum parking requirements on specific units allows planners to target uses with high demand much like using square footage. Common units are bedrooms, residential units, and the number of employees. This method can be particularly effective for uses such as city buildings which may have a large footprint but only a few employees. Basing the number of bicycle parking spaces on the number of units suffers from the same drawbacks as using square footage, namely that it requires separate ratios for every use. In addition, it is not always clear how many
employees (units) will be working in a given development ahead of time.

Ratios for specific land uses are often delineated along the lines of residential vs. commercial/industrial development. Residential ratios were found to most often be based on dwelling units or bedrooms, and requirements for multifamily development usually excluded smaller developments under a certain size. For example San Francisco requires that, “For buildings of 4 dwelling units or more, bicycle parking shall be provided in the minimum quantities specified in Table 155.5, regardless of whether off-street car parking is available.”

For commercial and industrial developments, bicycle parking is often based on square footage or as a percentage of car parking. The two major differences that were noted between codes were the amount of bicycle parking required for each use and the level of detail with which codes specified particular land uses. For example: San Francisco differentiates only between retail and other commercial uses whereas Portland specifies different requirements for 19 different land uses. An interesting case is Davis, CA which does not have specific bicycle parking requirements for commercial buildings. Instead, Davis relies on the community development director to evaluate each project and specify the number of required bicycle parking spaces.

MINIMUMS/MAXIMUMS
Many cities require a minimum number of bicycle parking facilities be provided. From the table below it can be seen that cites that require bicycle parking usually require a minimum of two short and two long-term bicycle parking spaces for most uses. Requiring a minimum number of parking spaces is important for buildings that may fall below a cut-off line in terms of square footage or automobile parking spaces. For example, if a building needed to provide bicycle parking at a ratio of 10 percent of its car parking, but was only required to have four car parking spaces it might not be required to provide any bicycle parking. Therefore, minimums help to ensure that every destination has secure bicycle parking.

Notably, some cities specify a maximum number of required bicycle parking spaces. Maximums range from 20 to 400. Given the limited mode share that bicycling currently has in the United States it might at times seem prudent set a ceiling for required bicycle parking. This is sometimes done for automobile parking as a way to limit automobile usage. However, since bicycling is gaining in popularity, maximums should be set at relatively high levels given the long life span of most projects. For certain uses it may make more sense than others to provide maximum requirements. For example, industrial uses may have very little use for short term bicycle parking since there would be relatively few people arriving to such sites by bicycle other than employees. On the contrary maximum requirements make little sense for residential uses since ideally most people would ride bicycles for short trips and many people will own bicycles even if they only ride them
sparingly.

RANGES
The amount of bicycle parking required by different cities varies by land use. Choosing appropriate ranges for bicycle
parking can be more difficult for some land uses than others. In residential uses it is easy to assume that one or two
bicycle parking spaces per unit will suffice. Other land uses, such as restaurants, are more problematic. Without a great deal of information on the proposed business it is difficult to judge the potential number of visitors (Shoup 2004). In such cases, it may be necessary for planners to make assumptions about current mode share trends and assume a goal at some point in the future.

As bicycling continues to increase its mode share as a travel mode additional bicycle parking will be necessary. Ample bicycle parking also serves as a visible form of encouragement by signaling to cyclists that they are invited and welcome. At the low end, cities require a flat rate of bicycle parking at around five percent of automobile parking. At the high end, cities like New York require short and long-term bicycle parking at a rate of ten percent of automobile parking or a total of twenty percent. Portland has revised its bicycle parking requirements several times over as the demand for bicycle parking
has grown. Therefore planners should set the mode share goal with this expansion in mind.

When determining the range of short vs. long-term bicycle parking, planners should consider the types of activities at a particular land use. Restaurants will likely need more short term bicycle parking, whereas office buildings will need more long-term bicycle parking. One innovative approach to setting these ratios is to set a minimum percentage of each type of bicycle parking. For instance, a city could require that 10 percent of the total bicycle parking required at office buildings be short-term and that at least 50 percent of the bicycle parking be long-term bicycle parking. This method allows the individual developer the option of providing a tailored amount of bicycle parking depending on their expectation for the project while still ensuring that some short and long-term bicycle parking will be provided.

Schools represent a land use that is often forgotten in bicycle parking ordinances. While some school districts are not under the jurisdiction of city zoning codes, private schools and private universities often are. Ranges for schools can be based on a percentage of the expected student and teacher population. Most of the parking for elementary, middle and high schools should be long term parking. Universities on the other hand will most likely need to provide ample short term parking since their class times are shorter.

INCENTIVES
A few cities offer incentives to developers to help cover the costs of installing bicycle parking. Incentives most often allow developers to replace car parking with bicycle parking or reduce the floor area counted towards a building’s total by the amount required for bicycle parking. The most notable example is Portland, which allows new developments to replace up to twenty five percent of the required automobile parking with bicycle parking.

Gauging the readiness of a city to tackle more extensive incentives such as a percentage reduction in automobile parking for bicycle parking is difficult at best. Developers, cyclists, and environmentalist are often extremely supportive of this option. After the initial word went out that the City of Los Angeles was amending its bicycle parking codes, blog responses were overwhelmingly in favor of such a swap. However, politicians expressed their doubts about such a swap early on. It was helpful that the Los Angeles zoning code already contained such an option on a very limited scale and that in the initial draft proposal it was merely a matter of adjusting this section to appease public opinion.

While limiting automobile parking will further encourage bicycling, reducing automobile parking may need to be a separate battle that is not linked to the inclusion of bicycle parking. In California, SB 1818 provides a density bonus for developers that provide affordable housing. Part of this density bonus is a reduction of automobile parking. Affordable housing advocates have expressed concerns that the reduction of automobile parking for multifamily residential units in the Los Angeles Bicycle Parking Ordinance would compete with the parking reduction incentive for affordable housing.

DESIGN STANDARDS
In addition to specifying the type and quantity of bicycle parking spaces, cities often specify design standards that must be followed when installing bicycle parking. Design standards are extremely important because bicycle parking that is improperly installed will either go unused or increase the likelihood of theft. The following sections detail different design standards found in city codes and provide examples of how different cities have worded specific requirements.

ACCESS
Bicycle parking installed in locations where it is hidden from view or in locations that limit access will not be used. Likewise, bicycle parking that is installed directly next to car parking or other physical obstructions will make it less desirable in the eyes of cyclists. If bicyclists believe that their bicycles will be damaged or if reaching the desired parking is difficult, they will park their bicycles elsewhere. Therefore, it is important to provide convenient access to bicycle parking.

The following examples offer insight into how access requirements can be phrased. In Examples 1-3 from New York, Portland, and San Francisco, we see that the primary goal of the language is to ensure that property owners do not limit egress and ingress of “eligible users” of long-term bicycle parking within a structure or a given lot.
Example 1: “Bicycle spaces may be located in a room secured by a lock or similar means, provided that access is
through a commonly accessible area and access is made available to eligible users on an equal basis.” (New
York, NY)

Example 2: “At the same grade as the sidewalk or at a location that can be reached by an accessible route.”(Portland, OR)

Example 3: “Safe and convenient means of ingress and egress to bicycle parking facilities shall be provided. Safe and convenient means include, but are not limited to stairways, elevators and escalators.” (San Francisco, CA)

When bicycles are installed too close to walls or other physical barriers it can be difficult for cyclists to secure their locks around bicycle racks. Therefore, it is important to require sufficient space on both sides of a bicycle rack. This can be done through requiring specific dimensions for bicycle parking spaces or through clauses that alert developers to the needs of cyclists. In examples 4-6, the codes are concerned with the maneuverability of bicycles within the facilities themselves. These provisions suggest that planners must not only specify where on a site bicycle parking should be located, but they must also ensure that accessing the immediate area around the bicycle parking is feasible as well.

Example 4: “Thirty inches of maneuverable space shall be provided between parallel bicycle racks and 96 inch wide aisle shall be provided between bicycle rack areas.” (New York, NY).

Example 5: “An aisle or other space to enter and leave the facility shall be provided. The aisle shall provide a width of five feet to the front or rear of a standard six-foot bicycle parked in the facility.” (San Francisco, CA)

Example 6: “The bicycle parking area shall include adequate clearance around racks or lockers to give cyclists room to maneuver, and to prevent conflicts with pedestrians or parked cars.” (Boulder, CO)

DIMENSIONS
Bicycles occupy roughly twelve square feet. Many bicycle codes reflect this by requiring bicycle parking spaces to be 2 ft. wide by 6ft. long.

Example 1: “Required bicycle parking spaces for nonresidential uses must have minimum dimensions of 2 feet in width by 6 feet in length, with a minimum overhead vertical clearance of 7 feet.” (Chicago, IL)

Example 2: “Each required short-term bicycle parking space must be at least 2 feet by 6 feet.” (Portland, OR)

While this does provide adequate space for a bicycle to park, it can exclude other unique designs or more efficient designs that use less space. For example a triangular locker is wider than 2 ft. at its opening but much less than 2ft. at its point. Likewise, many staggered two-tiered bicycle systems only require 36 inches between racks (or 18 inches per space). Overhead clearance is another concern. Typically in a single tiered system enough room should be provided so that cyclists can park their bicycles and stand at the same time. However, two tiered systems would not fit only if 7 ft. of headroom was provided. For such systems a minimum of 8 ft. should be providedalthough sometimes this may not accommodate all designs. The two provisions below provide examples on how codes have dealt with this issue.

Example 3: “Fifteen square feet of area shall be provided for each bicycle space. However, the area for each bicycle space
may be reduced by up to nine square feet per bicycle if the Commissioner of Buildings certifies that a layout has been
submitted to adequately accommodate the specified number of bicycles.” (New York, NY)

Example 4: “Parallel bike racks shall be a minimum on-center spacing of 30 inches. Spacing of 48 inches is optimal.”
(Columbus, OH)

An alternative to defining the size of the bicycle parking space is to require that all parking can accommodate a certain size of bicycle. The example from Milwaukee, WI below is a good example of this. Allowing for more flexibility in the design of bicycle parking spaces may be desirable but planners should keep in mind that doing so may require more supervision during the design and implementation phases of specific projects.

Example 5: “A fenced, covered, locked or guarded bicycle storage area. Such area shall be large enough that each of the required bicycle parking spaces can accommodate a bicycle with a 3-foot handlebar width, a height of 3.5 feet from the bottom of the wheel to the top of the handlebar, and a length of 6 feet from the front of the forward wheel to the back of the rear wheel.” (Milwaukee, WI)

EASE OF LOCKING
If bicycle racks are installed too close to walls or other obstructions it can make it difficult for cyclists to lock their bicycles to the racks. Therefore cities often provide language encouraging designs that make it easy for cyclists to access both sides of a rack. Often times these require that bicycle racks be located a specific distance from other obstacles. As mentioned above, ensuring that each bicycle parking space is a certain size is one method of doing so, however, it is by no means fool proof or fail safe. Additional language that specifies the distance from walls may be desired to ensure that bicyclists can actually make use of the facilities. Examples 1-2 provide loose definitions that attempt to mediate this difficulty. Example 3 provides builders with the incentive to space racks away from walls so that both sides of the rack can count towards their minimum requirements.

Example 1: “Facilitate easy locking without interference from or to adjacent bicycles.” (Boulder, CO)

Example 2: “Bicycle parking racks shall enable the bicycle frame and one or both wheels to be secured through use of a “U” type lock.” (Columbus, OH)

Example 3: “If bicycle can be locked to each side of the rack without conflict, each side may be counted toward a required space.” (New York, NY)

LIGHTING
Lighting is very important for cyclists who are accessing their bicycles at night or when their bicycles are parked in parking garages. Dark facilities can provide hiding places for miscreants or criminals and are often shunned by female cyclists due to safety concerns. Often codes already require lighting for automobile parking and this language can be copied or referenced.

Example 1: “Adequate lighting shall be provided for the bicycle parking area and the route to the building entrance.” (Boulder, CO)

Example 2: “Areas used for required bicycle parking must be well lighted.” (Chicago, IL)

PROTECTING BICYCLES FROM DAMAGE AND WEATHER
Trends in bicycle rack design have improved over the years. The design of bicycle racks is extremely important because poor design can actually cause severe damage to bicycles or make it easy for thieves to steal bicycle parts. For example, older style bicycle racks, now called “wheelbenders,” only supported the bicycle’s front or rear wheel. If a bicycle was knocked over, the wheel would remain wedged into the rack and would become damaged in the process. Thus it is important that bicycle racks are designed to prevent damage to the bicycle from the rack. Example 1 provides some language that addresses this point rather bluntly. Other codes specifically require inverted-U shaped racks or prohibit wheelbender racks.

Example 1: “Be designed so as not to cause damage to the bicycle.” (Boulder, CO)

Example 2: “Bicycle parking racks shall be of the inverted “U” type design, unless an alternative design has been
approved by the Public Service Department.” (Columbus, OH)

While snow is not a concern in many parts of the United States, rain certainly is. Leaving bicycles in the rain is equivalent to leaving the sunroof open in a car. Likewise, heavy winds can knock bicycles over and damage them. It is important to provide protection from inclement weather for both short and long-term bicycle parking. While most codes do not require that short-term parking be protected from weather, some cities such as New York and Portland do provide roofs over public bicycle parking when it is provided for by the city.

BICYCLE PARKING LOCATED NEAR BUILDING ENTRANCE

Allowing developers and business owners to count bicycle parking located within the public right-ofway requires careful consideration. The Department of Transportation in Los Angeles installs racks for free upon the request of a business owner. The Department of Transportation was very concerned about language that would allow businesses to count racks located within the public right-of-way because it could have resulted in an inundation of requests that they would have been unable to meet.

Therefore, it was necessary to provide solid steps that business owners could follow to install their own racks. Example 4 below provides an example of allowing business owners to count preexisting racks.

Example 5 allows use of the right-of-way only with the permission of the Department of Transportation. This second option would require additional staff time to process the requests.

Example 4: “Department of Transportation bicycle racks provided on a fronting sidewalk may be counted toward this requirement, provided such racks meet the standards of this paragraph, (c).” (New York, NY)

Example 5: “Such spaces must be located on private property unless the Commissioner of the Department of Transportation approves location within the public right-of-way.” (Chicago, IL)

Some cities such as Boulder, CO and Portland, OR specify that short term bicycle parking must be located outside. Others such as Chicago, IL allow bicycle parking to be located indoors as well. Generally, a specific space must be set aside for bicycle parking, especially in residential uses where developers sometimes attempt to claim balconies as bicycle parking spaces.

Example 6: “Required bicycle parking may be located indoors or outdoors.” (Chicago, IL)

Example 7: “Space within dwelling units or on balconies may not be counted toward satisfying bicycle parking requirements.” (Chicago, IL)

Long-term bicycle parking can be located in parking garages although this is by no means the preferred option. Doing so requires riders to ride up ramps designed for cars, which can prove to be a disincentive for using such spaces. If long-term bicycle parking is located in a parking garage, every effort should be made to ensure that it is located on the ground floor or on the level of the parking garage closest to the ground floor. It should also be located close to the pedestrian entrance within the parking garage to further encourage convenient access.

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