Sorting Out Bicycle Storage Laws

An increase in people means a decrease in space.  It also means that everyone in the city is competing for cabs, subway space, bus seats, etc.  Many people find that bike commuting is a more efficient and environmentally-friendly way to travel. 

It seems that NYC agrees.  In 2009, some initiatives were taken to encourage bicycle commuting in the city by looking at the issue of Bike Parking.  The program was called “Let Bikes In” or “The Bikes In Buildings Program.”   

The Bikes in Buildings Program produced a law called The Bicycle Access of Office Buildings Law.  It went in to effect in December of 2009.  It only applies to commercial office buildings that have an existing freight elevator.  If bicycle access is desired, the tenants of the building must file a request with the owner.  The caveat is that individual employees of the tenants cannot file the request.  It must be filed by the employer.

If a request is filed, employers must be able to safely store bicycles within their rented space.  Having a common bike parking area in the building can be a work-around and the building owners can apply for an exception to the law.  Either way, once a request is filed, the building owner needs to provide some sort of bike parking inside the building, whether it is in individual tenant spaces or a common area.  More information on this law can be found at www.nyc.gov/bikesinbuildings

The second law is the Bicycle Parking Text Amendment.   This law requires any new building, or any existing building that is adding more than 50% additional space, to have a designated bike parking area or multiple parking areas, if it isn’t feasible to put all the bikes in one spot.  This law requires 1 parking space for every 2 residential units.  This law also requires 15 square feet for every bicycle parking spot!  There is an exception to this rule.  The square footage per bike can be reduced down to 6 sq. ft. per bike if a more efficient plan is submitted. 

Essentially, bikes and bike commuters are not going away.  The days of chaining up bikes to fences or lampposts are over.  Bike parking is something that needs to be planned and accounted for in new and existing buildings, whether residential or commercial.  Not complying with these new laws will result in inspections and fines, so it’s time to jump on the bike bandwagon. 

No one expects business owners and landlords to be experts in bike storage.  Bikes are big.  Bikes are bulky.  Bikes are NOT easy to store.  Bike owners can be particular and protective of their bikes.  All of these factors can combine to make massive headaches for building owners, architects and condo boards.   The easiest way to handle these concerns is to hire a company that specializes in storage, or more specifically, bike storage.  Believe it or not, these companies do exist. 

There are a few services that bike storage companies can provide to make this bike parking task easier.  A few of the bike storage companies will do free layout drawings of what bike racks will work in the space provided.  Typically, the only thing that is required are a few measurements that any maintenance person or resident of the building can do in about 5 minutes of time.  Once the measurements are taken, layouts can be emailed to building owners or architects very quickly and give a nice visual of what the bike parking area will look like and how many bikes it will store.  By getting a professional layout of the bike parking area, building owners can decrease the square footage requirement per bike from 15 sq. ft. down to 6 sq ft.  That is a substantial difference! 

A common misconception is that bike parking and bike storage is going to cost a lot of money.  Obviously, building owners can go above and beyond and provide individual bike storage lockers for each person, causing the bill to be very high.  However, if the building owner is looking for a cost effective solution, there are options available.  It is even possible to make money off the bike storage and bike parking area!  That’s right….MAKE MONEY. 

There is no requirement in these laws to provide FREE bike parking.  So, let’s say the building has 32 residential units.  A 16 bike Parking Rack (which complies with the requirements) can cost around $1550.00 and take up very little space (about 7 sq. ft. per bike).  If the cost to rent the bike parking space is $5.00 per bike per month, that is an income of $80.00 per month.  The original rack purchase would be paid off in less than 2 years.  After that, it is $80.00 pure profit each month. 

While the bike parking and storage laws can be a hassle, there are companies out there to assist with compliance.  The possibility of making money on the project is also very feasible, which turns the bike parking project from a headache to an exciting prospect.