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« Charleston cycling advocate injured | Main | Labels and other BS from Copenhagen »

Charleston's bike parking problem

The old city of Charleston, South Carolina was founded in the 1600s.

Most of its buildings were constructed in the 1700s and 1800s, long before automobiles came on the scene.

Buildings are tightly packed together, and streets are narrow similar to many European cities.

This creates a huge congestion and car parking problem.

People like me who live some distance from Downtown Charleston avoid going there altogether when at all possible, especially during the tourist season.

Once you drive into Old Town, it is impossible to find a place to park on the street.

The only alternative is to park in one of the multi-storey parking garages. Add the cost of that to your restaurant tab, and it makes for a pretty spendy evening out.

To help offset this problem the City of Charleston has been encouraging people to ride bikes. The city's bike initative has been so successful that now they have a bike parking problem.

The last time I was Downtown, I noticed bikes chained to parking meters, railings, utility poles, trees, and traffic signs. I saw this as a strong indication that local residents were hopping on their bikes to go out for the evening at a local bar or restaurant.

Now the City of Charleston see all this “Willy Nilly” bike parking as a problem; My question is:

Who is Willy Nilly, and why is parking his bike a problem?


The city says it is an “Eyesore.” They are going to start fining cyclists $45 for locking their bikes to any object they are not supposed to.

C’mon City of Charleston, aren’t you being a little excessive-compulsive here? It is an “Eyesore” problem, not a safety or health issue. And are parked bikes anymore of an eyesore than parked cars?

In the picture above, does the bike locked up to the parking meter detract from the beauty of the old building behind it? A car parked at one of those meters sure would.

The city says abandoned bikes are a problem. You just ticket abandoned bikes and remove them a few days later, the same way as you handle abandoned cars. Where is the problem?

I’ll tell you what; there will be a lot more abandoned bikes if you start locking them with a city lock and charge $45 to release it. Some bikes may not be worth $45; bike theft will probably increase.

The bike parking problem is a sign that your bike initiative is working. Rejoice in that and start thinking about providing proper bike parking places. Here’s an idea; eliminate one car parking space on each block, and put in a bike rack.

One, maybe two people lose a place to park their car, but you create space for ten or more bikes. Street level parking lots always have wasted space in the corners where cars can’t fit; put bike racks there.

When the city provides proper bike parking, then start fining people who park illegally. Until that time you need to be a little tolerant. No matter what form of transport you use, car or bicycle, you have to park it when you reach your destination.

If you can’t park your vehicle you won’t go there, simple as that, and that will hurt downtown business. It is the local residents who keep the local bars and restaurants in business during the off season when there are no tourists.

If local residents can't park their bikes down town, they will be forced to get in their cars again. If they do that they will drive a few miles out of the downtown area where there is plenty of free parking.

Local businesses need to be petitioning the City of Charleston right now. Just look outside in the street at how many bikes are parked there. Each one has a rider spending money somewhere; when the bikes are gone, so too will the bike riders

Here’s a link to the news story

Update Friday 23, July. Some good news



Reader Comments (5)

We've been replacing on-street car parking spaces with "bike corrals" in Portland for about 3 years now. It's hugely popular, not least with businesses. Every local merchant group lobbies for them; the luckiest businesses are those directly next to a corral. Most replace two parking spaces and provide space for about 20 bikes. I've never seen a corral with fewer than 4-5 bikes. That multiplies your traffic of paying customers 4-20x. I suppose there's some point of diminishing returns: we can't replace every parking space with bike parking obvsly. But we're nowhere near that point yet.

July 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Souders

We have a few bike corrals here in Santa Monica, which work quite well. Basically a couple of sawhorses and a pipe between in a parking space. About a dozen car spaces are reserved for bikes at various times of the day. Ours are part of the city's free Bike Valet, which parks bikes for free at most city events likely to draw a big crowd, such as the Farmer's Markets. The evening bike corrals are run by a the valet, which eliminates bike theft, and also gets more bikes on the rack - maybe 20 per car sized parking space. Wholeheartedly recommend them as another way to reduce a parking problem.

July 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEric Weinstein

You should send this blog entry/article/op-ed to those responsible for making things happening. It all sounds very reasonable to me!

July 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDave

Bike parking?

That's a nice problem to have! I wish my city had this headache.

Lighten up, Charleston.

July 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRider

Fortunately, the commitment of the bicycling community has won the day and Charleston City Council has sent the proposed parking ordinance back to the drawing board. We (Civic Design Center) will be leading the effort to come up with a stronger initiative for providing proper bike parking infrastructure and policies. This was another example of how the 'net helps bring community action together for a positive outcome. You may have seen Andra's post about it, too.

July 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermichael maher

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