Where to park your bicycle

One of the benefits of driving a bicycling instead of a car is parking. Whether you’re attending classes at the U or heading to a Twins game or heading out to meet friends, getting there on a bicycle means that you can bypass the pay lots and hitch your two-wheeled steed for no fee.

With the increase in cycling in the Twin Cities, there’s also been an expansion of bicycle parking. The City of Minneapolis, by some reports, has the most bicycle parking in the country, per capita. There are more than 6,500 bicycle spaces at the University of Minnesota. Edina installed bike parking at many businesses along France Avenue last year, encouraging residents to jump on the bicycle to get to brunch, the movies, or for light errands.

Many new housing developments are making a point of including bicycle parking — and earning LEED credits in the bargain. To qualify, commercial, institutional and/or residential buildings must provide secure bicycle parking within 200 yards of a building entrance.

In several cities, including Minneapolis, new developments that install bicycle parking do not have to provide as much motor vehicle parking. Los Angeles just passed a law that will mandate more bike parking at commercial and residential developments. In New York City, parking garages or lots that accommodate 100 or more vehicles must provide parking for bicycles. New York’s “Bikes in Buildings” law provides a process for tenants of commercial office buildings with a freight elevator to request bicycle access to their workspaces. 

So, where is it legal to park your bicycle?

Minneapolis regulations say it is legal to lock your bicycle to bicycle racks, sign posts, and (this is somewhat new) to all multi-space meter sign posts — the new parking meters located in Downtown, Uptown, Cedar-Riverside and Dinkytown. More and more of these parking meter sign posts are being adapted to add bicycle racks — 180 such conversions happened last year, according to the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition. Note: it’s risky to lock your bicycle to meter sign posts without the added bicycle parking because it could be very easy to just lift the bicycle up and over the post.

It is not legal in Minneapolis to lock your bike to trees, street light or traffic signal posts, or the old style parking meter posts. 

And, not all bike parking is created equal. Dero, a company founded in Minneapolis, makes most of the high-quality bicycle racks found in the Twin Cities. They make several varieties: hoops, hitches, cycle stalls, swerves, to name a few. They also have custom options, such as the book-shaped racks in front of Open Book, music-shaped racks, fish-shaped racks, and more.

According to Dero, the best bicycle racks provide two points of contact for the bicycle and, with proper spacing, allow two bikes to be locked to a single rack. The not-so-good bike parking is less stable. For instance, the wave style allows only one point of contact, so bicycles often slump or fall over locked to these. Least desirable are grid-style racks. Only one wheel is easily locked to these, which is not the most secure, and the wheel can be damaged.

For security, most recommend a U-lock. It is best to position the bicycle so the lock can go through a wheel and part of the frame as well as the bike rack. Some recommend locking the front wheel, because (with quick releases) it is most easily stolen. But others say to lock the back wheel and frame, because the back is more expensive to replace. The most secure options are to take off the front wheel and lock it with the back or to use a U-lock and a cable lock to hitch it all up at once.

For highest security, check out bicycle lockers, which protect your bicycle from the elements and keep it safe from theft. Some also have space or hooks to store gear. The City of Minneapolis has lockers stationed throughout downtown. Lockers are also available at the University of Minnesota. And Metro Transit has bicycle lockers at several locations, including Northstar stations and at Metro Transit, MVTA and Anoka County Park & Ride lots.

Bicycle lockers are not free. Annual rental of a Metro Transit locker, for instance, costs just under $50. Checking the online list of locker locations shows that in Coon Rapids and Minnetonka some bicyclists have figured out a nice commute to the park and ride. Lockers in Wayzata, St Louis Park, and several other locations seem available. If you are a recreational rider considering using your light, fast bicycle for commuting, a bicycle locker might be just the thing for you. And it’s still cheaper than a lot of motorized vehicle parking.  

Hilary Reeves is communications director for Transit for Livable Communities.