City hopes to add 1,000 bike racks

Sunday, April 13, 2008 | 7:53 p.m. CDT; updated 11:42 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The city is preparing to offer incentives in the hopes of adding 1,000 bicycle parking spots around Columbia in the next two years.

The proposal calls for the city to purchase bicycle racks with federal money and loan them to businesses and property owners at no cost. In return, the businesses and property owners would be responsible for installation and maintenance of the racks and would be required to keep them open to the public.

Strip malls, grocery stores, restaurants and churches are among the locations being targeted.

Funding will come from the GetAbout Columbia project, which was established in 2006 when the city received $22 million after it was designated as one of four communities for the Federal Highway Administration’s nonmotorized transportation pilot program. The project is designed to encourage more bicycling and walking.

Ted Curtis of GetAbout Columbia said his staff hopes for a large response to the cost-share program. At least four businesses have expressed interest, Curtis said, but he said it was too early to identify them.

A bicycle rack costs $300 to $500, and Curtis said the city will work with any business that expresses interest to find and approve a location.

“It’s to the businesses’ advantage to have bike parking,” he said.

Curtis said that although the goal is to create 1,000 bicycle parking spots, the number could exceed 1,000 if the idea proves popular enough.

“There’s a lot of potential out there,” he said, noting that MU has 4,500 bicycle parking spots.

Planning for the program, endorsed by the City Council on April 7, is in the early stages. Additional planning is still needed, he said, along with approval from the federal government and the Missouri Department of Transportation.

The program is modeled after one in Minneapolis, one of the four cities involved in the nonmotorized federal initiative.

Donald Pflaum, bicycle coordinator for Minneapolis, said the program has been extremely successful.

“The interest is tremendous, and the need is there,” Pflaum said. “We have more bike racks per capita than any other city.”

Pflaum said the program began in the mid-1990s and gained momentum after unique, art-like racks were installed in the trendy “uptown” area of Minneapolis.

“The creative racks are what sparked everybody’s interest,” Pflaum said. “You can do these at places like schools and parks.”

Curtis said the GetAbout Columbia staff is recommending several styles of racks depending on factors such as size and location, and the method of installation will depend on several factors as well. For example, if a concrete slab is already in place, the rack will need to be bolted down. If the area is grassy, installing a concrete slab may be necessary for easy mowing and to avoid mud.

Curtis said the only bicycle racks that have already been purchased are being installed on sidewalks downtown as part of GetAbout’s downtown pilot project, which the City Council previously approved.

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