At noon in downtown Columbia, bikes lean against almost anything that stands up straight: trees, parking meters, benches or even walls.
It’s the haphazard form of bike parking that has spawned a proposal from PedNet to install 1,000 new bike racks downtown.
According to the PedNet project, there are currently 113 designated bicycle parking spaces downtown, compared with 4,566 spaces on the MU campus.
The lack of bike parking in Columbia is a problem for cyclists, said Corri Flaker, a PedNet employee who worked on the parking plan.
“I’ve seen a lot more people riding bikes, and I’ve noticed a lot of clusters of bikes parked downtown,” Flaker said. “As gas gets more expensive, I think more people are going to be biking, and they’re going to need places to park.”
Lynn Parshall, who bikes downtown about five times a week in the summer, said that more bike racks would be useful.
“Sometimes I’ll just go right there,” Parshall said after parking her bike against a tree. “It would be helpful to have a few more.”
The current plan involves installing a variety of bike racks in the area bound by Fourth Street, Park Avenue, Hitt Street and Elm Street. The projected $384,175 cost would be covered by federal grant money given to Columbia for the PedNet project. Columbia was chosen as one of four pilot cities for the PedNet project to promote non-motorized transportation such as biking.
Along with more traditional racks, tree guards that provide parking and protect trees from bicycle frames will be used. For high-traffic areas downtown, the Special Business District Board will be consulted on the design of customized bike racks.
Space along the street not used for motor vehicle parking, such as in front of the Bank of America on Eighth Street, is also slated for bike parking. Bike corrals intended for those spaces are smaller than a car but can accommodate 12 bicycles.
The plan also offers businesses a cost-share program in which PedNet would pay for a portion of a bike rack’s cost and possibly for installation.
In addition to racks, the plan includes creating long-term bike parking facilities outside of downtown in the next few years.
The City Council will review the parking plan at its July 16 meeting; if approved, the first racks downtown would be installed this fall or winter.
Mayor Darwin Hindman, one of biking’s biggest proponents in Columbia, supports the proposal and has noticed its necessity as the popularity of biking grows.
“Recently, the parking racks in the garage (behind the Daniel Boone City Building) have been full, so I haven’t been able to park there,” he said.
Still, he said, since it shows that more people are biking to work, “I’m delighted about it.”