the blindness of bikes vs parking people

I am getting so, so tired of people on Twitter, bicycling advocates, who see bikes and bikes only as the solution to everything.

These are people who believe that it is always best to remove on-street parking in favor of bike lanes, whether regular or separated bikeways. In fact, they are always looking for roads on which to install bike facilities and remove parking, because they get off on the idea of removing all parking. A lot of advocates want bike lanes on every street.

Well, I disagree.

If there is a situation where existing or future bicycling use should be accommodated, and the only way of doing do it is to remove parking, then I’m in agreement. But that is often not the case. On any street with more than two lanes, it is almost always better to remove a travel lane (called general purpose lanes) than to remove parking.

Parking does (at least) two things:

  1. Calms traffic by creating perceived friction, which slows drivers down. It is moving vehicles, quite often moving well over the posted speed limit, that are a hazard to bicyclists, and everyone else. It is not parked cars (not ignoring the issue of door-zone bike lanes).
  2. Provides places for customers to park who so far have not shifted to walking and bicycling, or who are in that rare situation of needing a car for disability reasons or items being picked up/dropped off.

Sure, we need less parking than we have, but no parking is not the solution. If there is no on-street parking, then it increases the demand for surface parking lots, which are the worst possible land use in cities, or for structured parking (parking decks) which are the most expensive type of parking to build, and almost always require taxpayer subsidy. Both of these also produce almost zero property tax and sales tax.

I’m also in favor of managed parking, so that it is never free, and costs enough so that there will always be some empty spaces available, and that drivers are paying market value for parking, and for the cost of the pavement and maintenance they are using. I’m also in favor of designated passenger drop-off/pick-up curbs and unloading/loading curbs for commercial use. We do have too much parking, and way too much free parking. We should have less.

For those who I haven’t convinced, or have made angry (no doubt), please read The High Cost of Free Parking by Donald Shoup, and Walkable City by Jeff Speck. Both recommend retaining parking, but managing it better, in most situations. And removing it when there is really a good justification. Donald Shoup has conducted more research on parking than anyone, and Jeff Speck has designed more projects to improve walkability and livability than most.

Lastly, let me say I hate cars and hate most car drivers. The world would be a better place if we had about 5% of the cars we have now. The world would be a better place if almost all people walked or bicycled for almost all trips, and used transit for the few others. But I think it is dangerous to just remove all parking without looking at the situation on the ground, which includes all modes and everything that is adjacent to the street, including businesses.

Author: Dan Allison

Dan Allison is a Safe Routes to School Coordinator in the Sacramento area. Dan dances and backpacks, as much as possible.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: