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Bike Corral

Courtesy of Tony Giron/

One of the four bike corrals in Chicago is outside of Jumping Bean Cafe in Pilsen.

Chicago still spinning its wheels on bike parking

by Neel Tandan
Jan 17, 2013

Chicago was ranked as the fifth most bike-friendly city in the U.S. in 2012, according to Bicycling Magazine. And it’s no secret that the mayor has big plans for more bike lanes.

But an essential part of the city’s biking infrastructure is not keeping pace with the recent and planned growth: parking.

Tony Giron, bike corral manager for Chicago’s Department of Transportation, said there are only four bike corrals throughout the city.

Each corral holds 10 bikes, is placed on the street and takes up the equivalent of one parking space. There are two in Andersonville, one in Wicker Park and one in the Pilsen neighborhood.

To put it in perspective, Portland, Ore., a smaller city known for being especially bike friendly, has 91 bike corrals installed and a backlog of 50 applications from businesses.

“Chicago has kind of been lacking,” Giron said. “Unfortunately, we don’t have the City budget needed for bike parking.”

Without the City’s help, the expense comes down squarely on the businesses that want the corrals installed. A corral costs from $2,000 to $2,500 including delivery and installation, plus a $75 dollar annual fee for a Public Way Use permit.

Chicago isn’t necessarily on its back with bike parking. The City has installed more than 12,145 smaller, off-the-street, bike racks since 1993. On the other hand, many of the parking meters that were once available for bikers to lock up to were removed and automated parking machines installed.

Giron said he has been using local contacts and social networking to try to find a solution.

“There are always ways around it,” Giron said, “subsidies from the chambers of commerce, speaking to aldermen.”

The Andersonville Chamber of Commerce has already funded one of that area’s two corrals.

Brian Bonanno, the sustainable programs manager with the Andersonville Development Corporation, helped to facilitate the purchase with the chamber.

“I think both corrals were heavily used, pretty much every day,” Bonanno said. “The Hopleaf [restaurant] one was filled to capacity pretty much every night.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago Streets for Cycling Plan is big. It is set to lay down 645 miles of bike lanes, 150 miles of protected bike lanes and an accessible bike path within a half-mile of every Chicago resident by 2020.

And according to the last census, the number of bike commuters more than doubled between 2000 and 2010 from .5 percent to 1.3 percent of the population.

But the Mayor’s Cycling Plan does not include any effort to increase parking to accommodate more bikers.

“I see people lock their bikes to anything they can,” Bonanno said. “We have some City racks up on the sidewalks but there are so many bikes that they fill up. You see three, four bikes on a rack meant for two. People lock up to trees, signs, pretty much anything somebody can fit their lock around.”

Although Bonanno is optimistic that City funding will eventually be available, he said it will happen more out of necessity than anything else.

“If you’re encouraging more people to bike but not providing adequate space, it becomes a problem,” Bonanno said. “At some point, I think bike parking will have to be addressed. We’ll have a bottleneck in a couple of years and were seeing it already.”

Giron was also optimistic about the City providing funding, especially once the corrals that are out there are recognized as being a success.

“Having bike parking on the street is a very new concept for Chicago,” Giron said. “As more and more businesses start to notice the corrals, there will be more of a demand for them. If there is a great demand for bike corrals, the City will prioritize it.”