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Parking Day

November 6, 2011

I’m quoted in an article in Sunday’s Times about overcrowded bike storage in buildings across New York.  I also happen to know some of the other people who lend their voices to a discussion about some of the most sought-after real estate in New York: a place to park one’s bike.

Liz Patek, a professional dancer, said most of the bikes stored in her large rental building on the Upper West Side sat idle through much of the year.

“Of the 80 or so bikes I count between the two rooms,” she said in an e-mail, “at least 75 percent go unused all year round. There are four commuters (including myself) that make use of the rooms and who commute daily.”

New and recently renovated buildings may have brighter spaces, wall-mounted hooks and vertical racks, but that does not mean there are no tensions.

“Everybody who is an owner feels entitled to a space, whether they use the bike or not,” said Chris Benfante, 50, a cyclist whose condo building in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, has two bicycle rooms on the eighth floor. “We get complaints — usually from the people who use their bikes the most.”

As a real estate agent who sells units in his building, the Williamsburgh Savings Bank tower, now called 1 Hanson Place, Mr. Benfante recognizes the rooms’ broad popularity.

“I tell people as they’re moving in, I show them the bike storage room,” he said, “and they inevitably ask if they’re guaranteed a space. I have to tell them no.”

Last month, the building posted signs asking residents who had stopped using their bikes to voluntarily clear them out; it also installed new racks. Both measures, Mr. Benfante said, helped with the crowding that had often forced him and his regularly riding neighbors to haul their bicycles into their apartments. “It was kind of frustrating,” he said.

Doug Gordon, a 37-year-old television producer who commutes by bike to SoHo, said he had the same problem in his Gowanus, Brooklyn, rental.

“If I happened to have a night where I stay at work late,” he said, “there will definitely be times where it will be easier for me to bring it up to the apartment.”

I’ve lived in our current apartment for about a year and a half and in that time have noticed some bikes not move from their position in our building’s garage once, their tires deflated and their frames coated with dust.  The super tells me that some bikes have been abandoned by previous tenants, but that the building’s management is afraid of doing anything about it, lest someone return to claim a bike and report it stolen.  The regular commuters in my building often arrive home only to find no place to park, or a spot buried so deep within the thicket of bikes that locking it up and removing it the next day would mean risking major damage to one’s bike or person.

Management is listening, however.  While they may not want to remove any bikes they are planning to install more bike parking in a couple of car parking spots they’ve been unable to rent.

It’s a nice piece, and my only quibble with is is the use of the term “avid cyclist” anyone who bikes to work and for general transportation.  Reporters never describe drivers who use their cars for every trip to and from the office or the grocery store as “avid motorists,” do they?

  1. Douglas John Bowen permalink
    November 7, 2011 8:10 am

    Some advice from a rail advocate who also believes in bicycles: Along the same vein as “avid cyclist(s),” also try to avoid the word “commuter” whenever possible. To wit: Why is it “commuter railroad” is tossed about casually but “commuter highway” is almost never heard? Partial answer: Substitute “those people” for “commuter” — or perhaps “avid cyclist” — and the mindset, thoughtless if not malicious, becomes more clear. More power to this blog and others like it.


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