Friday, February 03, 2006

Breeding more bicycles

Earlier this month, Bill Dawers wrote about the demolition of the City Market Parking Garage in his Savannah Morning News "City Talk" column. It was the destruction of City Market, for which the garage was named, that helped to spark Savannah's preservation movement in the mid 1950s. Lots of folks were happy to see the garage bite the dust. Commenting on a shuttle system deployed to soothe motorists until the new underground parking facility is built in its place, he wrote:

In many cities, commuters would think nothing of walking from Liberty and Jefferson streets, rather than taking a shuttle, but Savannahians are simply not accustomed to walking that far.

This is a puzzling, but very real phenomenon. Visitors travel from all over the globe to stroll the streets of the National Historic Landmark District, but to many locals, the idea of walking several blocks, through one of the most beautiful cities in the world, is intolerable.

And even if the city continues to add to its structured parking inventory, will it ever be able to keep pace with demand? If you believe Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Cynthia Tucker (and I do) the answer is no. If fact, she suggests that more parking breeds more cars. Writing last year about parking garages proposed for Atlanta's Piedmont Park, she observed:

Atlanta and every other Sun Belt city from Los Angeles to Orlando give the lie to the theory that it's possible to solve the issue of traffic and parking congestion by building more roads and more parking spaces. New roads and garages are the opposite of clothes dryers, where your socks are frequently kidnapped by forces unknown. Instead, cars self-multiply when you build more highways and garages. Park 10 in a garage overnight, and you'll have 15 in the morning.

Could the city of Savannah use this equation to it's advantage? If it provided free, secure, convenient, covered parking for bicycles, would more people consider riding bicycles around the National Landmark Historic District and thus reduce pressure on automobile parking resources? It's true that bicycles can be easily locked to parking meters, signposts and fences. But as a person who rode to work this morning on a saddle still soaked by yesterday's rain, I can tell you the idea of covered parking is appealing.

Take a look at this photo of what I believe to be the only covered bicycle storage facility in downtown Savannah. Like virtually all bicycle racks in town, it is provided by the Savannah College of Art and Design and is free to use by students and non-students alike. It's safe to assume that most of these bicycles belong to students visiting the Jen Library, where the racks are located. But not all of them are.

Would Tucker's equation work for bikes? If you parked 10 at night, would you find 15 in the morning? Of course you'd have to figure a certain number would be lost to bicyle theivery, a thriving local cottage industry. Still, if parking decks attract more cars, then properly located and configured facilities should attract more bikes.


bikingtoronto said...

Wow. You aren't kidding about Savanahians (?) not wanting to walk. It looks like from Market Sq. to Jefferson & Liberty is about 600-ish metres - about a 3rd of a mile? That's like from College to Dundas here in Toronto ... no one even thinks twice about walking that. Atleast, no sane person does. :)

Brandon said...

It's pretty bad here in Detroit too, being the motor city. It's often pretty hard to find a bike rack anywhere near where you're going. And no one walks, except the poor of course. I'm in the 'burbs and almost never see anyone on a bike, except Lance wannabe's, dressed to the hilt in biker fashion (and often talking on a cell phone).

Evan said...

We have the same problem here in Atlanta. Recently some coworkers and I were talking about the notion of building light rail out to Cobb county. My coworkers thought it unreasonable to ask people to walk the 1/2 mile to catch a train.

griffin said...

a great article --and a sad statemnt about our culture (I have known at least one person who insisten on driving even the single block to visit friends --yikes)

I've missed reading new posts on your blog, hope to see some soon