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.