Bike Lockers

Lockers

I’m fortunate enough to have a secure bike locker at both the train station near my home and in a parking garage near where I work. Having secure bike storage significantly increases my commuting options while allowing me to ride nicer bikes on my commute. In both cases, the bike lockers are managed by the cities in which they reside. On one end of my commute, the locker is free (a $25 refundable deposit is required for the key), on the other, there’s a $5 per month charge. In both cases, I’m thankful that such a service is available.

Unfortunately, there are not enough lockers to accommodate all of the bike commuters who want one. In one city, 49 lockers (at the cost of approximately $50,000) are spread among a handful of transit stations and local employers. Unfortunately, only 12 of those lockers are available to the general public, with the other 37 being provided to 5 of the largest employers in the area for use by their employees. There is always a waiting list for the public lockers and we could easily triple the number available for public use. Perhaps the companies who received free lockers could subsidize a few more for the general public!

The city at the other end of my commute has an undisclosed number of lockers and “bullpens” available for public use for a nominal fee (bullpens are secure, fenced bike parking areas that are shared among a number of users). As I mentioned above, fees run approximately $5 per month. The lockers and bullpens are spread among 7 parking garages throughout the downtown area. Like in the other city, there is a perennial waiting list for these lockers. At my work alone, there seems to always be at least one or two people waiting for a spot; I can only imagine how long the list might be for the entire city.

Do you have bike lockers in your city? Are there enough to accommodate everyone who wants one or do you need more? If your city doesn’t currently provide secure bike parking, would it be beneficial to you if they made it available in the future?

25 Responses to “Bike Lockers”

  • Jesse says:

    Being in Seattle I’ll admit to being a bit jaded…there are bike lockers at most major transit points, albeit mostly full. Many employers are also bike friendly, a previous workplace of mine let us just roll our bikes right into our cubes. My current job is in a building that has a secure bike locker room. It would definitely be cool to see more options for those who use multimodal transportation.

  • JT says:

    I don’t know of any public-use bike lockers in Honolulu… The city has however put quite a bit of work into installing bike racks all over the city. Usually not too hard to find an open one on your block and I usually feel ok about locking up to them unattended for a few hours (I use a big ol chain+padlock and remove the front wheel to get both wheels locked).

    The building I’m working in right now has a bike cage though. I just started and I’m working on getting access for myself. Definitely the nicer alternative to leaving my bike out on the street.

  • Lee Trampleasure says:

    A nice locker system in the San Francisco Bay Area is Bike Link: http://www.bikelink.org/ These are hourly lockers (3-5 cents/hour) that you purchase a “smart-card” that contains pre-paid time. (5 cents/hour x 10 hours x 20 work days = $10/month for the “average” commuter.) One of the nice things about them is that there is a maximum amount of time they can be used–I suspect that some of the “personal” lockers are used by folks not that often (“I waited so long to get it that even though I don’t use it that much I don’t want to let go of it”). The downside is that you don’t know for sure if you’ll have a locker when you get there.

    The subway station near my work (Pleasant Hill BART) has a 2-3 year waiting list for “personal” lockers, and a handful of hourly lockers. I’m still waiting for a personal locker, and use the hourly lockers now and then (I’m “reverse commute,” and near a BART station at home, so sometimes I leave my bike overnight rather than hauling it on the train).

    At the other end, we have a full “bike station,” which has a staffed drop-off service (7AM-9PM, M-F) as well as a 24×7 locked room that you access with your BikeLink card (paying the same minimal rate). I’ve used both a few times, but living so close to the BART station means I usually walk if I don’t want to take my bike on the subway.

  • JaimeRoberto says:

    This probably won’t be a popular suggestion here, but if they raised the fees for the lockers, they would have an incentive to build more of them. It’s not surprising that a low price (to the user) results in a shortage. That’s just basic economics.

  • Billi says:

    Fortunate to have secure indoor parking at my work, but downtown it would be great to have bike lockers, both personal for regulars and hourly for occasional users like me. Were just finally getting decent bike racks, and on street bike racks.

  • Bob B says:

    I’ve never used a bike locker. Any bike used for transportation in my town/county must be parked in the weather locked to an outside bike rack. There is the possibility for your bike to get beat up, wet (Pacific NW) or even stolen. With this in mind, one may reevaluate what kind of transportation bike they ride. I know several people with very nice bikes, but I mostly see single speeds and mtb/10-speed commuter conversions locked up around town.

  • Alan says:

    @Bob

    We often lock up our bikes in front of stores and restaurants for an hour or so, but leaving a bike locked up and unattended in an underground parking garage or at a train station for 8-10 hours (or even overnight) is different. In those circumstances, bike lockers (or bullpens) are super! :-)

    Alan

  • dweendaddy says:

    If bike lockers cost $1-2,000 to install, and there are too few, they should price them accordingly. I like the idea of pay as you go, as Lee described Bikelink. That would decrease the time that lockers go unused, and could potentially make more money.
    One solution would be to have the whole operation run by a local bicycle advocacy group. They could price them as they wish, with the rule that profit went into locker maintenance and more lockers.
    When I was commuting at the N Berkeley BART, it was impossible to get your own locker, a clear sign of too few lockers at too low a price.

  • Jon Benn says:

    In Albany, NY there are a couple of bullpens for bikes, most notably at the Empire State Plaza complex, seat of New York’s government. There is always space there-Often a few bike skeleton-just frames and bars locked to the racks

  • kfg says:

    @Jaime Roberto – “It’s not surprising that a low price (to the user) results in a shortage. That’s just basic economics.”

    The question you have to ask yourself, then, is why there are so many parking meters when hardly a one manages to recover its cost, never mind the cost of the space it’s associated with.

  • Lee Trampleasure says:

    BikeLink is, in my understanding, NOT a money maker, in fact, I’m sure it is heavily subsidized. The cost of running electronic signals to each locker is significant, then all the computer software tracking value on cards, transferring money from bank accounts, etc. In our culture, we subsidize things we want to be cheaper (even tax write offs are subsidies, e.g. kids and mortgages).

    PS. Alan, as usual, you have quite the eye for photography. I love the shadow of the bike on the locker.

  • Fergie348 says:

    I’m lucky in that I can take my bike in my downtown S.F. building and right up to my office. When my office moved, I made that a condition of the next office space. I know a lot of other bike commuters who have office access and some who don’t. You can tell pretty much by looking over the bikes who’s parking inside and who isn’t..

    It’s probably time for someone to put a comprehensive bike parking plan in place for San Francisco, converting some space in each downtown parking garage to a staffed bullpen space to park bikes by the hour/day/month just like cars are parked. I would gladly pay a proportional fraction of car parking rates for monitored bike parking downtown – it would be great, and we should get the parking tax break that motorist commuters get as well. Designed correctly, it would be revenue neutral so not a fiscal issue for anybody.

  • lukeofny says:

    Along with Jon Benn, Upstate NY has little in the way of supporting bikes as transport, I think they are seen as only recreation. My place of work takes they’re bike rack out in the winter.
    The rail trails get used for snowmobiles (although they’re not supposed to be). My bike was covered in ice yesterday and move from the spot I placed it (nothing to lock to). Also my small city none of the local stores have bike racks, last time I locked to the padlock on a video drop-box.

  • JustAnotherCyclist says:

    It may be more a function of continuing to work for startups than anything else, but I’ve been fortunate enough at my last three employers to be able to simply take my bike indoors with me at the office.

    Your post did, however, remind me of something that has always puzzled me. I know of a rather large parking lot here in downtown Sac that has a bullpen in one corner. For reasons that I don’t understand, they bullpen is placed in the farthest possible corner from the large building that the parking lot is primarily used for.

    However, given that the parking lot is a full city block in size and empty on the weekends, the bike polo crowd has a great place to play!

  • Micheal Blue says:

    I’m not aware of any bike lockers in Toronto. At my workplace there is a bike stand that is not even bolted to the ground. OTOH, there are plenty of windows all around, so it seems to be very safe. Most of the time I ride the folder, so I take it to my office.

  • Andy says:

    There’s a few here, but reserved for city employees. I don’t even know exactly where they are anyway. At least there’s a ton of racks, and 50 more on the way.

    I’m surprised with such a waiting list they would only charge $5. Sounds like some pretty awful management of supply and demand. Why not charge $50-100 and fund more lockers over time?

    Luckily my current office arrangement is about as good as it gets. I currently have 4 bikes at the office, and an entire basement that was perfect for fixing up my recumbent and even have room to ride in circles. My apt is also on the ground floor, so I just roll in and set my bike atop of a tyvek sheet.

  • David Bolles says:

    Definitely no bike lockers in Phila.
    I work in a warehouse and am fortunate that I am allowed to bring my bike inside. I set it against a wall, out of the way.
    We even have a shower! Truly fortunate.

  • Jay says:

    No bike lockers in the Boston area, that I’m aware of, though one large train station nearby on the red line has a bike cage – not sure how secure it is though.

    I’m also very lucky to work in a small, environmentally minded office, so everyone is encouraged to ride in, and there’s multiple places inside where we can put our bikes. Also a shower! Not bad!

  • Alan says:

    @Lee

    “I love the shadow of the bike on the locker.”

    Thanks, Lee!

    Alan

  • Jon M says:

    There are no bike lockers here in Hull, (NE England), and to be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the in the UK.

    Unfortunately bikes are stolen around here so often and so easily, you would need an armed guard as well.

    Best wishes,

    Jon

    PS Just discovered the blog and looks great – subscribed!

  • Pete says:

    Never seen a bike locker. I’ve heard rumors that they exist in bike commuting heaven….

    @kfg – Agreed. There is so much hidden subsidy in car parking, and it suffers from the same distorted demand curve that @Jaime Roberto references. In truth, a downtown on-street parking meter should probably cost $25/hour on a workday, and if it did, I bet demand for them would better match supply!

  • kfg says:

    I’ll give the folder fans this; at least they don’t contribute to the parking problem. A bike at each end contributes to the giant bait balls you see in the Netherlands, and while an acre or two of parked bikes isn’t the same problem that tens of acres of cars represents, it’s still a problem.

  • Daniel M says:

    I want to chime in about BikeLink in the Bay Area. It is a great solution.

    Part of the problem with a dedicated bike locker is that you are paying for the space 24/7, not just when you are using it. And when you’re not using it, the resource is unavailable for others who need it. BikeLink solves the problem: you can serve the same number of users with a smaller number of lockers. Furthermore, the design is really smart: the lockers themselves are wedge-shaped, with the idea that you back your bike into them so the handlebars occupy the wide end where the door is located. This allows clusters of lockers to be arranged in a fan-shape, which is really efficient. El Cerrito Plaza BART station has the lockers arranged in this fashion.

    Now, if they could just make the payment system compatible with the Translnk/Clipper cards that we can use for almost all buses and trains in the Bay Area, I could carry one less card in my wallet.

  • Brian C says:

    We have numerous employers who have installed them in Victoria, BC, and we have a few installed by our transit system. We need many more of them. I am hoping to get one at my current employer (one of our major hospitals), but there is definitely a shortage. While the bike racks provided are alright, having to strip off the bike lights each morning certainly is a disincentive.

    Funny how we provide and pay for parking spots that cost 10 X what a bike locker does, but insist on cyclists paying for a similar service (ie any of our numerous shopping centres with free parking).

  • Jamin says:

    One of the few things Los Angeles seems to have done well for bicycle commuters is to have a fair number of lockers clustered around public transit stations.

    I filled out a form, paid a one-time $50 deposit and $24 for the first 6 months of locker rental. Then, two weeks later, I had a key for a locker at my local train station.

    I did have a strange moment when the Bike Locker Office emailed me saying I was on a waiting list, and then my key arrived in the mail 3 days later. Still not really sure if I was placed on a 3 day “waiting list”, or if I was just the beneficiary of a bureaucratic snafu. Either way, I’m happy, and $4 a month to keep my bike safe in this concrete jungle feels like money well spent.

 
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