Sunday, October 19, 2008

Valet Bike Parking Comes To Philadelphia

There's a shortage of places to park your bike in Philadelphia. With more people than ever biking around the city, those precious few places at which to lock up your one speed have become even more scarce.

Obviously, the city will need a lot more bike racks, not to mention indoor bike parking in office buildings.

But that’s going to take some time.

In the meantime, how about valet bike parking?
Bike valet parking has been around in [New York City] for at least a decade, but mostly as an occasional volunteer service provided at public events like film screenings, “Summers Streets” events and the recent Lower East Side pickle festival by Transportation Alternatives, the pro-bike lobby.

But it’s gone upscale. Even a recent Fashion Week event at Bergdorf Goodman offered bike valet parking. It’s something that is also offered across the country, in cities like San Francisco and Chicago.

“People worry about locking up the bike,” said Hillary Nanney, 24, who was one of dozens of bikers who used the free bike valet service at International Pickle Day. “This is a great service.”

Yes, the city is already making efforts to ease bike parking: increasing bike facilities for city employees, building bike shelters, encouraging buildings to incorporate indoor bike parking and installing nifty bike racks, some of which are spectacularly designed.

But it’s not going to be nearly enough. For one thing, the proposed Bicycle Parking Text Amendment would require buildings to offer bike parking — but only new ones.
A valet service would give people piece of mind. It could make economic sense too. Right now, most bike valet parking is free. But many people would be willing to pay at the least the equivalent of a roundtrip subway fare or thereabouts — $3-4 a day or $80 a month. So with just 25-30 bikes in a day, someone could earn around $100 to cover wages and overhead, which isn’t much (which would be minimal).

You can pack in bicycles a lot more densely when you valet park (it works that way for cars, too). A parking space for a car can fit 20 bikes.

It’s also quite labor efficient. Instead of one valet driver per car at any instance, a bike valet could ostensibly move two bikes at a time — one for each arm.

And what’s great about bike valet parking (as opposed to car valets) is that it’s friendly to our labor market. First, you deal with sticky issue of driver’s licenses. Second, you don’t need to speak great English to park and unpark bike. As with a coat check, you only have to match numbers. So this could help with the city’s unemployment rate, which seems to be inching upward.
The city (or perhaps a third party like Transportation Alternatives) should license the valets so people would be be confident that their valet isn’t a fly-by-night bike thief. The city has already used its licensing power to increase the availability of fruit and vegetable vendors in poorer neighborhoods, why not use it to increase parking valets?
Sounds like a terrific idea to us.

Nieghborhood Bike Works provided valet bike parking at last week's opening night of A Clean Break on Broad and at Sunday's Biketoberfest at Dock Street Brewery in the UC as well.

Very cool to see.

It be even cooler if it was standard procedure.

How Much Do You Tip The Bike Valet [ City Room – New York Times ]
The city needs to get creative on bike parking [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]
A Clean Break [ Official Site ]
12 Reasons to Get To Biketoberfest on Sunday [ Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia ]
Neighborhood Bike Works [ Official Site ]

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