Mission Businesses Wheel in Bicycle Parking

500 Treat Avenue provides space for bike parking.

Joseph Gross likes to park his two bicycles in front of ArtNow SF’s indoor stage, just to the left of the ping-pong table and right below a graffiti-stained plastic trash bin. Architect David Hurley parks his bike on the rack his firm custom-designed.

A new ordinance proposed by supervisor and mayoral candidate John Avalos last week (pdf) would require owners of commercial buildings to treat bikers just as well. Well, maybe not as well as Hurley’s employer — but the ordinance would require owners to either provide secure bicycle parking or allow tenants to bring their bicycles into their buildings.

In the Mission, many business owners already provide bicycle space however they can.

The bicycle-friendly buildings range from white-collar office complexes such as 500 Treat Avenue and 1550 Bryant to the eclectic ArtNow SF gallery and music venue owned by Gross.

“I’m way ahead of the curve. Always have been,” Gross said.

Two bicycles parked inside ArtNow SF.

Among the most common forms of secure indoor parking recommended by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition are designated indoor bike rooms with locking systems. The office complex at 1550 Bryant Street simply calls its facility a “bike barn.” It’s located on the lobby floor, right behind the security desk — some 25 to 30 feet of space where three dozen bikes are stashed. A few “loaner” bicycles are available for anyone who needs to run a quick errand.

Adam Goldstein, founder of the tech company Hipmunk, one of the businesses that uses the building, said the barn has grown more full over time, but he’s only had difficulty finding a space in it once.

No problem — he brought his bike onto the elevator and parked in his fifth-floor office. He doesn’t mind if his employees do the same.

Over at Zynga in SoMa, where I once worked, the company includes an area with wall-mounted racks for bikes near the entrance to the cafeteria.

In an e-mail, audio designer John Baker wrote that he finds the racks convenient, although space fills up fast. He’s been turned away more than once. The building’s underground garage has two locked cages for bikes, which he finds less convenient but doable.

Both options are more manageable than the situation at a company he worked for in the South Bay. “I used to leave my bike under the stairs illegally, or lock it to a rack outside,” Baker said.

Although ArtNow SF lacks racks or cages, its bicycle policy is straightforward: They stay in the stage area behind the gallery. Gross allows the other employees to borrow one of his two fixed-gear bikes if they want to make a lunch run — that’s what they’re there for, he said.

Until as recently as a couple of years ago, the offices at 500 Treat Avenue had no bike parking at all, according to EHDD Architecture office manager Mary Collins, whose company inhabits the building. People simply brought their bikes inside.

But as the hallways became increasingly clogged, Collins said the firm devised a novel solution: an office-wide competition among the architects to build a proper parking area for bicycles.

The winning design, completed a couple of years ago, is an outdoor rack within the gated 500 Treat campus. A tin roof protects bikes from the rain, while trees and shrubs provide shade and aesthetic enhancements. Architect David Hurley uses the rack often, and normally doesn’t have a problem finding a space.

But those who can’t find space simply bring the bikes inside the building, Hurley said.

TripIt, a tech company also at 500 Treat, even built a bike rack of its own with enough room for three extra bicycles.

One of those three bikes usually belongs to engineer Dan Hackner, who commutes from nearby Noe Valley.

“I think it adds to the startup look to have bikes inside,” Hackner said, who prefers storing his in the office because of its value.

“It’s a very bike-frendly place,” said TripIt product manager Edith Harbaugh. She estimates that at least 10 employees at her company are cyclists, including herself.

Harbaugh doesn’t have problem finding a space, either, although she wonders if that may change when the tech company SoundCloud finishes moving into 510 Treat Avenue, inside the same gated complex.

One major reason for the generous bicycle accommodations found in the Mission is the general increase in the popularity of bicycles in San Francisco.

The last Bicycle Count Report issued by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency noted a 58 percent increase in city cycling between 2006 and 2010. As the number of riders has grown, so have the company managers who want to accommodate their workforce, according to San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Leah Shahum.

But even if the employer supports employee cycling, Shahum said, it’s very common for the building owner or manager to not allow indoor bike parking.

One example is the ActivSpace mixed-use building on 18th Street, where a “NO BIKES” sign is posted on the front door to the main office.

Blame it on ActivSpace management and the fire code, according to customer services manager James Sipe.

Bikes were never allowed inside the building, but Sipe recalled that the ActivSpace management didn’t enforce the policy until the bikes people left in the hallway scuffed up the wall and it had to be repainted. Bicycles in the hallway or in the residential space upstairs also posed a fire hazard, Sipe said.

Nonetheless, ActivSpace provides bike racks for residents and employees inside its indoor parking garage.

Ben Smith, the owner of Treat Street Bicycle Works, which inhabits the ActivSpace complex, submitted the paperwork several months ago for a couple of spaces for bicycle parking outside of his store and some extra seating for Kafe 99 sqft, the coffee shop next door.

Because ActivSpace owns the building, it is responsible for pushing through the paperwork for such a project. Smith is still waiting to hear back from ActivSpace.

Although Shahum still hears a significant number of complaints, on the whole she thinks bike parking problems are not as common as they were 10 years ago.

“There’s no doubt that more and more workplaces are becoming bicycle-friendly. That has really improved in the last decade.”

TripIt’s Harbaugh agrees. When she worked downtown eight or nine years ago, she felt that biking to work was seen as a freak thing to do. Now she considers her office to be one of the best commuting situations.

“It really feels like the golden age of biking is here,” she said.

Filed under: Bikes, Front Page, Topics, Transportation

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  1. steve

    Really great that businesses are providing bicycle parking for employees.

    Businesses also need to make sure they have enough bicycle parking for clients or customers or they will lose businesses. Instead of signs saying “do not lock your bike here”, how about signs directing customers to the nearest safe bicycle parking?

  2. My personal favorite: A few years ago the ownership of 185 Berry was renovating the building (added floors, lots of construction, etc.). I rode up to deliver a package and they’d ripped out the bike racks, so I wheeled by bike in the lobby and made the quick drop off. As I left, a man (who must have been some sort of higher-up) started to lecture me about having brought my bike inside. After I explained to him my predicament – as well as the fact that the old racks were pretty far from the lobby entrances and usually full-ish, he said he would work on it. Fast forward to the newly finished 185 Berry St which sports 2-3 small bike racks on the mission bay side with signs saying ” 10 Minute Bike Messenger Parking Only ” Sweet.

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