Eyes on the Street: The Bike Parking Fence Doesn’t Make Sense

New bike parking at Morse CTA station
Bike parking area at Morse. Photo: Justin Haugens

Last week, the Chicago Transit Authority finished construction of a partially-sheltered bike parking area on Lunt Avenue under the viaduct at the Morse Red Line station. The area is well-lit but surrounded by a tall fence with a single opening, on the alley. Instead of making the bike parking area more secure, this fence may actually decrease the perception of safety here.

I asked a few people who bike how they feel about this design; the consensus was that “the fence doesn’t make sense.”

Eboni Senai Hawkins, organizer of Red Bike and Green, said, “The fence would only make sense if it was completely closed in and there was some kind of attendant.” Having CTA staff nearby would also help, said Michelle Stenzel, co-organizer for Bike Walk Lincoln Park. “For my own physical safety, the important factor is always whether there are other people around who could help if trouble arises,” she said. “So if there’s CTA personnel at ground level at this station somewhere close and they can see through the fence, then that increases the feeling of safety.”

Could the fence make bikes less secure? Gin Kilgore, a program manager with the League of Illinois Bicyclists, thinks so. “It’s great to see so much more covered bike parking available at train stations, but it really does not add security,” she said. “Anyone can still go in and steal a bike; in fact, it probably provides more cover for people to do so.”

New bike parking at Morse CTA station
The view of the bike parking area, looking southeast (##http://goo.gl/maps/uqIaE##Street View##). Photo: Justin Haugens:
Fenced in bike parking at the Morse Red Line station
At least the bike parking has good lighting. Photo: Justin Haugens

We are awaiting a comment from Alderman Joe Moore’s office.

Updated 15:43 to provide Kilgore’s complete quote and to change photo captions. 

  • Bruce

    My gut says personal safety may also be an issue. If you’re tending to your bike during late-night hours, this seems like a potential place to be trapped for a mugging.

  • Anonymous

    Note the camera by the only exit. Granted, cameras don’t always prevent crime, but they sure do deter some . . . and cause some to get caught after-the-fact. Does that red arrow to the left make notice of surveillance?

  • Anonymous

    Camera and fence decrease safety? C’mon . . .

    Effective in fully deterring crime? Not likely.

  • I’m with Bruce on the trapping part. It doesn’t make sense to have a single opening.

  • Anonymous

    OK – I’m a bit more risk tolerant than most. I guess I spent too much time running the streets, yards, and alleys of Humboldt Park in 70s.

    I see it is as a cage fight, rather than a trap. I’d see someone coming my way and my Fahgettaboudit would be ready to crack some skulls. Being a victim is often about playing the part.

    Kidding aside, I can see there being safety sensitivities associated with a one way in/one way out scenario – cameras or not…and, of course, giving up a bike is always a better alternative to fighting and suffering the consequences.

    Another opening seems like an easy fix.

  • Kevin M

    Trap/safety issue aside, why are the fences necessary? What’s CTA’s position on this? What does CDOT think? Why don’t fences get installed on other bike racks around the city? What’s special about these racks?

  • BlueFairlane

    A fence that doesn’t close makes no sense to me. What does that accomplish? Meanwhile, I can see that fence both discouraging users while providing a sense of cover for ne’er-do-wells. (I always like a chance to use the word, ne’er-do-well.) And the cover may very well work. I know when I’m in transit mode and focused on movement, I simply block out a lot of what I register as useless information. I can see my brain using that fence to define a border beyond which I simply wouldn’t “see” anything. I suspect I’m not alone in this. This is actually a valid concern.

  • BlueFairlane

    Another thought: I don’t know how busy the Morse station gets, as I never go up there. But if you have a lot of people wanting to access that space at once, the narrow opening will serve as a choke point, making access difficult and further discouraging usage. The more I think about it, the dumber this seems.

  • Turner

    I suspect the fence was the architect’s winking but half-hearted attempt to signify the dimensions of the building that used to be there, rather than a practical security feature or a well-considered user experience. See also: that brick wall, which may be a remnant of the original structure, or is at least meant to look like it.

    (Google street view still shows the pre-rehab site, if you’re curious.)

    Anyhow, a fence along Glenwood (as seen in the second photo) might make sense, both to prevent sneaking around that corner, and as a backstop to discourage a path directly through the bikes. But it should probably be open toward pedestrian traffic in and out of the station and along most of Lunt, if only to not be such a dreary cage.

  • ardecila

    The fence is unnecessary, but Ald. Moore released drawings of the bike lot months ago. The time to raise objections was then, before the money had been spent.

    If I had designed this, I would have skipped the fence and installed bollards along the curb on the east, north, and west sides of the lot. It would have accomplished the same goal of alerting drivers and delineating space without blocking sight lines.

  • Jennifer

    It’s a park’n’ride lot for bikes!

  • Anonymous

    “… if only to not be such a dreary cage.” :)

  • I’d be interested to see the data on theft and whether or not implied security has a big effect on lowered numbers. In this day and age we shouldn’t be making decisions without that data support. It then just becomes money that could be spent in other bike friendly ways.

  • Given the huge demand for bike parking at adjacent Heartland Cafe, I suspect it will act as overflow for the racks across the street.

  • The Chicago Police Department doesn’t record bike theft data.

    Let me back up: they do collect your report of bike theft, but they can’t ask their database, “How many bike thefts have occurred?” There is no code or category that separates bike thefts from non-bike thefts.

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