Rack ‘Em Up: Chicago to Reach 25 On-Street Bike Corrals This Summer

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Gabe Klein speaks at the ribbon cutting for the Cheetah Gym corral. Photo: John Greenfield

It was a sign of the times when the Chicago Department of Transportation celebrated the city’s 13th on-street bike parking corral this morning at the Cheetah Gym, 5248 North Clark in Andersonville. Nine years ago, when I worked as CDOT’s bike parking manager, I put plenty of blood, sweat and tears into trying to get a corral installed at this very same location. The gym’s owner was ready to bankroll it, and we had the blessing of the local chamber of commerce and alderman, but the CDOT higher-ups deep-sixed the plan, questioning the safety of placing racks in the street, although corrals were already common on the West Coast by then.

CDOT’s recent announcement that it plans to reach 25 corrals, which usually involve converting car-parking spots to bike spaces, by the end of the summer is further evidence of the department’s new attitude of prioritizing sustainable transportation. On-street racks are slated for locations ranging from the Medici restaurant, 1327 East 57th in Hyde Park, to Simone’s tavern, 960 West 18th in Pilsen, to the Six Corners Chamber of Commerce, 4710 West Irving Park in Portage Park, to four FLATS Chicago apartment buildings in Rogers Park.

The Cheetah Gym rack is one of six Andersonville corrals, which, along with an existing “People Spot” parking-to-park conversion at 5226 North Clark and another parklet slated for the Coffee Studio, 5628 North Clark, cement the neighborhood’s reputation as Chicago’s leader in public space initiatives.

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The existing Andersonville "People Spot" at 5226 North Clark. Photo: John Greenfield

Chicago, which had only four bike parking corrals before this spring, had been lagging far behind other cities like New York (with 12 corrals), San Francisco (32) and Portland, Oregon (97), and funding seemed to be the major obstacle. Those municipalities provide the racks and installation at no cost to businesses. However, CDOT requires merchants and community organizations to cover the roughly $3,300 for the rack, installation, shipping, permits and delineator posts, plus $75 for an annual public way permit and $800 for winter removal and spring reinstallation.

However, it appears that red tape, rather than cost, was the main stumbling block. Shortly after Josh Deth, owner of Revolution Brewing, 2323 North Milwaukee, kvetched to me about the ridiculous number of bureaucratic hoops he had to jump through to install a corral in front of his brewpub last May, CDOT streamlined the process.

“It was just a lot to ask of a chamber of commerce or a business to produce all these documents that the Department of Law needed in order to put together a use agreement,” current Bike Parking Manager Tony Giron acknowledged. “They needed to get an economic disclosure statement notarized and proof of insurance, naming the city of Chicago as an additional insurer, as well as providing proof of insurance for the contractor who was putting it in.”

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Bike corral in front of The Hopleaf tavern, 5148 North Clark. Photo: John Greenfield

Instead of businesses procuring and installing their own hardware for the corrals, CDOT has gone ahead and ordered dozens of red, ten-bike racks from Saris, a manufacturer based in Madison, Wisconsin. The fixtures are currently sitting in the yard of Chicago’s Fence Masters, the contractor that installs the city’s sidewalk bike racks. “Businesses are more comfortable with just signing a check and a maintenance agreement,” Giron said. “This makes it a much faster process. On my end, I just put the corral on a work order, just like any other bike rack, and then I go out and supervise the installation.”

At the Cheetah ribbon cutting, Commissioner Gabe Klein focused on the economic benefits of the on-street bike racks. “As you can see behind me the corrals are packed,” he said. “As soon as you put them down they are full of bikes, and they’re being turned over constantly. One car parking space can hold 12 bikes. That’s 12 customers for local businesses.” He added that studies conducted in Toronto and San Francisco showed that while motorists may spend more per visit, bicyclists tend to patronize local merchants more often and spend more per month.

Klein also discussed the other benefits of the corrals, which keep bicycles out of the way of pedestrians, showcase cycling as a convenient travel mode, and advertise businesses as a being bike-friendly. “I was also talking to [Andersonville Chamber of Commerce Director] Ellen Shepard and I asked, ‘Since we’ve made these changes to the street, have you seen traffic changes?’ and she said, ‘Yes. Fewer cars, moving slower, more bikes and more pedestrians.’ And that’s exactly what we want to see.”

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"Bears" need bike parking too! Bike corral at SoFo Tap, 4923 North Clark. Photo: John Greenfield

“We’re very grateful to have such a cool commissioner to help support our efforts in putting in elements like our People Spots and bike corrals,” Shepard said at the event. “In Andersonville we have built our neighborhood around locally owned, independent businesses and environmental sustainability, and having elements like our People Spots and bike corrals have really made this neighborhood blossom even more. It’s been so important to build Andersonville as we want it to be.”

Here’s a full list of the bike corrals slated to be in place by the end of the summer:

  • Revolution Brewing, 2323 N. Milwaukee Ave.
  • Flat Iron Building, 1565 N. Milwaukee Ave.
  • Café Jumping Bean, 1439 W. 18th St.
  • Hopleaf, 5148 N. Clark St.
  • Sofo Tap, 4923 N. Clark St.
  • Make Way for People Spot Corral, 5226 N. Clark St.
  • Cheetah Gym, 5248 N. Clark St.
  • Coffee Studio, 1561 W. Olive Ave.
  • Bikram Yoga, 5715 N. Clark St.
  • Simone’s, 960 W. 18th St.
  • Metropolis, 1039 W. Granville Ave.
  • Kitchen Sink, 1107 W. Berwyn Ave.
  • Intuit Gallery, 756 N. Milwaukee Ave.
  • Boiler Room, 2210 N. California Ave.
  • Village Cyclery, 1337 N. Wells St.
  • Medici, 1327 E. 57th St.
  • Longman and Eagle, 2657 N. Kedzie Ave.
  • Six Corners Chamber of Commerce, 4710 W. Irving Park Road
  • Fleet Feet, 1620 N. Wells St.
  • Lucky’s Sandwiches, 1635 N. Milwaukee Ave.
  • FLATS Chicago: 5411 N. Winthrop Ave.; 5718 N. Winthrop Ave.; 5051 N. Kenmore Ave.; and 1325 W. Wilson Ave.

 

  • Julia

    Fabulous! I will definitely be using the spots at Longman and Boiler Room! Parking for a 2+ bikes at a time is exactly what’s discouraged us from visiting popular Logan Square places more often – I’m so excited to see more on street corrals helping with the volume!

  • CL

    At least this time they’re taking away a parking space for something useful (a different type of parking that is also needed). When I see parklets, I just feel like they’re trolling people who drive.

  • Anonymous

    It would be great to have some of these in East Lakeview/Boystown. The bike racks in front of the Whole Foods/Family Center on Halsted are always overflowing, and it’s usually tough to bike-park at businesses along Diversey near Clark (and Clark, near Diversey),

  • Anonymous

    This is phenomenal! One question, for the parking corrals is that most of these are on great cycling streets of Milwaukee, Clark, Wells, California, Kedzie…but the one in Portage Park (at the real Six corners!!!) stuck out to me on Irving Park Rd? Its the address of the Chamber of Comm. but curious to know if it would actually be there

  • That’s just east of Milwaukee.

  • Anonymous

    Talk to your alderman and the chamber of commerce in that area and ask for them.
    Most alderman what to be seen as taking care of your needs and simple, cost effective things like a bike rack may be up their alley.
    The Chamber of Commerce along that stretch of Clark is looking to improve the attractiveness of of Clark St. Tell them that you think it will help attract shoppers on bikes.

  • You don’t think the parklets are useful? Ever been by the Andersonville People Spot at lunchtime on a nice day?

  • CL

    Benches are useful for sitting, but they are not useful for transportation. Lots of things are useful but don’t belong in the street — I think if we take away parking, we should replace it with things like bike lanes, BRT — the bike racks are also fine.

    The People Spot isn’t a big deal because it’s just one space (I think?) but I don’t like the trend.

  • Tony Giron

    The chamber’s address may not be the exact location for their bike corral. We are still discussing options and welcoming suggestions.

  • R

    Excellent! well Fischmans on Milwaukee Ave. is a great neighborhood asset and now has designated Food Truck parking too. A bike corral would be a welcome addition to this busy stretch

  • Elliott Mason

    Transportation is only useful to a commercial street in as much as it brings people to the businesses and encourages them to spend a lot of time and money at the businesses. Bonus points for them feeling comfortable and homey.

    This is something that enough (not ‘too many’, whatever that is — but definitely not none either) benches can also encourage.

    Don’t fall into the same trap the car-centric planners have, thinking the purpose of a street is high-speed throughput; most streets also ‘want’ lots of trips beginning, ending, and pausing in them.

  • Katja

    Oh awesome, Boiler Room needs one like woah. The spots they have now are always packed. It’ll help with people who want to go to Township and that Masada place (if it ever opens).

  • It’s pretty awesome, the dozens of bikes that currently line both sides of that block of California. I promise that once the Boiler Room corral debuts it will be chronically full, but that’s a good problem to have.

  • A lot of these bikes belong to CTA riders.

  • Tom Wald

    For the record, Austin, Texas has installed 13 on-street bike corrals. Other than those mentioned in the story, what other cities have them?

  • Good question! Amsterdam and Copenhagen for starters…

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