One of the chronic problems confronting downtown bike commuters is bicycle parking. There just aren’t enough bollards, streets signs, and bike racks to get the job done. And not many people want to leave their high-end bikes-or even their modestly priced machines-affixed to paint-scraping surfaces or exposed to the vagaries of the elements, not to mention would-be thieves.
City Hall stepped in to fill this breach earlier this spring, with the grand opening of the bikestation-the first locked and enclosed bicycle parking garage to open its doors in Santa Barbara County. Modeled after other bikestations throughout the state-the first was opened in Long Beach in the early ’90s-Santa Barbara’s new facility offers its members not just 80 secure parking spaces, but shower facilities, a restroom, lockers, a tool station for do-it-yourself repairs, and a vending machine selling patch-kits, inner tubes, bike gloves, lights, and lubes.
Currently, about 55 riders have subscribed, but given projected use-rates, the bikestation can accommodate about 200 riders. That number might appear low, but it’s significantly higher than what other bikestations posted so soon after opening. And the marketing campaign has yet to begin.
The facility is open 24 hours a day to members, who pay $96 a year-or $12 a month-for the amenities. Security cameras are mounted on the ceiling; the shower room locks from inside and a special passkey is required to get inside.
Dru van Hengel, City Hall’s bike coordinator, deserves much of the credit not just for spearheading the idea but keeping the plans alive during the new parking garage’s lengthy and expensive gestation process. But van Hengel is quick to share the credit. “This was always part of the design for the new garage,” she said. “It was never something forced on us. It was a staff-generated idea.”