Joe Urban | Sam Newberg, Urbanist

Bike Corrals are Coming to Minneapolis (I Hope)

Dateline: 12:51 pm March 15, 2013 Filed under:

With spring coming it’s time to install that on-street bike rack (bike corral) in front of my brewpub, the Northbound. I approached the ownership prior to their fall 2012 opening about whether they would like that, and I was informed that an application was in process. Thrilled, I volunteered on their behalf to follow-up with Minneapolis Public Works on this application. After all, once they opened, a LOT of people found their way to the Northbound by bike so the need was clearly there. And after all, Minneapolis is the number one biking city in America, right? All these months, dozens of emails, a couple phone calls and a couple face-to-face meetings with City Councilmember Sandy Colvin Roy, I am hopeful that we are getting close. Rumor has it we are.

Northbound Bike Overflow

The image above shows clear demand for bike parking at the Northbound. Look closely. See the bikes chained to poles and trees? Hidden in this photo behind the cars are two existing bike racks (hoops) on the sidewalk. Those hoops are full or cyclists would not need to chain their bikes to signposts and trees, as the photo shows. Overflowing bikes is a common occurrence at the Northbound, and will be again as the ice melts.

The owners of the Northbound hope to place the on-street rack right on 38th Street where that red pickup truck is in the photo – right by the front door. The Northbound has been on-board with this idea from day one. Sacrificing one vehicle parking space to ensure bike parking for eight or more bikes is good math, and good business based on the clear demand for bike parking. People want to park close to the door – this is a way for eight people to do so instead of one car. It is good for business. (Placing the corral on the side street, 28th Avenue, is problematic because that fire hydrant you can see in the photo means the corral would have to be placed farther from the door and in a less visible location.)

The photo below is the on-street bicycle parking at the Birchwood Cafe on 25th Street, the only existing on-street bicycle corral in the city. As you can see, it is well-used, as are the racks on the sidewalk. This is a perfect little urban situation – a bustling business accessible on foot, by bike (also notice the Nice Ride station) or by car. The infrastructure is in place to encourage all three modes. Not only does the bike corral allow for eight bicycles to park in front of the business as opposed to one car (good for business), it doesn’t clutter the sidewalk with bicycles, allowing more space for dining, lingering, chatting wtih neighbors, walking by, and chalk drawings on the sidewalk.

Bike Rack - On Street at Birchwood

I will also point out the traffic calming impacts of the bike parking, subtle but very important. Slower vehicle traffic makes for more livable streets. We’re not blocking a traffic lane, but we are discouraging speed, and that is a good thing. As well, 25th Street is a bus route, which offers evidence that the two (bike parking and buses) can coexist on a street like 38th.

The process has been slow, as I indicated. The reason for this is the City of Minneapolis has no formal process to permit on-street bike corrals. The Northbound has applied for an encroachment permit, which is hardly the way to go about business. Suffice it to say on the past few months I’ve been getting mixed messages and pushback from Public Works. I can hardly blame them – they are doing their job, and this is a new frontier. One rationale I did get for not allowing bike parking on-street was the worry that it is dangerous and someone would be hit by a passing car. By that same reasoning perhaps we should ban on-street parking on 38th Street. That is a city I don’t want to live in. I look at it the opposite way – if the street has objects and activity near traffic lanes like trees, parked cars, bikes, pedestrians, cars tend to slow down, making everyone safer. That IS a city I want to live in.

Picture 353

Above is a picture of a bike corral in Portland, Oregon. I took this photo in 2010 on a visit. I wasn’t even looking for this, but I was cycling the city and passed by a corral, so I stopped and snapped this photo, thinking “what a great idea!”

It is a great idea. Portland has 97 of corrals citywide, and in fact they are good for business. It is important to look to other cities for guidance, and the reason Portland has 97 of these is they have a formal city process to install bicycle corrals. If you’re counting, they are 96 ahead of Minneapolis. If we want to continue to be the number one biking city (I’m more concerned about quality of life than a silly contest), Minneapolis needs to step it up. We’re building bike lanes right and left but we need somewhere to park when we’re thirsty after a long ride!

The Portland bike corrals are seasonal, as they’d have to be in Minneapolis, and they are allowed at nodes where consistent demand for 10 more more bikes exist. The Northbound meets this requirement on a consistent basis, as do many popular nodes around the city. Disagree with me if you will on the point of traffic calming, but you have to admit this is good for business. The evidence indicates people all over are biking to local businesses, so swapping out one car space to allow eight bikes to park in a space is good for business, and that is good for neighborhoods and the city.

Adding one on-street bicycle corral for the Northbound on 38th Street ought to be a slam dunk, and I hope Councilmember Colvin Roy can help get this done. Creating a formalized on-street bike corral for cyclists to park at business nodes would be a nice final piece to Mayor R.T. Rybak’s legacy as the biking mayor.


  1. I went to Northbound’s zoning hearing before they opened and found they were one parking spot below the minimum required by the city. They ended up trading the parking space for four bike parking spots instead of two. Great to see how well everyone compromised on a solution. Even better to see the four bike parking stands aren’t even close to enough 🙂

    Comment by Andrew B — March 15, 2013 @ 4:21 pm

  2. How rad would it be to have a bike valet? All you need is a storage room, charge $8 and it covers your first beer, for example. Get a kid who’ll work for tips, call him an independent contractor (no minimum wage req’s)/LLC kind-of thing.

    Comment by Prescott — March 15, 2013 @ 5:48 pm

  3. Found your post when Mayor Rybak tweeted the link. I hope that helps your process along. My son is an avid cyclist.

    Comment by kmkat — March 16, 2013 @ 4:29 pm

  4. […] my post from March indicates, I’ve spent a little time on this. One year, to be exact. My efforts […]

    Pingback by Joe Urban » Blog Archive » Victory in the Battle for the OK Bike Corral — July 15, 2013 @ 7:50 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>