Local News

Thursday, Mar 14 2013 04:48 PM

City to require more bike racks at new, expanded buildings

BY ANTONIE BOESSENKOOL Californian staff writer aboessenkool@bakersfield.com

Bicycle riders in Bakersfield may not have to look as far for a place to park their bikes once new requirements take effect in July for builders to install bike racks in more instances.

Currently, according to state code, builders must install bike racks for new buildings that are expected to have members of the public visit. That means, for example, that industrial buildings that likely wouldn't see foot traffic from the public wouldn't be required to install the racks. That requirement took effect in 2011.

But starting this July 1, bike racks also will be required for additions and alterations to buildings the public visits within certain parameters.

The Community Services Committee, one of the handful of standing committees of the Bakersfield City Council, met Thursday to incorporate the changes into the city code and clarify the new requirements for builders.

On July 1, bike parking will be required for additions or alterations of 2,000 square feet or more with an estimated construction cost or value of $500,000 or more. On Jan. 1, 2014, the requirement will become even more stringent. Bike parking will be required for additions or alterations of 1,000 square feet or more with a value or cost of $200,000 or more.

The number of bike racks is also set and depends on how many vehicle parking spaces are built or added. There has to be at least one bike parking space for every 20 vehicle parking spaces, or at least two bike parking spaces for additions and alterations that meet the threshold. That's in line with the current requirement for the ratio of bike parking spaces to vehicle parking spaces.

The Community Services Committee, made up of just two members at the moment, also approved guidelines for builders on what type of bike racks are acceptable, convenient and secure.

Single U-shaped racks, for example, are acceptable because riders can lock a wheel and the bike frame to the rack, whereas the traditional racks of vertical rails aren't acceptable.

City Councilman Bob Smith, founder of the nonprofit organization Bike Bakersfield, has been a longtime proponent of more bicycle lanes and increasing bike ridership locally. The standard upside-down W-shaped racks, common around Bakersfield, "don't work," Smith said, because they force riders to lock their bikes sideways, which is inconvenient and less secure.

"It'd be like having a car parking spot that was five foot by five foot and say, 'OK, park your car there,'" Smith said.

The hope with the new guidelines for builders is that increasing safety and convenience for riders will encourage people to bike more, he said.

"We make automobile travel very convenient. We take care of parking at either end. We take care of nice, wide streets all the way. We have standards so we encourage automobile travel," he said. "We should have the same standards that, if people so choose, that (bicycling) becomes a very convenient thing for them, instead of a difficult thing."

"We hope that bicycling will become more prevalent and more popular for many reasons, the price of gas and health benefits, said Jacquie Sullivan, the chair of the committee.

Because the committee's action Thursday was technically only a clarification rather than a change to city code, it doesn't need to be approved by the full city council.

The third seat on the committee is empty, to be filled by the yet-to-be-elected Ward 1 council member.

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