‘Bikestations’ proliferate as motorists switch to two wheels

Lockers and other facilities for bicyclists are making it more convenient for bicyclists to pedal to and from transit stations.

The latest in a series of facilities linking bicycling to mass transit will open this fall in Hillsboro, Oregon.

Mobis Transportation, a consulting, development, and management firm based in Long Beach, California, has worked with public agencies and other entities since 1995 to establish facilities where cyclists can store their bikes prior to catching a train, bus, streetcar, or shuttle.

The first of the company’s Bikestations — a trademarked name for its facilities offering secure bike storage, repair facilities, and often rest rooms and showers — opened in 1996 in Long Beach. It’s now on the city’s First Street Transit Mall.

For about a decade, the network of Bikestations, modeled after facilities in Europe and Japan, grew slowly, expanding to Palo Alto and Berkeley, California, in 1999 and in Seattle in 2003. The company also helped organizations plan bike facilities under other names in countries such as Mexico and China.

“The real turning point [for Bikestation, a not-for-profit 501c(3) organization] came in 2007-2008,” says Andrea White-Kjoss, president and chief executive officer of Mobis. High gasoline prices, worries about oil security, and concerns about Americans’ sedentary lifestyles and worsening health prospects

“caused a tipping point in [use of] bicycles,” according to White-Kjoss. To her, it now looks as if “every city is competing to be the most bicycle-friendly in the United States.”

The newest facility, “Bikestation Hillsboro,” in the recently completed Intermodal Transit Facility, one block from Tri-Met’s MAX rail line, will offer secure indoor bike parking, showers, rest rooms, lockers, and a bicycle self-repair stand with tools. It’s been estimated that the Hillsboro project will help eliminate 50,000 miles of motor vehicle travel by the end of its first two years.

Bikestations have also been established in Santa Barbara, Claremont, and Covina, California. A Bikestation in Washington, DC, with about 125 indoor parking spaces, is at a major transit hub, Union Station. Services vary somewhat from one location to another. Some offer free parking during business hours, and some have professional bike repair shops. Security cameras enhance safety.

For full use of the facilities, including around-the-clock parking, cyclists typically pay a membership fee of $12 per month or $96 per year plus a $20 annual administrative fee. “This puts biking on a par with other forms of transportation,” White-Kjoss said.

Increasing transit station draw

“The concept is to have more of these facilities dispersed throughout the transit system and the city,” she said. “Typically, people will only walk up to half a mile to get to a transit station,” according to a Bikestation fact sheet. “By bringing bicycles into the mix, we can increase the area that a single transit station can draw from to an average of 2-3 miles.” About 30 percent of those using Bikestations and transit used to drive, said White-Kjoss.

“About five dozen facilities,” she noted, “are in the pipeline.” That number includes the company’s consulting projects, which do not necessarily carry the Bikestation name. Among the company’s services are needs assessments, feasibility studies, construction management, and facilities marketing.

In some cities, the Bikestation is part of a larger effort to get people out of their cars and onto transit, bicycles, and their own feet. The Bikestation that opened last February In Claremont, California, is in the city’s “Bike Priority Zone” — a two-square-mile area where there’s been a municipal initiative to establish safe bike routes, pedestrian walkways, and bike parking — giving people alternative methods of getting around.

One challenge, White-Kjoss said, is that over the past two yers, the staff of many of the agencies that would work with Mobis on bike facilities has been cut because of the depressed economy.