Bicycle Parking in Commercial Areas

Bicycle parking in commercial areas is used mostly by shoppers for brief durations of time, but also by business employees for longer durations. Security is very important to both types of users, but convenience is a priority to short-term shoppers while shelter from precipitation is a priority to long-term users. Lack of proper bicycle parking results in bicycles locked to ornamental trees, fences, utility pipes and railings, and discourages bicycle transportation.

Proper Bike Rack Design

A bike rack consists of one or more bike rack elements, each of which is capable of holding one or two bikes. A well-designed bike rack element has the following characteristics:

  • It supports the bicycle by the frame, not the wheels
  • It accepts both U-locks and cables, with no way to slip a cable off the end
  • It accommodates lock placement on both wheels and the frame simultaneously
  • It is securely mounted to resist removal

A popular type of bike rack element meeting these requirements is the simple inverted-U design, as shown below. Each inverted-U rack element accommodates two bikes, one on each side, and allows both wheels and the frame to be secured to the rack simultaneously by short U-locks or cables. Locking both wheels is important to prevent theft of wheels with quick-release skewers.

(Author’s disclaimer: Unlike most bicycles, bicycle shown above features locking wheel skewers to deter wheel theft.)

Rack designs that hold the bicycle by the wheel (such as “comb” racks) can damage a wheel. Racks that do not allow easy locking of both wheels (such as “wave” racks) result in unintended and inefficient positioning of bikes. Such designs should not be used.

Bike racks need not take up much space as the cluster of rack elements shown above. A compact isolated rack element like the one shown below is very servicable.  However, a caveat of this narrower design is that it is less effective at encouraging users to orient their bicycles parallel to the rack element, which may be a concern in locations where the site designer wishes to orient bicycles away from a path of pedestrian movement.

A compact inverted-U rack element

Many alternative rack element designs exist, but few compete with the inverted-U for functionality. Some designs incorporate aesthetic features that detract from performance or fall short of the requirements listed above. In contrast, a very effective alternative design is the Cycle Spot developed by HumanCentric of Cary, North Carolina for the NYC CityRacks design competition.

HumanCentric Cycle Spot

The Cycle Spot design shares the basic functionality of an inverted-U, but its form clearly communicates its purpose and intended bicycle orientation to the observer. It is as attractive as most art-inspired bike rack designs while enticing novices into using it effectively – a bike rack with training wheels.

Parking Meters

Parking meters often function as alternative or overflow bike parking. Parking meters that are securely mounted in the ground work well with standard-size U-locks. U-locks are designed to provide an opening smaller than the head of a normal parking meter. In order to accommodate cable locks, one or more loops may be welded onto the meter pole as illustrated below. This provides additional bike parking in dense areas without adding to street clutter.


With one or more loops added, a U-lock friendly parking meter can also accommodate cable locks.

Rack Placement

The location of bike rack elements on a property affect their utilization and effectiveness. Some guidelines on rack placement:

  • Multiple installations of individual rack elements distributed throughout the area and located close to individual destinations are preferable to a single large cluster of racks, which may not fit in a convenient location. Cyclists prefer to park very close to their destinations and will lock the bicycle to anything available unless a rack is immediately nearby.  Multiple cyclists traveling together often lock their bikes together at a small bike rack.  A small commercial establishment may not need to accommodate more than one or two bicycles at once, but at major destinations such as indoor shopping malls and multiplex cinemas a higher concentration of bicycle parking may be needed at entrances.
  • Racks should be in public view with high visibility and good lighting. Avoid placing racks where a thief or vandal could work without fear of being immediately noticed. Experienced cyclists will not park their bicycles out of public view.
  • Racks should be close to building entrances to make bicycling more convenient.
  • Racks should be covered by building roof overhangs, where possible, in order to protect bicycles from precipitation.
  • Bicycles should not block pedestrian ways by jutting out into a sidewalk. Racks should be designed to allow the parked bicycle to be oriented parallel to the walkway and minimize obstruction.

More information on bicycle parking can be found at

APBP Bicycle Parking Guidelines




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