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San Francisco will require commercial building owners to allow bikes inside (San Francisco Bicycle Coalition/Creative Commons)

Most city bike commuters struggle with what to do with their
bikes, both at their residence and once at their destinations and places of
employment. In San Francisco, California a new ordinance has initial approval
that will allow riders to bring their bikes into commercial buildings.

Many cities have tried to encourage bicycle commuting with
the addition of city sponsored bicycle centers, but the San Francisco Board of
Supervisors have skipped the middleman and given initial approval a resolution
that would require building owners to allow tenants to bring their bikes
inside. The ordinance has the endorsements of both the Building Owners and Managers
Association of San Francisco and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

This is already being seen as a game-changing move that
could inspire many to use the bike, instead of the car, to get to work. “We
think this is very significant,” Leah Shahum, San
Francisco Bicycle Coalition
executive director told BikeRadar. “One of the
major impediments in San Francisco has been secure and safe bike parking for
riders while they are at work. We do think there is going to be a boost in
riders.”

Shahum cited a report conducted by the San Francisco Municipal
Transportation Agency
that found that cycling has seen a 71-percent
increase among residents in the last five-year span. And key among what
residents have clamored for is secure bicycle parking.

Of course not all building owners are likely to support the
move, and owners who want to put limitations on bike access to their respective
buildings will have to complete a bicycle access plan and submit it to the
city’s Department of the Environment for approval.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors
board voted 9-2 in favor of the proposal, with Carmen Chu and Sean Elsbernd as
the two supervisors to vote no. Chu said in a statement that she was worried
that the ordinance would put too much stress on city departments that “are
already taxed at the moment.”

However, Supervisor John Avalos responded in a
statement, “We could follow up later if we’re seeing there’s a real issue, but I
believe that for the most part there’s been embracing of us. We’re not asking
anyone to make space for a bike where there isn’t space.”

It was also noted that owners could ask for total exceptions
to the ordinance if a building’s elevators were not available for bicycle
access or if there was secure off-street parking or indoor, no-cost parking
within three blocks of the building. These applications for the exception
would require an inspection of the building by the city’s Department of
Building Inspection as well as an inspection of the parking site by the Livable
Streets subdivision of the Municipal Transportation Agency.

Shahum said that this shouldn’t be seen as a problem and
notes that some building owners, and tenants are simply getting creative. “Employers
want biker parking because employees want bike parking,” she added that in
those cases where there isn’t room for bikes or proper access, some buildings
are working together. “We’re hearing from building owners and employers where
space is tight, such as in some shops.”

Bike commuters in front of a building’s bike coral; building owners are being creative retrofitting spaces and sharing bike storage with other buildings

She noted that the trendy Union Square area is one example,
and the really small businesses are working to see if space can expanded and
improved in local parking garages. “A lot of garages are building out secure
cages,” she said. “This provides a secure bike parking in the garage. And
elsewhere, folks are being creative about it.”

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