I am an observant townie who rides a bicycle for commuting and recreation. In a couple of instances, turning cars nearly hit me and I almost became another traffic statistic.

Thankfully, my close calls were not fatal. Due to frequent car crashes occurring in Hawaii in recent years, the passage of House Bill 757 by the state Legislature this year could require the city and state departments to adopt Vision Zero policies to design streets that prevent traffic injuries and fatalities.

Safety is a major concern when traveling from point A to point B, but why are we not discussing parking? People who drive a car expect available parking stalls at their final destinations and are generally successful with securing a spot.

For people who ride a bicycle, they are not so lucky.

Inadequate bike parking is an impeding factor for those deliberating about owning and riding a bicycle.

Not too long ago, the city appeared to recognize this issue and passed Ordinance 17-55 in October 2017. As summarized by the Hawaii Bicycling League, the ordinance requires all new commercial, business, employment, and apartment developments provide quality bike parking on Oahu.

While I appreciate the city’s efforts, a three letter word addition minimizes progress.

Inserting the word “new” means this law only benefits a few individuals fortunate to reside or be employed at a recently constructed location, such as the American Savings Bank headquarters in Chinatown. Bike parking is therefore optional for existing developments prior to Ordinance 17-55.

Absent bike parking, high-rise dwellers could secure their bicycles inside their unit with elevator assistance. However, it is not an ideal solution in cramped apartments unsuitable for bike storage. Low-rise dwellers living above the first floor also face the inconvenience of walking their bicycles up and down stairs.

Light for cyclist near the intersection of Victoria Street and King Street. Red light stop. 23 june 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat
A light for cyclist near the intersection of Victoria Street and King Street, June 2015. More bike lanes are great, but we als need more places to park bikes. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Despite shoulder pain, my acquaintance who rents on an elevator-less low-rise is burdened with climbing the stairs to the fourth floor whilst carrying both a heavy backpack and a bicycle. If he locks it outside on the streets, his bicycle not only accumulates rust, it is at risk from theft. Presently, he cannot afford to move out of town or rent a new dwelling unit, like the high rises in Kakaako where there are sufficient bike parking.

The Oahu Bike Plan briefly mentions bike parking at transit stops. Until the entire rail is built, we should focus on adding bike racks at places people frequent.

Seeking permission from others to install bike parking is a slow and ineffective process. Sometimes, the requests are met with opposition from businesses and condo associations. For example, some condo associations have complained about “bikes damaging parked cars, about the aesthetics of so many bikes, and about how the presence of bikes might attract thieves.”

This nimby attitude is prevalent among folks who refuse to keep up with changing times. As noted in Sterling Higa’s column titled “I Don’t Need A Car Anymore, And I’m Not The Only One,” the current trend is towards less reliance on personal automobiles. Besides myself, most of my acquaintances possess driver’s licenses but choose to ride a bicycle.

Prioritizing those who drive a car neglects residents who travel by other means. Senate Bill 663, also known as the red light safety bill, targets driver behaviors, but what about bike parking security?

Look To Cambridge

Over the years, I had quite a few bicycles and parts stolen at various places and times in town. Dealing with theft remains a low priority with the police and I am left heartbroken on numerous occasions.

If we pay attention to those who ride a bicycle, then a new law will require surveillance cameras overlooking unsecured bike racks at all employment and apartment locations. Because people spend their day primarily at work and at home, it makes sense to deter thieves with surveillance cameras at final destinations.

Hawaii’s weather is ideal for year round bicycling. Providing protected infrastructure and convenient storage is possible if we take immediate action like other bike-friendly cities on the mainland. We can follow in the footsteps of Cambridge, Massachusetts, the first U.S. city to make protected bike lanes mandatory.

Besides implementing safety measures on the streets, addressing the parking issue is a crucial factor among those considering the switch from driving to bicycling. A more inclusive Hawaii is one where bike parking is accessible to anyone.

Once the law is amended by deleting the word “new,” buildings existing prior to Ordinance 17-55 would not have an excuse to ignore demand for bike parking or remove existing bike racks on-site.

“Inadequate bike parking is an impeding factor for those deliberating about owning and riding a bicycle.”

The city needs to acknowledge this important public benefit, which indirectly increases bike ridership and boosts an environmental friendly mindset. It is unacceptable that we accommodate cars for all types of developments, and yet bicycle parking is available only to the few in favorable circumstances. Updates to the Land Use Ordinance are expected to occur in multiple phases, and I encourage future amendments to reflect current trends.

There is always room for improvement in the area of bike parking. I envision land set aside for weather-protected bike cages in every neighborhood similar to street parking for cars. Since space is allocated for Biki bikes throughout town, we can do the same for adequate bike parking.

People who own a bicycle deserves the proper infrastructure to secure their property. Ensuring bicycle parking requirements that covers all past and present developments is essential during the transition from car ownership to eco-friendly transportation options.

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