Sunday, October 27, 2013

Bike Parking in Dunwoody

Effective October 21, 2013 Dunwoody has stripped out requirements to require bike parking anywhere in our city.


Our 5-year old city just completed a 22-month long major re-write of our Zoning Ordinances. It was led by consultants, had an appointed citizen review committee and several public meetings. At the onset of the Re-Write Project in early 2012, I provided the consultants, Community Development Director and other key individuals and staff examples of Best Practices for Bicycle Parking. Why re-invent the wheel? 


Nationally, there is a group of professionals called, The Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals. The APBP has produced an 83-page detailed document entitled, "Bicycle Parking Guidelines". I provided our planners this document as well. Regionally, several other municipalities spell out requirements in their zoning to provide Bike Parking. Examples include Athens-Clarke County, Decatur, Roswell, John's Creek, Savannah and Norcross -- to name a few. In Suwanee – receiving points towards Atlanta Regional Commission Green Communities Certification – their Ordinance spells out a requirement to have Bike Parking “at or near all City of Suwanee parks and community facilities.”

City of Roswell Bike Rack

I started having conversations with city staff in 2009 about bike parking. When word was out that there would be a Zoning Re-Write, they said, "wait until this process, then we'll get it covered then". One official told me, "Don't worry, I've got your back [and will get this covered]. So I patiently waited. 


During the re-write process, the Citizen Sounding Board eliminated the initial recommendation to include Bike Parking and replaced it with a voluntary incentive (I'll discuss this later). Does this sound like a community that has a desire to become Bike Friendly? 


Take a look at some of the comments from at least nine individuals that espouse incorporating accommodations for Bike Parking on the Zoning Re-Write comments website. (Note: I didn't post anything there). Aside from the Citizen Sounding Board, I didn't see anyone chirp up against it from the community. However, when I mentioned this subject earlier this year during a couple of Public meetings there were some snickers and "under the breath" laughs by a few senior -- and very well-known -- members of our community. 


Not sure if any of you know, but prior to the Zoning Code Re-Write, the only area in Dunwoody that had any guidance or requirement for Bike Parking was in the Dunwoody Village Overlay area. How did that requirement get into the Village Overlay? I’m not sure. But no doubt someone found some model ordinances from other municipalities in the United States, and incorporated it. John's Creek & Roswell's Overlay Districts provide for this, too.


Would it have been appropriate to snicker when discussing the requirements on businesses in the Dunwoody Village Overlay District that include items such as "Doors shall be compatible with pre-1900 Mid Atlantic American Colonial Architecture style", or dictating the size of exterior bricks, roof overhangs, "rectilinear" building walls, the type of windows, exterior trim that exhibits "wood-like properties" and so on? 


Would a requirement to REQUIRE bicycle parking been too much of a financial burden on our businesses? Look at the new Chick-fil-a on Jett Ferry. I've been told that they purchased the land for around $700,000 alone. Then they completely built a new structure, landscaping, etc. So we're most likely talking about well over a million dollars to have this new fast food restaurant. But nada on bike parking which would have cost less than $200 bucks. Why? I can't specifically answer that. But it's not specified in our ordinances. 


In our code - and throughout the United States, we DO dictate requirements upon businesses to provide accommodations for motor vehicle parking. So what's the big deal when we ask them -- with guidance & where it makes sense -- to provide for Bike Parking?


So how does the new code work today? It provides a voluntary formula that a property owner can use. It basically says that they can reduce motor vehicle parking requirements by adding bike parking. Let's take the example of the new Gyros restaurant in Georgetown Shopping center. Do they OWN any of the property? No. Do they have control over the motor vehicle parking in the big shared parking lot? No. So they couldn't take "advantage" of this incentive. In fact, there is practically no retail establishment in Dunwoody that they directly own the property. 


I've found out the hard way that even if a retail establishment wants to install a bike rack, they have to ask their property management company. oftentimes, this is owned & managed by a large, out-of-state Real Estate Investment Trust. And getting permission to put a bike rack can be like finding an available plow truck after a major snow storm in Atlanta to clear your driveway. I've been working with a restaurant that's been opened in the Dunwoody Village for over a year now to have a bike rack installed. It still hasn't happened. Their General Manager has sincerely told me they've repeatedly contacted the Property Management Company and is waiting on approval. For over a year.... Still waiting...


So why did I take the time to write this today? Because I woke up this morning to find in my Facebook Feed about, "Four things you can do Right Now to Make Your City More Bike-Friendly". And it goes on to say:

The most revolutionary way to advance the bike movement is also one of the simplest ---


BIKE PARKING

“Providing bicycle parking is one of those magically simple actions that have a disproportionately huge impact. On a micro scale, any small business owner can, for a couple hundred bucks or less, provide a reasonably secure, dry spot for people to park their bikes. For cities and developers looking to accommodate the largest number of personal vehicles for the lowest price, bike parking is a godsend with a massive return on investment.”


In closing, if you want Dunwoody to join Georgia cities such as Roswell, Tybee Island, Decatur, Athens and Savannah and become a Bicycle Friendly Community, I implore you to ask our City Council, City Manager and other leaders to recognize this simple measure and add Bike Parking -- just like we have for automobiles -- into our Zoning.


Contacts:


City Council: 
- councilmembers@dunwoodyga.gov

City Manager: Warren Hutmacher: 
- warren.hutmacher@dunwoodyga.gov

Community Development 
- Deputy Director: Kevin McOmber   Kevin.McOmber@DunwoodyGA.gov

Director of Sustainability: Rebecca Keefer rebecca.keefer@dunwoodyga.gov




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