They started showing up en masse a year ago, clustering around places like Marsh Chapel, the clock tower by the Tsai Performance Center, and the tender saplings recently planted along Commonwealth Avenue.
To some, they are ungainly eyesores, impediments to handicapped access or emergency exits; for others, they’re a superior means of transportation, a good workout, and a practical way to reduce carbon emissions.
Bikes are everywhere at BU. And now cyclists have more space to store them.
A new indoor bike storage space opens today at Warren Towers, with room for 447 students, faculty, and staff to stash their bicycles. Another indoor parking area, for 50 bikes, opened earlier this fall at 504 Park Drive in South Campus. And there are more to come.
“The demand for on-campus bike parking changed significantly with the establishment of the Commonwealth Avenue bike lane last year,” says Dwight Atherton, director of Parking and Transportation Services. “As soon as it was painted, bicyclists began to appear out of the woodwork. There were bicycles attached to anything that wasn’t moving.”
The one-mile stretch from Kenmore Square to the BU Bridge is a highly visible and well-used part of the Boston Bikes program initiated by Boston Mayor Thomas Menino (Hon.’01) to create a network of bike lanes and add 250 bike racks throughout Boston. University planners knew that with the bike path would come demand for bike parking, Atherton says, but they didn’t know how much demand.
Right now, there are 3,585 indoor and outdoor spaces to park bikes around campus — an increase of 137 percent over last year, but officials are scouting locations for more racks. They are mapping bike rack locations and noting where bikes tend to cluster. That, says Atherton, is the easy part. The hard part is finding accessible space on an already jam-packed campus.
“Bicyclists may be athletic, but they’re not interested in walking very far to get to bike racks,” he says. “You have to put the racks where bikers go.”
At the end of the day, many of those bikers go to dorms, and they’d like to take their bikes with them. So far, the University has converted a computer room at 504 Park Drive to an indoor parking space and appropriated 12 parking spots and a chunk of Kinko’s storage space to create the Warren Towers first floor facility.
Tucked off Cummington Street, Warren’s space is accessible with a swipe of a BU I.D. A chain-link fence surrounds rows of black bike racks arranged like hurdles. On a far wall, metal hooks and sturdy chains accommodate vertically mounted bikes. Warren Towers residents and faculty and staff get first dibs for two weeks after the site opens. Remaining slots will go to registered cyclists interested in the program.
Finding the South Campus site can be a challenge. Cyclists should follow signs for the “South Campus Computer Center and Study Lounge” to the back of 504 Park Drive, then look for doors with card-swipe devices. The basement room is heated and carpeted, with four bike racks on each side.
Craig Hill, associate vice president for auxiliary services, says the University spent $55,000 for the Warren Towers storage area and $15,000 for the South Campus site. “This is part of the University’s investment in alternative, greener methods of commuting around campus,” Hill says.
The parking facilities are free, but cyclists are required to register their bikes with Parking and Transportation Services.
From January to September this year, according to Officer Peter Shin, BU Police registered 120 bikes. Atherton’s office added at least another 92 bikes to that list since taking over in September.
Cyclists get perks for registering. BU Police can track stolen bikes and return them to owners when found; the University provides registrants with updates on activities directly affecting the biking community; and cyclists who park illegally are warned before bikes are removed from a location.
But registering bikes goes only so far. Cyclists are instructed to place their black-and-white BU registration tag on the down tube of their rides. Officers can identify a bike and its owner from these tags. No tag and the officer, and potentially the cyclist, is out of luck.
Of the eight bikes locked to racks in the basement of 504 Park Drive on a recent weekday morning, only two displayed a BU registration tag.
Leslie Friday can be reached at email@example.com.