Members of an Evanston city committee Wednesday night objected to staff plans to test on-street bike parking over fears it would cut into parking meter revenue.

The Transportation and Parking Committee was told by City Engineer Paul Schneider that because most downtown sidewalks are narrow, it’s difficult to create more space for bike parking without using the street.

He pointed to “bike corrals” some other communities have created in on-street parking spaces and said a corral with racks for a dozen bikes could be located in the space now used to park two cars.

He suggested testing the concept on Benson Avenue outside the Evanston Athletic Club — which now has a large collection of bikes locked to poles along the narrow sidewalk.

Schneider said buying the racks and other material needed to create a corral would cost about $2,000.

He said two metered parking spaces in a prime downtown location can generate $6,000 a year in revenue for the city, and noted that the displaced parkers might move to under-utilized city garages, letting the city recoup the lost revenue from the meters.

But committee members seemed convinced that all revenue from any meters taken out would surely be lost.

And they debated whether exercise enthusiasts who drive or bike to the club are more unwilling to walk an extra few feet to the club’s front door.

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, suggested adding more bike racks under the CTA viaduct at Clark Street, about 300 feet from the athletic club. That would provide covered parking for the bikes, she said.

But Schneider said existing bike racks adjacent to the CTA right-of-way along Benson are underused. “What we’re finding is that people really want to park bikes at the location where they’re going,” he added.

Committee members also seemed convinced that club patrons who drive would be unwilling to walk the roughly 700 feet from the club to the city’s Maple Avenue parking garage.

A possible compromise was offered by Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, who says she used to work at the athletic club.

She suggested asking the club’s management to pick up part of the cost of the bike corral test.

“I know the members want this,” Burrus said, “and I believe they [the club’s management] would be willing to pony up some money for it.”

The committee asked city staff to explore that option with the club’s management.

The committee did not discuss whether car drivers or bike riders generate more sales tax and other non-parking meter revenue for the city, and therefore whether twelve customers on bikes might generate more total revenue for the city than two customers in cars.

Top: A image from City Engineer Paul Schneider’s presentation of a bike corral in another community.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Revenue fears? How about $2.6 million for empty parking garage

    It is inaccurate to assume that car parking revenue will be "lost" with the conversion of two spaces to bike parking.

    Most likely, drivers will find another place to park–perhaps even in one of the downtown garages that are NEVER at or near capacity and which the city is spending $2.6 million on for repairs.

    One less car in front of EAC=one more car in a garage and the revenue is equal. If you stack up what it costs to improve bike infrastructure versus car infrastructure, the bike wins every time.

    Even if you don't normally cycle, the more people who do results in lower infrastructure costs for everyone. This project should be a no-brainer.

    1. I second this.

      I second this.  This is incredibly short sighted by the City Council.  You only lose meter revenue if a car driver gets to downtown and then decides to go home because they can't find a parking spot.  Tell me when that will ever happen.   There are usually open meters on Benson between Clark and University anyway.

  2. EPL Bikeracks

    EPL Main definitely needs more bikeracks.  It would be nice to have them by where the current racks are but more need to be added—they are always full.  While more could be added on the rear NE area, security [more and more bike thefts in Evanston] would point to the area in the NW area of the library. 

    NU could help by putting back and making for public use the racks that use to be in front McManus [Kellogg] dorm just north of the library.

    1. Maybe the EPL Friends could

      Maybe the EPL Friends could donate some bike racks to the Main Branch.

  3. Just put meters at each bike

    Just put meters at each bike location, that should mean equal or more revenue since there will be more than 2 bikes in the space of 2 cars.

  4. pathetic

    yeah.  don't encourage a healthy, non-polluting means of transportation.  potholes, pollution, traffic, health, it is a money saver.  

    In chess you learn to think a few moves ahead.  We need to be thinking a few moves ahead.

  5. Chicago is much more forward-thinking than Evanston on transport

    Here is a quote from Gabe Klein, the guy who Rahm hired to oversee transportation in Chicago:

    “It’s just that we’ve prioritized automobiles since post-World War II. It’s made pedestrians and cyclists feel at a distinct disadvantage. We’re gonna put the streets back closer to the way they were before the urban expressways were built in the late ‘50s. We’re trying to go back to a time when things were more balanced.”

    The bike corral idea is something Chicago and countless cities across the nation have implemented.

    It speaks to the parochial thinking of Evanstonians that this is actually controversial.  The people on the transportation committee act like it is 1950.  Get with the times.  With petrol at north of $4 gallon it makes economic sense to encourage low-impact types of transport.

  6. Priorities, Alderpeople!

    According to the City's website "Evanston has been pursuing its goal of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 7% from the 1990 levels by 2012." But apparently a choice of encouraging a sustainable form of transportation and the loss of $6,000 in annual revenue, the money wins out.


  7. changes in attitudes

    I'll admit that I used to drive everywhere. Economic realities forced me to change my habits and being able to park and ride my bicycle has changed my life. Last week, I made a delivery in to Chicago for my business via my bike (in the 100 degree heat) and then headed over to lake front for a dip. One of the happiest days of my life especially knowing I spent zero dollars on foreign oil.  

    Say what you will about the former Mayor of Chicago, but he created a bike path system that goes beyond remarkable.

    The more bike friendly Evanston can be the better!

  8. Bike corral plan runs into revenue fears

    "Members of an Evanston city committee Wednesday night objected to staff plans to test on-street bike parking over fears it would cut into parking meter revenue."  Who are these people? What Committee?

    Did anyone study how much more revenue might be created with bike friendly shopping revenues of people who don't want to drive and park downtown and bonus, lower health care costs for those benefiting from regular exercise?

    It would be a shame if the City "Fathers" (and Mothers) can't take a chance and put some money where our mouths are… by lowering communitywide carbon – one gallon of gasoline burned = nearly 20 lbs of CO-2.  Besides, one lawsuit from someone tripping over a hastily parked (or worse, "dumped") bike on the sidewalk could exceed that amount by multiples.

    Let's stretch the envelope and put that one in and while we are at it, support our local bike shops by adding the same in front of their stores… It's time to be socially responsible (and smart)!

    Or we can take that $6000 and just give it away to developers and any other needy groups that ask.

    Respectfully submitted, Brian G. Becharas

    1. Transportation and Parking Committee against transport

      Brian, it is technically called the "Transportation and Parking Committee."

      However, if you look at their agendas for the last year it would be more appropriate to call it the "Car Committee," since the bike corral is the first specific bike project that has been on their agenda in months.

      The city's planning documents claim to aspire to a "multi modal" transportation system, but that message apparently hasn't sunk in with the transportation committee.

      As for your question about studies of the benefits of cycling: the city has not done them, but many other municipalities have and it is pretty much unanimous that putting money into cycling infrastructure is a good investment economically, ecologically, and socially.

      Let me say one word about this committee. I was at this meeting and as the article suggests none of the benefits of promoting cycling were discussed.

      Furthermore–unlike most committee, council, and board meetings–there was no opportunity for public comment. This seems to violate the spirit of the Boards and Commissions guidelines that are available on the city's website.

  9. City priorities are seriously confused

    There are very few concrete initiatives to promote biking that have actually moved forward in Evanston, despite the fact that almost every transportation-related planning effort that has been undertaken in the City in recent years has specifically called for such improvements, including the Multimodal Transportation Plan, the Evanston Strategic Plan, the Evanston Climate Action Plan, the previous Bicycle Plan, and the Evanston Bicycle Parking Report.

    Why on earth would the City spend tens of thousands of dollars in staff time and consulting fees to produce these plans, if it is only going to balk at the possible loss of $6,000/year when it comes to implementing the recommendations.

    The community supports this, the City's own analysis, research, and stated priorities support this. It's truly disturbing that this is even being brought into question.

    The City needs to focus first on its residents–that's why it exists. The bottom line is that making it easier to bike instead of drive will save individuals money on transportation costs and encourages physical activity, which has sadly shifted from something basic to something rare. A bike corral is a really good way to make biking visible and thereby encourage it–and $6,000 is a pretty cheap marketing budget, besides the fact that this is not "lost" revenue, as any urban economist could explain.

    If the City is also worried about saving itself money (and it should be), then it ought to move forward on the numerous recommendations to reform parking pricing policy. This could generate way more than a few thousand dollars, and it would be based on sound parking economics and actual analysis of parking utilization, not a committee member's "gut feeling" about which parking is high-demand or not.

    The Transportation Committee is making the City look really bad here. They seem very bent on business as usual, instead of moving forward, which does not bode well for the future of Evanston or the quality of life of its residents.

    1. Bikes at City Hall—Maybe start there

      I have never seen more than three bikes parked at city hall.  Maybe the mayor and council should start with reducing the car parking space, make employees pay for parking [if they don't already] and STRONGLY encourage employees to bike, walk or take CTA to city hall and other government offices.   They should set an example.

      City employees should/must [if not change the law] live in Evanston, so between biking, walking or public transportation there is no excuse for all the cars at city hall.


      1. We’d love to but

        Hey as an employee I'd love to bike to work but unfortunately I, like many City Employees have to use our private vehicles for work.

      2. City employees should/must live in Evanston

        Before you start demanding all employees live in Evanston, here is a quick breakdown of median home prices for a 4 bed, 3 bath 2,500 sq. ft. house in some of the suburbs as  well as average property taxes on those homes. 

        Evanston – $528,500 Tax – $12,000

        Schaumburg – $339,833 Tax – $7,200

        Hoffman Estates – $338,750 Tax – $7,400

        Grayslake – $200,167 Tax – $7,300

        Lake Villa – $256,500 Tax – $7,400

        Carol Stream – $378,333 Tax – $6,900

        Downers Grove – $308,833  Tax – $4,600

        With the higher cost of living, higher home prices, higher real estate taxes … What type of raises are you proposing for the employees to be able to afford living here?


  10. Bike Corral Ribbon Cutting Tonight

    For anyone wishing to view an existing working bike corral, the ribbon cutting ceremony for Chicago's first one is tonight, Friday July 29 at 5:00 PM. Location: Wicker Park, Milwaukee just south of North Avenue.  After-party across the street at Francesca's Forno.  Details:

    Or, join the gigantic party on bicycles tonight, Chicago Critical Mass, which leaves Daley Plaza (Clark & Washington) around 6:00 PM the last Friday of every month.

  11. Windfarm studies and bag

    Windfarm studies and bag free but no to bike racks?   It's as if the city only wants to be showy with it's "green-ness."


  12. Bike parking

    Bike corrals would be nice, but give bike thieves more choice of bikes to steal and relative anonymity among a larg group of parked bikes.  These thieves get their bike whether they are locked or not.  2nd, more police enforcement of the prohiibition of riding bikes on downtown sidewalks would be nice.   You can hardlly walk downtown sometimes while dodging bicycles, even though there are signs on lamp posts and on the sidewalk prohibiting riding.  If its not enforced, then why bother with signs?

  13. The math seems simple

    The worry here is about parking revenue? That shows how seriously narrow the thinking has become. Imagine if 12 people on bikes come downtown to spend their money, replacing the two who would have come down in cars. Granted I wasn't a math major, but seems like that results in more people downtown and quite possibly more dollars spent. Certainly there is the opportunity for more dollars. Businesses want to open in an area where more people can stop by, even on a whim. Imagine if there are more bike riders downtown because they can park more efficiently and safely, more foot traffic, leading to a more desirable downtown, leading to more big box and cottage businesses, leading to…what was that? Oh…more revenue.

    Wonder which tactic is ultimately more sustainable. If you only worry about meter revenue, and people avoid the area for that reason, businesses suffer and fail, downtown becomes less desirable a place to shop, and the negative cycle continues.



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