What Would Get Americans Biking to Work?
When we talk about transportation, we tend to talk about things in motion. What is often left unremarked upon, in conversations about crowded highways, is something without which those crowds would not exist: parking. That humble 9-by-18-foot space (the standard size of a spot) is where traffic begins and ends. It is the fuel to traffic's fire.
Why is it overlooked? One possibility is that parking is more typically treated as real estate, the subject of arcane building codes and zoning regulations, rather than as a part of transportation networks; given that cars spend 95 percent of their time parked, this makes some sense. Another reason may simply be that, in most of America, parking is taken as a given. Donald Shoup, author of The High Cost of Free Parking, has estimated that 99 percent of car trips in the United States terminate in a free parking space, which means the nation's drivers don't have much incentive to think about parking—or not driving. In many American places, there are more parking spaces than people.
If car parking is often overshadowed in traffic talk, bicycle parking is even more obscure. For many people in the United States it might be hard to imagine what there is to talk about. Why don't you just stick it in the garage? Or: Isn't that what street signs and trees are for? But as the share of trips made by bicycle has grown in recent years—in Portland, Ore., for example, bicycle use has grown nearly 150 percent since 1990, and an estimated 5 percent of people bike to work—new attention is being paid to what happens to those bicycles when they are not in motion.