Monday’s local newspaper ran a lead editorial that supported the concept of a bike parking ordinance but not its adoption at the present time for the City of Lansing. The editorial staff felt the decision should be left up to individual businesses. Are you kidding me? Did we just time warp back to the 1890s or something?
As an avid bike commuter I was appalled by this editorial for its utter lack of vision. Here we sit in the state with the 10th highest obesity rate in the nation and the local paper is worried about the potential cost of bike racks. Just two years ago, the paper touted the fact that Lansing had been recognized as a bicycle-friendly city. Just the day before it lamented the high obesity rates in our state. What better way to promote fitness, exercise, and improved health than getting more people to bike. The $200 for a bike rack is far less expensive for a local business than the increased health insurance rates they may have to pay. An often-cited reason by non-cyclists for not riding to work or errands is the lack of safe and available parking. I can cite numerous occasions where I have seen bikes chained to street signs, parking meters, trees, and all sorts of other fixed objects.
Aside from the obvious health-related benefits, businesses that provide bike parking can use it as a catalyst for increasing their business as well as a convenience for their employees and customers. In a region with tens of thousands of college students at Michigan State, Lansing Community College, and Cooley Law School, providing bike parking would seem like an absolute must for success. Call it free public relations, goodwill, or whatever you want, but bike parking is a marketing tool and a way of increasing customer traffic. Furthermore, the proposed bike ordinance provides an incentive by allowing less car parking spaces in exchange for bike parking racks as well as a waiver provision. Sure sounds less expensive and cost-effective to me.
Lastly, the newspaper cited competitiveness in attracting new businesses to the city. My response is that is total bunk. The creative class and emerging firms are looking for places that are healthy and on the cutting edge of competitiveness, not “couch-potato also rans.” The newspaper’s philosophy borders on Ebenezer Scrooge-style thinking that would leave Lansing in the proverbial competitive dust. Besides, a number of the surrounding communities already have bike parking ordinances – it’s not like this is anything unique to the area.
Recently, Kalamazoo approved a bike parking ordinance with the support of the local chamber of commerce. Obviously they get it in Kalamazoo. But still, Lansing’s major newspaper does not get it… and perhaps they never will.