PARKING DEMAND OF A DIFFERENT SORT
The bicycle-friendly city of Keene has an attractive, vibrant and walkable downtown. Keene is ringed with miles of bike trails on converted railroad beds and more bike lanes are being created on the city streets to encourage safe bicycling. But there have never been enough bicycle racks to accommodate the bicyclists who came into the downtown from other parts of the city and from adjacent towns. To compensate, people hitch their bikes to meters, railings and stairways.
Vulnerable populations who lives in the outskirts of the city often do not own cars and depend on bicycles for transportation. Creating a safe/convenient place for bicycle parking is an important part of encouraging bicycling — regardless of whether the reason to bicycle was recreation or necessity.
The Southwest Region Planning Commission took on the challenge through its program, Monadnock Alliance for Sustainable Transportation. First, MAST inventoried all the racks in Keene (total of 75 spaces). Racks were lacking in high traffic areas (near banks, grocery stores, the food coop) and in areas where the city’s vulnerable population lived and worked. The SWRPC had a limited budget to purchase the racks ($130-$200 each). In 2014 a grant paid for half the racks; the balance was paid by participating businesses. In 2015 the CDC PICH grant paid the entire cost of the bike racks (partnering businesses pay for the installation and maintenance) for a targeted 100 new bicycle parking spaces.
In 2014, bicycle racks were installed in 11 new locations throughout the city, including those that served vulnerable populations. In 2015 a total of 31 new locations have been slated for racks, totaling 68 new bike racks (with room for 136 bicycles, over the goal of 100 spaces); locations include low income housing such as long-term motels, apartments as well as social service agencies. Through monies donated by Healthy Monadnock, 10 more bicycle racks were purchased (for an additional 20 spaces). Publicity about the Rack it Up program included radio PSAs, local articles, Facebook and Pinterest accounts, press releases and outreach by MAST volunteers. As a result of the publicity, Rack it Up was named New Hampshire Magazine’s “Best of New Hampshire” for sustainable transportation in 2015.
Part of our goals … is to promote healthy lifestyles, and bicycling is quite frankly a great way to exercise and get outside to enjoy the fresh air. Over the long term, supporting bicycling as a mode of transportation is going to make our community stronger and less reliant on fossil fuels and automobiles. — Michael Faber, General Manager of the Monadnock Food Co-op
BRING ON THE BIKE RACKS!
Rack it Up has created more than 150 additional bike parking spaces throughout the city. Bike racks make it easier for those biking into and around the city — out of necessity or for recreation — to safely and conveniently park bikes near places of work, shopping and services. Having bike racks in visible locations helps to change people’s perception of biking not only as a good way to exercise, but as a legitimate form of transportation.
Rack it Up’s success depends on continued publicity to encourage use of the racks, and to enlist volunteers to do outreach to property owners. Sustaining enthusiasm about the program is crucial for the help needed from various entities, such as the City of Keene, which provides the Rack it Up program a warehouse where the racks are delivered and safely stored until they are installed. As of 2015, the objectives to install 100+ new bicycle parking spaces has been surpassed. Moving into the future, SWRPC will continue to monitor the use of the bike racks and access needs for more racks in the City of Keene and the neighboring town of Swanzey.