A bike-friendly community not only requires an on- and off-street bike network, but also a network of bike parking.
What Little Rock Lacks
The League of American Bicyclists identified establishing a bike parking ordinance as a Key Step to Silver in 2024 and the Sustainability Commission has identified this goal as a possible immediate goal it may pursue. I’ve prepared this document to give the Commission background to consider.
“Adopt a formal bike parking ordinance for new and existing buildings that specifies the amount and location of secure, convenient bike parking required.”
- LAB 2024 Key Step to Silver for Little Rock
Like many cities, the City of Little Rock has established vehicular parking minimums for commercial, residential, and industrial development, requiring development to be car-centric. The City has no similar ordinance for bicycle parking. Predictably, this has resulted in an overabundance of conveniently-spaced vehicular parking and a lack of bicycle parking. 32% of Little Rock respondents identify a lack of bicycle parking as discouraging bicycle use. To reduce transportation carbon emissions, not only must the street network better support safe and convenient bicycle movement, but we must also have network of convenient, secure bicycle parking.
Eliminate Vehicular Parking Minimums
Vehicular parking minimums not only encourage driving, but they subsidize it. Creating abundant vehicular parking costs developers a great deal ($4K-40K per spot); that cost is passed on to the occupying business, who passes it on to the consumer through the prices of goods and services. Vehicular parking costs are thereby distributed throughout our community regardless of the transportation mode each individual chooses. Creating a bicycle parking ordinance would be most powerful if coupled with eliminating vehicular parking minimums downtown, allowing market forces to better affect developer decisions regarding vehicular parking. This action may be supported by both developers and CLR Planning and Development (because it aligns with current best practices).
Other Bicycle Parking “To Do” Items
In addition to creating a bicycle parking ordinance, the League had further guidance1, including 1-3:
- Continue to increase the amount of high quality bicycle parking: While this may be an outcome of an ordinance, we won’t know until we quantify bicycle parking. BikePed Little Rock will take responsibility for a bicycle parking inventory by August 2021.
- Develop Bicycle Parking Standards: Some types of racks are better than others. Developers and businesses may wish to accommodate people moving by bicycle, but may not understand these differences. Any Ordinance should refer to a CLR Bike Parking Standards Guide. If the Sustainability Commission chooses to pursue a Bicycle Parking Ordinance, BikePed Little Rock will take responsibility for developing this guide by September 2020.
- Upgrade Existing Parking to Meet APBP Standards: This is important, but adding strong bicycle parking will be prioritized over upgrading existing parking.
- Master Bicycle Parking Plan: Above and beyond the League’s recommendation, we may work with our Master Bike Plan contractors to create a Master Bicycle Parking Plan in the downtown area to create a network of conveniently-spaced bicycle parking in the public domain.
- Decrease Bike Rack Costs: To install a bike rack in the public domain, a business currently has to complete a franchise agreement form, pay a $75 consultation fee, and purchase a rack. In addition to providing guidance on rack selection, we might consider ways we can decrease the costs to businesses wishing to install bicycle parking. Several cities have programs that provide bike racks to businesses.
Examples of Bicycle Parking Ordinances
Luckily, much of the work to compile strong bicycle ordinances has already been done. These ordinances have a similar structure and approach to vehicular parking minimums, discussing the number of spots required for different types of developments/land uses.
One might argue that it’s hypocritical to oppose vehicular parking minimums while supporting bicycle parking minimums. It is important to understand that vehicular parking encourages and subsidizes vehicular travel, which has associated externalities including increasing our community’s carbon footprint, increasing demand for roadway/highway expansion ($$$), decreasing Little Rock’s tax base by facilitating people working in Little Rock but living outside of Little Rock,  and straining our utility and street fund capacities by encouraging low-density, cul-de-sac development. The Little Rock metro area has the highest Vehicle Miles Traveled of 52 similar communities at 38.9 miles/person/day.
Bicycle transportation also has externalities, including encouraging people working within the City of Little Rock to live here, increasing public health, and increasing the safety of bicycling. It is arguably when the externalities promote a public good or decrease negative externalities of competing choices that we should consider subsidies. Eliminating vehicular parking minimums and creating bicycle parking minimums would better align incentives and costs with societal outcomes.
 e.g. Orlando, Portland, Seattle, St. Paul, Tucson, Savannah, Houston, Monterey, Oakland, Austin, and Nashville
 https://www.littlerock.gov/media/5601/centralarkansas2050.pdf (pg. 33, Fig. 4-3)
 Walkable City, Step 3: Get the Parking Right, Jeff Speck
 The High Cost of Free Parking, Donald Shoup
 Some may take issue with the idea that Little Rock has an overabundance of vehicular parking. Understand that, just as road widening encourages driving and causes the congestion it seeks to alleviate (induced demand), so does parking abundance, e.g. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-01-12/study-the-strongest-evidence-yet-that-abudant-parking-causes-more-driving. We get the behavior we build our environment to accommodate.
Expand Bicycle Parking: Bicycle parking continues to be a challenge. In 2016, the SOMA business district installed several bike racks highlighting their businesses. In 2017, the City installed three bike racks on Main Street (in the 100 to 500 blocks) to strengthen it as a north-south bike corridor. Private businesses and organizations may have installed additional racks on their properties and even in the public right-of-way; as of February 2020, even though a franchise agreement must be completed to install infrastructure in the public ROW, the City has no system of cataloging or mapping bicycle parking at this time.
2020 will bring four substantial improvements to bicycle parking: 1) BikePed Little Rock will publish City of Little Rock bike parking guidance to businesses and other interested organizations based on the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals best practices and other resources including a request that installed, publicly available bike racks be reported to the CLR Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator, 2) Rock Region Metro will invest $25K into long-term bike parking solutions in Little Rock and North Little Rock to serve transit, 3) The City will install ~25 permanent bike corrals in downtown Little Rock. Corrals will be deliberately placed to serve destinations and also somewhat evenly spaced in a network throughout the downtown area. These corrals will serve as Gotcha bikeshare stations but will also serve privately owned bicycles. While not a typical bikeshare arrangement, this stipulation was included in the City's bikeshare RFP to address our bike parking needs (pg. 6, 6.2). Racks for corrals that serve transit and bikeshare may be aquired through the Rock Region Metro investment, 4) ESRI will visit Little Rock to do webGIS upgrades, which will enable wikimap functionality. We will use that functionality to allow residents to map publicly available bike parking options. These data will be ground-proofed by the CLR Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator and ultimately added as a layer into LR Bike Ways.
Biking, especially biking for transportation, requires secure parking close to destinations. With a notable exception in the SOMA neighborhood, creating a network of bike parking is an important opportunity to encourage bike transportation. The League of American Bicyclists (LAB) identified improving bike parking as one of six key recommendations for Little Rock in 2016.
Progress Since 2016
Unfortunately, our bike parking network has not significantly improved since 2016. However, in response to LAB recommendations, we have begun several initiatives that should see dramatic improvement to our bike parking network by 2024.
Gotcha bikeshare will launch in Summer 2020. The system will initially have ~25 stations (bike corrals) within the focal area (downtown Little Rock and SOMA) and will expand in future phases. Station locations will be carefully considered both to make each as close to important destinations as possible
The City has worked with Gotcha to maximize the program's impact.