Bikes Are Evolving. When Will Bike Storage Catch Up?

We have an e-bike and cargo bike revolution happening and cities have to adapt.

A rendering of a community bicycle shelter.
A community bicycle shelter.

Brown + Storey Architects

It is a Treehugger mantra that three things are needed for the e-bike revolution: decent affordable e-bikes, a safe place to ride, and a secure place to park. Toronto-based Brown + Storey Architects addressed the latter with a proposal for bike shelters near suburban commuter train stations as part of a 2017 design competition. The interesting structure was both secure and transparent.

They wrote:

"This prototype for a bicycle storage room proposes a new innovation for cycling infrastructure facilities. The idea of the structure is to retain openness without overly defining inside and outside space as in a container. This anti-container approach utilizes framed steel banding to create a mesh that is open yet framed, while providing security and protection for bicycle storage. Suggested through its construction and visual effects, this framework speaks to cycling as an evolving and expanding mode of user transportation."
A rendering of bikes being stored inside a white storage center
The interior of a bike storage room.

Brown + Storey Architects

The plan of the storage room included "urban double stackers," a bike storage system that doubles the capacity. The interior renderings showed road bikes with drop handlebars, probably picked because that's what was available in the rendering software and they didn't give it much thought at the time.

James Brown and Kim Storey, the duo behind Brown + Storey Architects, recently started a social media marketing campaign and posted the bicycle shelter on Twitter and were unprepared for the reaction. Much has changed in the bike world since 2017, and there are what appear to be a bunch of serious cycling faux pas here. Road bikes! Where are the upright commuter bikes that normal people ride? Double stackers! There is an e-bike revolution happening, and they are too heavy to lift. Look at how close the bikes are to each other! Those are useless front wheel locks! And where do you park the cargo bikes?

front wheel rack rendering
A rendering of a front wheel toast rack.

Brown + Storey

One tweeter zoomed in and saw the front wheel toast rack outside. The horror! Becky says, "You should remove this type of rack from the rendering and not design it into any projects."

The architects quickly did a revision and added a section acknowledging the issue, writing, "The bicycle shelter concept is easily adapted to meet the needs of the growing electric bike community. The weight of e-bikes makes them difficult to lift into stacked storage racks. Instead of being stacked, e-bikes can simply be accommodated parallel to the stacked bicycle storage in their own horizontal rows."

Oonee Interior prototype
Oonee prototype of vertical bike storage.


Brown + Storey is not alone in dealing with these rapid changes in the bike world. When Shabazz Stuart introduced Oonee bike storage in New York City, his first iteration had vertical bike storage. I noted at the time: "I do worry a bit that all of the parking appears to be vertical. This is obviously more space-efficient but many e-bikes are heavier and many riders are older and perhaps not strong enough to lift the bike up."

Oonee told Treehugger it was their prototype and they "plan to design new infrastructures of many different form factors." Their newer installs are much more flexible.

The bike community on Twitter is a bit obsessive about parking, often with good reason; it seems bike facilities are rarely designed or installed by people who actually have ever been on a bike.

A recent fascinating Twitter thread from the United Kingdom asked questions about bike parking and got dozens of responses. The consensus was the world has changed; there is no longer a standard bike but an explosion of different types, different lengths, and widths.

Sheffield bike rack
A diagram of a Sheffield-type bike rack.

Dublin Cycling Campaign

One of the participants pointed to a bike parking infrastructure guide from the Dublin Cycling Campaign that shows what is called the "Sheffield" type bike stand. The consensus seems to be this is the best design; you can easily get a lock around any part of the bike.

bay street bike lock

Lloyd Alter

Cities are so bad at this. Even Toronto, which has a decent bike ring designed by architect David Dennis back in the '80s, put these ridiculous things in an upscale shopping area that makes it impossible to use a U-lock, the most common and secure kind. Fortunately, I always have three locks on my e-bike.

Group parking of bikes

Dublin Cycling Campaign

For multiple bike parking, those Dublin dimensions are going to be tough. It's clear that putting 39 inches (one meter) between bikes with five-foot wide circulation aisles is going to take up a lot more space than planners are allowing for now. This kind of plan results in a bike parking space of about 3- by 11-feet including circulation, which sounds like a lot until you compare it to a car space of 10- by 30-feet including circulation.

bike parking in Munich
Bike parking in Munich, Germany.

Lloyd Alter

But this is the future of bike parking. If we are going to get people out of cars, we are going to have to start being as accommodating to bikes of all kinds as we are to cars, giving them places to park, places to charge, with enough space to do it all comfortably and safely.