Oonee Introduces the Mini for Curbside Bike Parking

Because if we are going to have a bike revolution, people need a place to park.

Oonee on street

Oonee Mini

When Shabazz Stuart launched the Oonee bike storage system in New York City, we cheered, noting that "secure bike parking and storage is really going to be the third leg of the stool that will make the e-bike revolution happen: affordable bikes, good bike lanes, and a safe, secure place to park." They were big units designed for major destinations in the city. But finding a secure place to park a bike is a problem all over New York and most other cities, which often have thousands of spots to park cars. Those spots are where the new Oonee Mini goes; it is about the size of a car, but "delivers up to 10 high-quality secure bike parking spaces in place of one car. "

"We packed the pod with hundreds of design and technology innovations that ensure a top notch experience for both cyclists and community members that just happen to be walking by. Welcome to the future of the curb."

The Mini is unlocked with a keycard or a phone, is well lit inside, includes an air pump, and even comes with insurance coverage for bikes and scooters. But Treehugger has been particularly worried about parking for e-bikes; they are more expensive than regular bikes and are often heavier, so they are hard to drag up the stairs to apartments. We asked Stuart if there would be charging facilities, and he tells Treehugger that "charging won’t be available without access to utilities. Possible at places in commercial areas/zones where there will be digital screens for advertising but unlikely for residential areas where we will just operate on solar." This is a good reason when considering an e-bike purchase to get one with removable batteries.

The Mini is quite low and attractive, but also has a planter box for a roof, and "Exterior Accent Lighting for warm illumination and placemaking." It is hard to imagine why this wouldn't be loved by everyone, except this is New York City, where taking away a parking spot is like amputating someone's leg. I naively asked Stuart about this via Twitter and he responded:

Our friends at Transportation Alternatives also piped in to remind us that roads (and parking spaces) were not built for cars:

Transportation Alternatives recently published a report, The Power of Bicycle Parking, in which they pointed out the need for bike parking and the benefits of getting people on to bikes:

"Like access to bicycles and safe spaces to ride them, secure bicycle parking is a critical utility that makes cycling a real transportation option for people. In New York City, access to secure bicycle parking is the number two reason determining whether someone chooses to ride a bike or not. In transit deserts and neighborhoods with overcrowded housing, bicycle parking can make biking to transit, and biking in general, a viable choice. Bicycle parking also encourages stopping and spending at local businesses, and by encouraging more people to ride, makes cycling safer."
Oonee on street

Oonee Mini

Stuart also argues that drivers of cars shouldn't have an automatic right to the curb, telling Gersh Kuntzman of Streetsblog NYC:

“People should be empowered to request one of these for their curb space. Why should a person with a car be unilaterally allowed to say, ‘I’m going to take up eight feet in front of this random building?’ Why can’t the majority of residents of the block say, ‘No, we want to use that space for bike parking’ or ‘We want that space for a cafe’?”

The first two units are being funded by Voi, a scooter company, but Stuart tells Streetsblog that like the bigger Oonee units, he would like the minis to be free and advertiser-supported, but with the ads in commercial areas. "It’s not inappropriate to have advertising on one pod in Herald Square to finance 10 of the smaller pods in Crown Heights. And there will be so much demand from residential blocks where people have to currently carry their bikes up three flights.”

parking spaces for bikes vs cars

Transportation Alternatives

Transportation Alternatives notes that there are "1.5 free on-street parking spaces for every car registered in New York City, but there is only one bicycle parking space for every 116 bicycles in New York City." This, in a time when studies are showing that switching from cars to bikes significantly reduces carbon emissions and that pollution from burning fossil fuels is killing 8.7 million annually.

Years of watching battles over bike lanes and bike-share parking tends to make one cynical about change ever happening, but Shabazz Stuart's Oonee Mini seems like such a simple answer to such a critical problem. Maybe he should have designed them to look like a minivan; perhaps nobody would notice.