Today (tonight, really), we are going to be talking about the downtown meter rings currently being installed to replace bike parking lost back in October when the the parking meter heads were removed from the new downtown free car parking zone. This has previously been covered by WeBikeEugene here and here.
I’ve re-written this story a few times already, mostly due to new information making the original versions inaccurate. Another thing that you should know is that it currently is 11pm, I’m drinking beer (not enough), listening to circus music on Pandora, and am very tired. These things should combine for an interesting story – I hope. If not – meh – you’re reading a blog run by a clown.
Before you go on, you might also be interested in knowing that my delay in this story has caused me to get scooped by EugeneBicyclist, KEZI, The Eugene Weekly, and the Register-Guard, but thankfully I have a lot of new information to add to the discussion.
Prior to this week I (like almost everyone else involved), was operating on a few assumptions about the meter rings: 1) There wouldn’t be enough meter rings to cover all the blank poles and 2) As a result only meter poles without heads would receive meter rings. Then about a week ago I was eating some late-night Voodoo Doughnuts with the wife and I noticed a meter ring installed on the parking meter out front– a parking meter that still had its head. This made no sense to me. I did a quick survey of the area and found that many poles were still empty, some had no head and a ring, and several pole had rings AND heads. Operating under the assumption that we didn’t have enough rings for the empty poles as it was, I became very confused. What was going on? Had the city gone crazy? Why were they wasting rings on poles that still had their heads?
It turns out that they weren’t…
Determined to get to the bottom of the situation, I e-mailed City of Eugene Parking Services Manager Jeff Petry with a pile of questions. Thanks to his response, I can now present to you the “Real Story Behind the Eugene Meter Rings.” Shazam!
I’m going to start this explanation by providing y’all with some raw numbers:
- # of meter poles that lost their heads: 165 (may be revised to 153)
- # of two-hour signs attached to the meter poles: 93
- # of “eligible” meter poles for bike hoops: 35
- # of meter poles that lost their heads that will still be good for bike parking due to rings or signs: 128 (83% – 78%, depending on total pole estimate)
- # of bike rings ordered: 60
- # of left-over bike hoops to be added to meters with heads: 25
- # ineligible poles that will be left blank: 25 (or 32 based on earlier reports of 165 poles)
What does this all mean? Basically, there is a surplus of bike hoops and that is why they are being seen on meters with heads. Furthermore, the city is only halfway through the project, and that is why we are seeing a lot of empty meters. However, some of those empty meters will never get rings because they have been deemed “ineligible” for a meter ring. According to Petry, a meter is only eligible for a meter ring if:
- Bike demand/business activity is present
- There is 8 feet of sidewalk clearance between the meter pole and buildings
- There are no other physical obstructions (tree, garbage can) that prevent someone from locking a bike to the pole
- There is no “Two Hour Parking” sign already attached to the pole (due to incompatibility).
Many of the extra bike hoops will end up downtown, but some will be in other places such as in front of the David Minor Theater and on Pearl Street.
Petry was quoted on KVAL explaining the rational for placing the extra rings on meters with heads: “Sometimes [when bikes are parked to meters] they can get wobbly and sometimes they fall. And the bike hoops actually go in a circle and they bring the bike flush against the meter post there, so it actually gets the bike out of the way of the pedestrian flow.”
The KVAL story also emphasized the cost of the meter rings: “But it comes at a cost. The 60 hoops cost $7,500, which is coming out of the city’s parking fund.” What KVAL does NOT point out is that cost for outfitting all the eligible meter poles with rings would have been around $16,000, but Eugene parking officials (like Petry) were able to cut that cost by more than half by thinking outside-the-box and using many of the empty meter poles to attach the “Two Hour Parking” signs. What KVAL also doesn’t mention is that the cost of free car parking downtown, which caused this whole mess in the first place, is $220,000 A YEAR.
The one-time cost of the meter rings should have been included in the original $220,000 yearly cost estimate presented to the Eugene City Council, and plans to replace bike parking removed by free car parking should have been included since the first day of free car parking planning. After all, 10.8% of people employed in Eugene regularly commute by bicycle. Of course, Eugene certainly isn’t the first city to have to play catch-up when parking meters were removed.
Despite that little snafu, the overall downtown bike parking picture is certainly improving, especially with the addition of the upcoming bike corrals.
I’ll wrap this story up with some pictures and comments about the rings and two embedded City of Eugene press releases which include even more information about the new downtown bike parking.
From this first picture you can see that the rings are just right for locking your front wheel and frame as long as you don’t try to lock two bikes on the ring perpendicular to the sidewalk, which would be silly anyway (even though I tried that in front of Voodoo Doughnuts and completely failed.)
Anyone still questioning the need for these meter rings? Tell that to the fellow who “locked” up the bike in our next picture, and is lucky he didn’t have to take the bus home.
(The above photo was blatantly stolen from this story on EugeneBicyclist.com)
The new rings were already being used by other folks as well:
And finally, I’ll show you a close-up of the mounting brackets. They seem safe, but I wouldn’t mind them being painted black. They are rather ugly as is, but hey – as least we have them!
Just in case you haven’t had your fill yet (and I have, its now past 1am and I need to wake up for work in a few hours), I’ll include two very recent City of Eugene press releases which provide additional information about the meter rings and upcoming bike corrals.