Cyclists may see more parking downtown

Durango plans to install two more bike corrals similar to last year’s

When it comes to parking, at least, Durango is about to get dozens more “rock stars” this summer.

By early June, the city plans to install two more bicycle corrals, similar to the one that Carver Brewing Co. has offered since last summer. The corrals are public-private partnerships between the city and businesses, aimed at alleviating parking and sidewalk congestion during Durango’s frenetic summer tourism season.

The congestion problem wasn’t exactly hard to identify, said Amber Blake, the city’s multi-modal transportation coordinator.

“We were seeing bikes literally piled two or three high, pretty much blocking the entire sidewalk,” Blake said. “At Carver’s, you’d see bikes tied to trees and posts and anything else that was bolted down.”

Rather than cracking down with a draconian bike-parking ordinance, the city surveyed other bike-friendly cities and came up with the bike-parking corral it has been testing at Carver’s.

Thanks in part to the busy bike corral, last July was the restaurant’s most profitable month in history, according to a letter from Carver’s co-owner Michael Hurst.

“Particularly during the recession, people have come to seek comfort in busy places as a reminder that the wheels of commerce may have slowed, but they’re still turning,” Hurst wrote.

Impressed with those results, the city decided to improve and expand the program this year, Blake said. In fact, she said, the city has more requests from businesses than they can accommodate – despite the sizable fee the city charges businesses to host bike corrals.

Maria’s Bookshop and Mountain Bike Specialists will both host slightly modified bike corrals in front of their stores this summer. The new corrals, which will be accessible from the street and will be easier for motorists to avoid while parking, will cost each business $1,000 up front for lost meter and parking-ticket revenue, plus $200 a year to rent the rack and signage, Blake said. The program has cost the city just $3,000 so far, including the value of the time Blake has spent researching and creating the program, she said.

Some businesses have even expressed interest in chipping in to support the rack in front of Maria’s, said Peter Schertz, the store’s co-owner.

“The entire block benefits, for sure,” Schertz said. “But there’s a communitywide benefit – Durango is well-known as a bicycle-friendly community, and installing infrastructure makes it more than just a marketing slogan.”

Other cities, like Portland, Ore., have had on-street bike parking for nearly a decade.

Although perceived parking shortages are typically one of the most frequent complaints among downtown business owners, Bob Kunkel, who represents those businesses through the Durango Business Improvement District, said he has heard few complaints about the bike-parking program.

“Right now, we could certainly use some more of them,” Kunkel said.

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