Relief for bike riders soon to roll into downtown

Published: Thursday, February 7, 2013 at 3:13 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 7, 2013 at 3:13 p.m.

Warren Oakes says that when he looks out the window of Boca Fiesta on most Friday nights, the entire entrance railing to his downtown restaurant is covered in bikes.

If it is a really busy night, riders have locked their bikes to the nearby Hippodrome Theatre’s ramp, which blocks wheelchair access to the theater.

So, Oakes was excited recently when he looked out the window and saw something being done about it.

“I saw people outside taking measurements, and I was like, ‘Please tell me you’re putting in bike racks,’ ” he said.

Bicyclists soon will have more options for locking their bikes up when the city begins installing new bike parking, said Lindsay Rizzo, a project coordinator at Gainesville’s Community Redevelopment Agency. The timetable for starting installation of the racks is about a month or more, Rizzo said.

The bicycle parking will be installed at three locations: the intersection of Main Street and North First Avenue near The Top restaurant, the intersection of Southeast First Avenue and Southeast First Street near the County Administration Building, and at the Hippodrome Theatre courtyard near the Boca Fiesta restaurant.

Each site will have between 14 and 19 stainless-steel loops that can accommodate two bikes to a loop. The locations chosen were based on recommendations from business owners, bicyclists and the city of Gainesville bicycle and pedestrian coordinator.

The project will be financed by the Downtown Primary Corridors Hardscape Improvements account, Rizzo said. The exact cost and date of installation are still being determined as the CRA meets with contractors.

This is the first phase of an ongoing project to install new bike parking, with artistic parking to highlight downtown also being considered.

Rizzo said the CRA has looked at examples from other cities such as a large, metal fork-and-knife design on which riders can lock their bikes.

Oakes said he was glad the bike parking loops will be nearby. He said diners at the restaurant like to be able to keep an eye on their bikes, which helps reduce bike theft.

Kassia Cook, a manager at The Top restaurant, echoed that thought. She said the black gate that borders the entrance to The Top is frequently jammed with the bikes of patrons. While there is bike parking near the back of the restaurant, people sometimes find that their bikes have been tampered with because there is less visibility there.

Rizzo said the CRA tried to take thefts into consideration by placing two of the new racks under street lights.

Another issue the CRA hopes to resolve is people locking bikes to street signs and light posts because that can damage the fixtures.

In 2009, the CRA chose a stainless-steel ring design, which has been endorsed by the Association of Pedestrian and Bike Professionals. It’s the same design that can be found locally at Innovation Square, the CRA building and Haisley Lynch Park.

But the Gainesville Downtown Owners and Tenants Inc. sent a letter to the CRA objecting to the chrome color because it would “clash with the present theme of the historic district.”

Diego Ibaņez, chair of GDOT and owner of Emiliano’s Cafe, said business owners wanted the rings to mesh with the black detailing of the downtown area. Downtown businesses have spent money on keeping with this theme, and the rings would clash with that, he said.

Ibaņez, Rizzo, downtown business owners and other CRA members recently met and agreed to use the loop design but give it a black powder coat.

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