Bike Corral in Lexington, MA

On Thursday, Traffic Council will take up a proposed trial to convert (for three seasons) one parking space on Langley Street* in Newton Centre into a 10- to 14-bike “bike corral,” similar to the one in Lexington Center shown to the left. If I’m a merchant in Newton Centre, I’d support a trial.

If I’m a merchant in Newton Centre, I want customers. Feet on the street. The express purpose of a bike corral is to provide parking for cyclists who would like to patronize local businesses**. A bike corral is (potentially***) a super-efficient use of a parking space. With moderate use, the bike corral could bring many more customers into the area than the single parking space. And, there’s some evidence that customers who come by bicycle are good customers.

Since Newton Centre parking capacity is rarely, if ever, fully occupied, the bike corral would not prevent a driver from parking. Rather, a driver might have to park a little farther away. Cause one driver to walk farther v. allow many cyclists to park closer. A fair swap.

Attracting bicyclists is consistent with efforts to revitalize village centers. Creating a bike-friendlier destination will generate a new type of visit and visitor, creating a new engagement with people who live within a short bike ride.

Finally, bicycle accommodations promote a virtuous cycle. More and better bike parking will attracts bicyclists to Newton Centre (without clogging up the already narrow sidewalks). Bicycle accommodations and more cyclists have a traffic calming effect and create a more people-friendly vibe. Which attracts more bicyclists.

Across the country, bike corrals have had their skeptics. In practice, the experience creates proponents. If we have a trial in Newton Centre, every village is going to want one!

* The last space on the north side, just in front of J.P. Lick’s.

** A bike corral does not make sense as a non-commercial, purely recreational destination. Complete the sentence: let’s get on our bikes, ride to Newton Centre, and … Eat. Buy. Bank.

*** It’s entirely possible that a bike corral would not, in the end, get sufficient use to justify displacing parking for even a single car. That’s the point of a trial.

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