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November 2, 2010

Bike Rack for North Hanley: A Lesson in Social Media Collaboration

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Metro Engineering and New Construction Project Manager George Gress with new North Hanley bike rack

As the Online Media Specialist for Metro, I hear a lot of suggestions and concerns from Metro riders.  Almost all of these suggestions get passed along, and often are incorporated into our customer service feedback or planning decisions. Sometimes we run across the opportunity to take feedback from social media and engage it throughout the whole process, from suggestion to implementation. The new bike rack at North Hanley MetroLink Station is one example.

On May 6, Jennifer posted about the North Hanley capital project to repaving and repair the parking lot and bus bays.  In the comments, reader “Jazzy Jeff” made the following suggestion:

Any new “bike racks” for bicycle parking being installed? From what I have seen there are no “official” spots for bicycles to park at N. Hanley. If I am wrong please let me know. Thanks for reporting this since I have seen the beginning of this new construction and never was sure all that was going to be completed beyond the “heaters” on the platform just in time for Sprint / Summer ;0) LOL! Better than never I suppose…


Flash forward a few weeks, on a dreary and rainy day, Metro Engineering and New Construction Project Manager George Gress and I were looking at the North Hanley station for possible bike rack locations. We even spotted a bike chained to a tree near the west entrance of the parking garage, illustrating the need for a rack. We scouted a spot near the north entrance to the parking garage, close to the roof overhang and near the security office – the kind of location suggested on Twitter to keep the area sheltered and within site of the platform. Patty Vinyard, former Executive Director of the St. Louis Bicycle Federation, had worked with Metro Engineer Jerry Wittenauer to find a bike rack style that cyclists preferred and that worked with Metro’s specifications. In this case, she suggested using an almost artistic helio design rather than the standard “U” shaped racks. Wittenauer passed along this information to Gress and Chuck Clemins, Director of Right-of-Way Maintenance.

Gress worked the bike rack into the construction project with the help of other Metro supervisors, and included a sidewalk and landing area around the rack. This grassy area was frequently walked over by pedestrians and was often muddy before the pathway was installed.

The bike rack is now installed, and I took a picture of the camera-reluctant Gress with the new rack. Many thanks to Director of Capital Projects Chris Rimsky, Chuck Clemins, and George Gress for going along with the project and incorporating the rack into the construction plans.

Now North Hanley has a bike rack and Metro staff have a good example of working with social-media feedback to improve the transit system. Good work, everyone!

12 thoughts on “Bike Rack for North Hanley: A Lesson in Social Media Collaboration”

  1. Daron says:

    Here’s a suggestion. If every station must have a giant parking lot, why not make them green and drainable? Please use bricks, not concrete.

  2. Jimmy Z says:

    Are there any plans to install bike lockers at any stations? They’re popular in Denver:

    1. Courtney says:

      Jimmy, there are no concrete plans right now, but we’ve definitely looked at them. The trick of course is figuring out the best places where demand meets supply.

  3. Blue Tapp says:

    Thanks for the new bike rack!

  4. Jimmy Z says:

    It’s hard to gauge demand when supply is zero . . . hopefully, Metro can work local bike advocates (Trailnet?) to identify one or more pilot locations. Two I’d start with are the Shrewsbury Station (on the River Des Peres Bikeway) and the Forest Park Debaliviere Station.

  5. Jennifer says:

    Late to the game but let me pipe in re: bike lockers. I’d love to see bike lockers at every ML station too, regardless of demand, but that gets into resources. Leaving the resources issue aside for now (isn’t politics the art of balancing the demands for limited resources?), my concern about bike lockers is the “last-mile” problem. Say I ride my bike to a MetroLink station. We’re still at the point in STL where the bus connections aren’t frequent enough to make hopping on a bus for a mile or two ride all that easy; so unless my destination is walking distance from the ML station where I end up, I’m going to want my bike on the other end. A locker at my initial ML station does no good to me, then, unless I can also store a bike at the end-point station. (Or there’s a bike share program in place, which would be glorious!) I know many who do this in other cities but I wonder if the demand is there yet for this kind of service in STL? Like, how many people would be willing to have two bikes – the initial commute bike, and the junky last-mile bike?

    Bike lockers might only serve a small contingency – those who live close enough to bike to ML, store their bike, and walk from ML to their destinations. I suspect, based on regional travel patterns, that a large number of those kinds of trips terminate downtown, which will soon have a bike commuting center that will offer a lot more than just secure bike storage, and thus might end up filling the need for secure downtown bike parking, making a locker redundant.

    Of course, one could argue that the symbolism of providing a high level of bike amenities, like lockers or similar bike storage facilities, is worth it just to help promote the biking/transit combo in a region where it really needs promotion & support. In fact, I’d be one person making that argument. But pragmatically, demonstrating demand is the best way of getting the attention of the folks who spend the money on these kinds of improvements. And since operating funds are always scarce, we’re back to the resources issue again.

    I love arguing circles around myself. Let’s call it “thinking out loud.”

  6. Jazzy Jeff says:

    Awesome! Now I see my idea come full circle! Although some of these “art” racks as bike racks make me want some sorta sign with a bike or something showing it as being “official” bike parking. Most of the standard bike racks are pretty easy to spot / figure out but some art racks aren’t. I know there is a cost to signs… but “no parking” signs don’t seem to have a problem with showing up everywhere ;0)

    My last idea before I expire is to have those really bad old blue racks removed from the Delmar Metro location parking lot! (1. they don’t work properly and 2. they can damage a bike and 3. they look really bad!) Then the eye sores can be removed and I will be at bike parking peace ;0)

    Keep up the good work!

    1. Courtney says:

      Jeff, I agree, was just thinking that we should install signage with the bike rack to make sure people know what it is! But while its unfortunate to realize that the Delmar racks are in rough shape, at least you let us know. I’ll send a note along to Maintenance to alert them of the situation.

  7. J says:

    Let me get this straight, you guys are wasting money on bike racks and putting new cement down at some of the stations yet you guys can’t even get 33 to run on time nor a big enough bus considering how full the bus has become since the terrible changes made back on Aug. 30. Had I know this crap was going to happen as a result of the restoration I would have voted against it back in April! all this money is going towards useless things and nothing going towards actually improving the bus system.

    1. Courtney says:

      J, operations and capital projects run under different budgets, so no money is taken from service to provide for bike racks. I’m very sorry to hear that the #33 is having problems with overcrowding, and I will let Planning and Operations know about your concerns. Like I said in a previous comment, the best resource we have in fixing problems is customer feedback, so thank you for speaking up and letting us know where problems lie. Hopefully we can take feedback from riders like you, make adjustments, and work together.

  8. Jimmy Z says:

    Jennifer – Your observations are correct about the “last mile” issues. Remember, though, that the last mile could be on the work end, not the home end (where bus or car may be a better option than bike) of the trip. Ideally, one should be able to ride to a station, always have room for one’s bike on the train, than be able to ride to work from whatever station works. The real issue is whether or not the trains are too crowded to accomodate bikes during peak times – if you can’t fit them on board, it doesn’t really matter if there’s a bike station downtown, or not. That’s where lockers are much more attractive to regular/daily commuters than racks will ever be – providing protection from both thieves and the weather may appear to have a small constituency, now, simply because most people aren’t willing to leave their bikes outside, all day, every day, in racks, and there are no other real options (although putting bike racks inside the garages at North Hanley and Richmond Heights WITH adequate security could be a middle-ground option/solution). Again, we won’t know until we try, and Metro certainly seems to have no hesitation in investing in parking for single-occupant vehicles, which carries much higher per-Metrolink-rider costs than any bicycle lockers on the market today, and is many times unused for days on end . . .

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