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BY MARSHALL JAMES KAVANAUGH | For those who work in Hudson Square and prefer pedal-power to other forms of transportation, there are now 35 new places to secure their bikes while on the job.
The new bike racks came from the city Department of Transportation and were distributed throughout a 20-block area. With ten more on the way, the racks could have a lasting impact on the area, according to Ellen Baer, president and chief executive officer of Hudson Square Connection, the Business Improvement District responsible for working with the D.O.T. to get the new bike racks installed.
The mentality at the B.I.D., according to Baer, is that the bike racks that are installed will create a larger demand for more.
“It’s a little bit of a chicken and an egg thing,” said Baer. “Here in Hudson Square, green culture and sustainability is really in [the workers’] D.N.A. This is the kind of place where once you have the ability to ride, there will be an increase in ridership.”
Over the past few years, the Hudson Square area has seen an increase in commercial leasers, especially in the technology and media-related industries. Companies such as Saatchi & Saatchi, CBS radio, and even New York Magazine have moved to the area and are encouraging growth of a younger demographic frequenting the streets. Baer describes these individuals as part of what the neighborhood is calling the young “digerati”.
“These are young professionals, many in close-by areas such as Brooklyn,” said Baer.
With the bridges to Brooklyn in such a close vicinity, Baer explained, there has been an increase in workers finding that riding a bike is more convenient than using mass transit. The B.I.D., in return, began receiving requests for additional bike racks from various area businesses.
Choosing where to install the bike racks was a three-step process, according to Baer. First, the B.I.D. worked with building owners and surveyed tenants to determine the demand. The goal, she explained, was to distribute the racks throughout the area to maximize the usefulness of each rack, since, according to Baer, demand is projected to exceed supply.
Baer and her team hand-measured the placement of the bike racks according to D.O.T. rules and regulations, in order to streamline the installation process.
Other initiatives are also in the works aimed at bike-related amenities, said Baer. Community Board 2 voted unanimously last November to expand the buffered bike lane on Hudson Street into a parking-protected bike lane. Baer said the B.I.D. asked the D.O.T. to study the proposal, since commercial needs are different from residential needs. One example, she said, would be truck load-in parking.
Hudson Square is an ideal place for the city-wide bike share program currently being promoted by Mayor Bloomberg with its daytime population of almost 50,000 people making short trips between offices, according to Baer, who has talked to the D.O.T. about possible locations such as subway stations and popular businesses.
The city-wide bike share program, which will go into effect this summer, is set to offer 10,000 bikes that can be rented for a small price and used to travel short distances, according to the D.O.T.‘s website.
In the end though, Baer said, “It’s not just about bikes. The whole neighborhood is going through a transformation.”