By Tequila Minsky
While walking down Greenwich St. you can see two rows of contraptions running parallel to Hubert St. along side 390 Greenwich. Even as balmy fall breezes turn to soggy moody days and winter chills the air these unusual looking things are put to use; they’re bike racks provided by Citigroup.
On one unseasonably warm morning this month, Eddie Bershadsky, who was knocking off the graveyard shift -- midnight to 8 a.m.-- as a Citigroup systems analyst, was seen putting his removable odometer back on his bike, about to unlock it, to head back home to Midwood, Brooklyn, a ten-mile ride. “The good thing about these racks…you only need one lock,” he said as he unlocked his massive Kryptonite lock. Standard locking procedures for decent bikes include a separate lock one for each wheel.
Citigroup used to have two of the more common undulating U-shaped bent pipe bike racks at the spot. With a mishmash of creative parking they could accommodate at most 12 bicycles. “It looked kind of messy,” said Tom Welsh, Citigroup’s director of property management. But worse, “There were a lot of bike thefts. Sometimes those good Kryptonite locks weren’t wide enough to go around the pipe. The thieves were so quick they could cut the chains and get the bikes into waiting vans before building security ever even saw them.”
He sought a solution. “I went on the Internet and within one-half hour found these Saris bike banks from a Wisconsin-based company,” Welsh said. “They even have a compartment for a bike helmet and shoes. These racks are more aesthetic and efficient. The neat things about these are that you can lock your tires.” Installed about a year ago, the 16 individual clamping racks need a good lock but no heavy-duty chain or cable to lock them. The clamps secure both wheels. On one foggy late autumn day 12 of the 16 racks were in use.
Bershadsky, 25, had been contemplating riding to work for months and finally began two weeks ago. “I quit smoking and gained 40 pounds since March,” he said, explaining why he took up cycling. “It takes me 40 minutes each way but there is so much less stress.” Bershadsky used to drive to work -- no problem finding Tribeca parking at midnight. It was trying to find parking at home in the morning in Brooklyn that stressed him out. “Now I’m so refreshed I sometimes go home, rest a bit, and then ride back to the city.”
Josh Benson, the city Department of Transportation’s bicycle program director, said that the city puts up 300 bicycle racks a year. “It’s hard to keep up with the demand,” he said of the pipe-like U-shaped racks. “Locations are chosen from requests from the public via the 311 info line, D.O.T. Web site, or mail.” He said sidewalk space is a consideration and sites chosen cannot interfere with pedestrian traffic.
Noah Budnick, a cycling advocate at Transportation Alternatives, said “In September, the city announced the plan for 240 miles of bike lane routes and paths to be implemented in the next three years. This is great but that’s only half of the equation for increasing bike riding. They should have a plan for secure places to put your bikes when riders gets to where they’re going.” Budnick said based on police statistics, 60,000 bicycles are stolen every year and the recovery rate is less than 2%. “Having a safe place to park your bike is a necessary part of riding.”
T.A. has an online brochure called “Bicycle Parking Solutions: A Resource for Installing Indoor Bicycle Parking,” intended for building workplace building managers and corporations, which highlights buildings and companies that can be used as models. In Lower Manhattan, Saatchi & Saatchi on Hudson St., National Resource Defense Council Merrill Lynch in the World Financial Center, 100 Sixth Ave. at Broome St. and the D.O.T. building on Worth St. have indoor bike parking for employees.
In three new development districts Long Island City, Downtown Brooklyn, and the Hudson Rail Yards City Planning has mandated that new commercial developments have to have indoor bike parking.
Although Citigroup’s outdoor bike racks on Hubert St. look to be private, Welsh said as part of the firm’s “good neighbor policy,” bikers don’t need to work in the building to park there.
For his part, Bershadsky said “I like riding in the winter; I don’t have to worry about getting to sweaty.” He even rode when it was 22 degrees but admitted three were fewer bikes on that frigid day. Nevertheless, his bike joins a slew of other regulars, even now in mid-December.