Cary Adopts Bicycle Parking Ordinance
by Steven Goodridge
On April 27 2006, the Cary Town Council adopted an ordinance to require bicycle parking facilities to be included as part of most new developments that require off-street parking, including retail businesses, office buildings, apartment buildings, and parks. The ordinance also applies to existing sites that undergo significant redevelopment.
The Cary Comprehensive Transportation Plan adopted in April 2001 identified the importance of bicycle parking for utility cycling and recommended the adoption of parking requirements as part of the Town’s development ordinance. Cary recently installed scores of quality bike racks at parks and other public properties as part of a retrofit effort. Meanwhile, Cary’s Planning Department attempted to encourage private property developers to include bicycle parking on a voluntary basis with limited success. The Cary Design Guidelines Manual adopted in July 2001 encourages developers to include bike racks at shops and restaurants. Unfortunately, few private developments incorporated bike racks, and many of those racks that did get installed were of the “comb” variety designed to hold a bike by only the front wheel. The new ordinance requires that a bike rack support the bicycle by the frame, accommodate both cable and U-locks, and allow securing the frame and one or both wheels. It also makes provision of bike parking mandatory, which raised objections from some members of the development community.
Juliet Andes, a Principal Planner with the Town of Cary, has been the primary champion of the bicycle parking ordinance since she took charge of the Town’s bicycle planning efforts a few years ago. In addition to meeting the recommendations of the Comprehensive Transportation Plan, Ms. Andes noted the importance that the League of American Bicyclists placed on bicycle parking - an area where Cary was weak - as part of its criteria for “Bicycle Friendly Community” status. When drafting the proposed ordinance, she started by researching bicycle parking ordinances in other “bicycle friendly” cities and guidelines from the American Planning Association, then scaled back the number of required spaces to reduce the burden of implementation. But at early stakeholder meetings with developers, the developers were skeptical that the racks would be used and complained that the requirements were excessive. Objecting developers gained the support of pro-business members of the Town Council and Cary Planning and Zoning Board. To make the regulations more acceptable, the proposed ordinance was altered to further reduce the space numbers and remove requirements related to the proximity of racks to building entrances.
At the April 27 Council meeting, Council member Mike Joyce spoke in opposition of the proposed parking requirements. He began by saying that his opposition concerned government mandating what business owners do and “has absolutely nothing to do with bicycle parking.” However, he went on to say that “if it was handicapped parking, I'm with you all.” He asked that the Planning Director be given the authority to waive bicycle parking requirements on a case-by-case basis without public review. Mayor Ernie McAlister and Council members Jack Smith, Jennifer Robinson and Mike Joyce then voted in favor of adopting a weakened bicycle ordinance including the condition that the Planning Director be authorized to delete bicycle parking requirements at his discretion. Council members Nels Rosland and Marla Dorrel voted to keep the original, stronger ordinance. Fortunately for cyclists, current Planning Director Jeff Ulma is a supporter of the bicycle parking requirements and unlikely to grant requests for waivers.
Cary’s new bicycle parking ordinance requires at least some bike rack facility at virtually any destination that utility cyclists are likely to visit, such as employment centers, restaurants, convenience stores, grocery stores, movie theaters, malls, and banks. If utilization of the racks is high, Cary may upgrade the ordinance in the future. A basic inverted-U bike rack element meeting the ordinance requirements costs about $80, compared to the $1000 it typically costs a developer to provide the land and paving to accommodate each automobile space on a surface parking lot, and $10,000 per automobile space in a parking deck. As inclusion of bicycle parking becomes a routine part of development in Cary, developers may begin recognize it as a cost-effective means of bringing more visitors to their properties.
Details of Cary’s adopted parking ordinance can be seen at
Guidelines on bicycle parking referred to by the ordinance can be seen at
Steven Goodridge is Advocacy Officer for NCBC and a former member of the Cary Planning and Zoning Board