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Old 01-23-08, 12:02 PM
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bicycle parking and fire hazards

Perhaps for once we can talk about some advocacy other than issues of the public roadway or improving the image of cycling.

Stairwells can often offer a good place for bicycle parking. Railings can almost be a drop in replacement for bike racks and there may be considerable free and empty stairwell space in old or renovated buildings.

It's often said that putting bicycles in stairwells violates is a fire hazard and/or violates fire codes, but is this always true? Although stairwells are often form a necessary emergency escape route in addition to serving as hookup locations for fire hoses or the like, what legal role do bottoms/tops of stairways to nowhere play? Moreover, if a bicycle doesn't take up any additional space when locked to a railing of an emergency escape route, does it still qualify as a violation of fire code? For example, if handbars and pedals are removed and a bicycle is hung directly under the railing without protruding onto the actual stairs would it still qualify as a violation? Obviously the law would vary with locale, but so does it in the case of public roads. Are there any unifying principles or common generalities? If not then are there are good sources of information on this matter?

Obviously a building owner has a right to ban bicycles from any part of their building for any reason, but fire code violations are often cited as the source of the objection. If we can show that intended usage is safe, legal, and unobtrusive, then we have a starting point to make our appeal.

I ask because a few months ago I started experimenting with putting my bicycle in the stairwell of my apartment building. It's not a very large building, but it has several stairwells along with elevators, so this particular stairwell is rarely used. Moreover, from the landing of the top floor the stairwell continues upward two more flights to a hidden empty landing with an empty wall of sheet rock which, without going into too many details, has absolutely no potential use (no roof access, no pipes, no nothing). I began my experiment by locking my bicycle on the hidden landing at the top of the "stairway to nowhere". Of course I received no complaints. However, to avoid carrying my bike up two extra flights of stairs I eventually moved it down to the beginning of the stairway to nowhere, locking it under the railing on the stairs and removing the handlebars and pedals to make it flush with the railing. Although no longer hidden, here I locked it for several months with no complaints, but last night I didn't have my key with me and foolishly just left it the bike standing on the top floor landing (near the emergency water system). This morning I saw the super on my way out and he told me that my bicycle was found in the stairwell and that I would need to keep it in my apartment because it is a fire hazard. Well, after being told that I feel a little bad about just locking it anywhere on the stairway to nowhere. I'd like to ask for permission to continue locking it where I have been, but before doing so I'd like to be aware if it is technically a potential fire code violation. I'll probably try to get away with locking it on the obviously safe hidden landing either way, but I'd rather not draw attention to myself by asking if I'm just going to be shut down for legal reasons. I've looked at the fire code for my city and it seems pretty silent about stairway blockages. So, any thoughts?
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