Cincinnati installs new bicycle racks inside Fountain Square Garage

Photo by Thadd Fiala

As part of Cincinnati’s commitment to improving the city’s bicycling community, the City has installed a new mounted bicycle rack inside of the Fountain Square Parking Garage in downtown Cincinnati. The bicycle rack is the first of what will be a wave of new bicycle parking facilities inside existing City-owned garages.

In February, Cincinnati’s Planning Commission approved a bicycle parking ordinance that will require all new or expanded parking garages to provide bicycle parking. The ordinance would specifically require that one bicycle parking space be provided for every 20 motor vehicle spaces. The ratio is comparable to those found in other cities like Portland, New York City, Charlotte, San Francisco, Kansas City and Denver which have all recently implemented similar ordinances.

The Fountain Square Parking Garage currently holds 635 parking spaces for automobiles which would mean should it be constructed today, the garage would be required to provide 24 bicycle parking spaces due to the 24-space cap included in the new ordinance for large parking garages. The new bicycle parking ordinance is the first of its kind in the region and is intended to tackle the problem of a lack of secured, covered bicycle parking spaces in Cincinnati’s center city.

The new rack inside the Fountain Square Parking Garage holds 12 bicycles, cost approximately $1,400 and was paid for through the City’s existing Bicycle Transportation Program. Officials from the City’s Department of Transportation & Engineering say that preliminary discussions are underway to incorporate more of these racks in other City-owned garages, but that public feedback would be helpful as officials determine where to locate them next.

Please share your thoughts on where the City should install these bicycle racks next in the comment section below, by filling out a form on the City’s website, or by calling (513) 591-6000.

View City-Owned Parking Garages in a larger map

  • I understand that the city is aiming to have more racks for the sake of having more racks, especially with their initiative to place them in parking structures, but it is almost completely useless. No cyclist will use this as it is more convenient to park the bike somewhere on the street — whether it is to the handrails, or to the signage posts. The city would do better by installing bike racks above-ground, where they are sorely needed.

    I remember last year, an Ambassador was being all pushy when 20 cyclists (that I was a part of) rolled up to Fountain Square and had nowhere to lock up. We used the handrail (not the handicapped ramp) and the alcohol barrier, and the Ambassador came down and was trying to force the locks out. Where else are we supposed to lock up at, when there are zero bike racks at Fountain Square? (The issue was later corrected by 3CDC.)

    By placing the racks underground, or out-of-sight, or in a more inconvenient location than just off-the-street, the city is only wasting money when it could just add a rack on the sidewalk for much less. The same could be said to a lesser extent about the new Northside bike “corral.” It’s rarely used. I’ve been to the Tavern a lot lately, and to Melt and Sidewinder, both during the day and night, and at most I’ve seen is one bike locked to it. The rest are more than happy apparently to use the street signs and fences.

  • Nate Wessel

    @ Sherman,

    While I largely agree with you, I think there could very easily come a time when bikes locked to poles downtown or in the business districts could become a serious impediment to pedestrians. I would hate for that to happen, not only because pedestrians are awesome, but because any pushback against bikes would only hurt us. Too many bikes parked all over the place-just like cars- could be an impediment to a pedestrian friendly environment.

    And anyway, bike racks are crazy-cheap. 1400 dollars is less than a tenth of the cost of one of the automobile parking spaces in that garage. I would think that is worth it if only as nothing else than a gesture 🙂

  • Dan Prevost

    I think these are targeted at office workers commuting by bicycle. It’s one thing to lock your bike to a sign post while you grab a bite to eat or run an errand or hang out in the square for an hour or two. It’s entirely different to do it for a 9-10 hour work day.

    Accomodations targeted at both market segments are needed.

  • Dan is right on this one. The racks installed inside parking garages are targeted towards those commuting to work via bicycle. Those commuters would prefer to have their bicycles parked in a covered location out of the elements.

    Throughout Downtown, there are MANY bicycle parking options already from the specifically designed racks to the tri-poles that are also implicitly designed to be used as bike racks. These facilities are more convenient for the bicyclist on the go that might be running errands, or simply biking about town one day like you and your friends Sherman.

    So in the case of those leaving their bicycle parked somewhere for 8-10 hours, I don’t think it is at all an inconvenience to go one-level underground to park their bicycle. Just like it won’t be an inconvenience to go inside the Bicycle Facility at the new Cincinnati Riverfront Park that will include enclosed lockers, showers, etc. Certainly those going for a quick trip to the CRP won’t park their bikes there, but those going to work for the day will.

  • Cygnus

    I too agree with Dan.

    However, additional questions need to be asked. How are cyclists supposed to get to these racks? Last time I checked, and I’ll look again today at lunch, the entrances to this garage use gates that state something along the lines of “Vehicles Only” or “No Pedestrians, Motorcycles, Bicycles”. The Central Riverfront Garages has this disclaimer as well. So are cyclists to use the stairs and/or elevators, both of which are rather small at Fountain Square?

  • The elevators at Fountain Square would easily hold a bicycle, but the stairs are quite narrow. With that said, I don’t think a bicyclist would run into any issues if they enter the garage at the Vine Street entrance and pull right up to the rack. The rack is placed prior to the gates, so there shouldn’t be any logistical issue there.

  • Many corporate office towers already have showers, but many are restricted and cannot be used by cyclists (e.g. Great American, PNC, National City, Fifth Third). And many of the smaller offices have no such facilities at all. Such a rack, designed apparently for business users, will have a limited impact unless wider changes are adopted. The showers and lockers planned for the riverfront park is a big step, but it is too far removed from downtown unless you work along 4th and 3rd, but that could change if the streetcar is built.

    For cyclists to bike to work, it needs to be convenient for them to both lock and secure their bike, and to get a shower or at least have a facility to change clothes. Dayton has this on their riverfront, although it is immediately adjacent to their downtown. Ideally, downtown would need more than what the riverfront will contain, and this facility would be great if it could be expanded into something more.

    The main issue I have with this is that it is not easily accessible and it is not visible. Cygnus is correct in that the ramps are not bicycle friendly — and the signage outright prohibits any such movements except if you are in an auto. There is no outward signage anywhere else, and the signage at Fountain Square prohibits bicycles — yet you must cross Fountain Square to access the elevator to head down. But it’s not signed there yet, either.

    A great start, but this would have been better located in a more visible location. It need not necessarily be buried in a parking garage, and can be located in a covered shelter on the street even (e.g. what Columbus has).

  • A couple things. Bicycles are not banned from Fountain Square. It is prohibited to ride your bicycle across Fountain Square. So you ride up to the ADA ramp along Vine, walk your bike 50 feet to the elevator and take it down to the first level where the rack is located. Or, you ride down the automobile ramp on Vine Street and ride directly to the rack located before the gates. Given that negotiations took place between the City and 3CDC to install this rack, I feel fairly certain that parking garage attendants will not be shaking you down for riding your bicycle to the bicycle parking location. Clearly bicycles are no longer banned as they might previously had been since they now have a freaking bicycle parking option inside the garage.

    As for creating a more visible, covered shelter…great. The problem is that it requires an much greater upfront capital cost and long-term maintenance costs that can probably not be funded at this point. Along those lines, wayfinding signage downtown and across the city has difficulty being built and maintained for this exact reason. There isn’t a dedicated stream of money to maintain the items, and the capital costs usually have to be covered by state and/or federal grants.

  • BTW, you can read the rules/regulations of Fountain Square here:

    In that is specifically states that “bicycle riding, rollerblading, or skateboarding” are prohibited. So it is the action of riding a bicycle that is prohibited, not the mere presence of one.

  • I think a lot of office workers would just take their bikes into their offices. That’s what I have always done.
    Cyclists are creatures of habit just like anybody else. They are used to locking up wherever. With these racks being “hidden” some signage or promotion will be needed.
    In areas like Northside passengers exiting their cars curbside can run into bikes locked to utility poles.
    Couple questions
    Are they free?
    What do you hook the bike onto with these racks?

  • Quimbob:

    1) Yes, they are free for anyone to use.

    2) You hook your bicycle to the top of bracket where there is a spot to hang your bicycle’s front tire. The brackets seen in the image above then provide an option for you to lock your bicycle to a solid steel locking loop with any locking device of your preference.

    I have another photo that better illustrates the hook where you hang your bicycle if that would be useful.

  • @Quimbob: The bike racks aren’t hard to operate. I took a ride down there today during lunch and it’s pretty simple to use.

    @Randy: I’m aware of their regulations. I was told by the Ambassador not to walk my bike, much less ride it, because the rubber damages the granite, unlike horse hoofs apparently. I knew better and took him up on it and ignored him, plus it is pretty obvious what the signage says.

    That said, the disconnect and the lack of signage as I pointed out and you reinforced is something that should be corrected. I think this is something that can grow and become better, like the scooter parking issue.

    There still needs to be above-ground parking for bikes, via simple racks, which I suggested to 3CDC long ago. This is a start and I’m happy for it, so I hope that the word gets out about it.

  • I agree that more/better signage would be ideal, but it just doesn’t seem to be realistic at this point. Two years ago I identified some grant programs that would fund the capital costs of install comprehensive wayfinding signage throughout Cincinnati’s center city, but I was informed by the City that there were no funds to maintain those once installed.

    The maintenance costs could potentially come from DCI on an annual basis, but it doesn’t really fit in with their core responsibilities as laid out by their constituents, so I doubt that will happen any time soon.

  • Person

    I don’t see why people are complaining about these being underground. Who cares? If you want to go to Fountain Square, lock it up underground and come up for a bite. How much is this going to take away from your life? Will it completely ruin your day that you took the time to cycle down there but have to walk a little bit? Secondly, this is only the beginning of the bicycle movement. I’m sure there will be racks everywhere within the next few years.

  • Since y’all mentioned Kansas City’s bike parking requirements, I’ll chime in here. These racks in a parking garage are an essential part of an overall bike parking plan. The requirements we adopted here in KC are two pronged.

    1) “Short term” parking for visitors and patrons of visitors – generally the inverted-U and other racks common on the sidewalk and near business entrances. Short term spaces are meant for people parking their bikes long enough to use a library, eat at a restaurant, get a haircut, visit a coffee shop, etc.

    2) “Long term” parking employees of a business or tenants of an apartment/condo/loft building. These are covered and secure parking spots in a garage, basement, bike room, or outside in a bike locker or under a canopy. Long term parking is meant for employees to park their bikes while they are at work all day or for residents of multi-tenant housing to park overnight.

    Both are essential, and it sounds like you are on your way in Cincinnati!