Off with their heads
on February 8, 2009
By Samson Reiny/Oakland North
It was off with their heads-the parking meter heads-that is. At the end of 2007, the City of Oakland replaced its traditional coin-eating car meters with automated payment kiosks in the most congested parking areas, allowing people the convenience of paying for parking time by credit card and cash rather than change. In order not to confuse motorists, most of the old meters’ heads were removed. But for many bicyclists, especially on busy College Avenue, that meant losing a sturdy place to lock their bikes because thieves could now easily slip the locks over the headless poles.
“The stores like Trader Joe’s have racks and signposts,” said Ed Buchanan, 43, who commutes to work on bike two or three times a week and was just leaving the ATM ready to hit the bike path. “But, especially on the weekends, I’ve had to share one of those u-shaped bike lock grids with several people because there’s no other room.”
Another rider says the city should encourage alternative transportation. “They should be supporting green living and bicycling as a way to get around,” said Ben Wurgaft, 30, an Oakland resident who was found unlocking his bike on a side street. “We should have replacement heads for those car meters or more of those u-shaped stalls. There’s not enough places.”
Roughly a year after the car meter decapitations, the city’s Transportation Services Division has meted out a contract that will provide 350 new bike parking racks throughout Oakland’s heavily trafficked areas by the end of this year. College Avenue is set to acquire 25 new bike racks, and, because of the high volume of bike traffic in the area, these particular ones will be installed by the end of February. The city’s long-term goal is to add 1,000 new bike racks in the next two to five years.
The locations for the future bike racks on College Avenue are mapped out on the city’s Web site, although this map’s accuracy has a few exceptions: no meter retrofit racks will be installed, and, on the block between 63rd and Alcatraz, no racks will be posted on the west side of the street. Instead, four racks will be installed on the east side of the street near the Safeway. “The rack locations were limited by sidewalk space, the surrounding pavement quality, and concerns from business owners,” said Jennifer Stanley, the Bicycle and Pedestrian Facilities Coordinator for the city, “but we are trying to fill the need as best as we can.”
But for one bicyclist, it doesn’t matter much if metal racks are available or not. “There’s a tree, a signpost, an old car meter head still up there,” Paul Burkhurt pointed out matter-of-factly as he casually strolled the sidewalk wearing his black sunshades while pushing his bicycle. “There always a place you can find for your bike.” The few meter heads that remain on the streets with the new automated kiosks were left as a courtesy for bicyclists who needed them to lock up while the city worked out the details of the new bike racks. But, according to Stanley, after the new racks are installed, it’s off with those meter heads, too.
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