Request a Bike Rack in Front of Your House

A San Francisco Bike Rack
This bike rack could be in front of your house.

Did you know that in many cities, you can request a bike rack to be installed wherever you need one?

You may wonder why some businesses and homes have bike racks in front of them, and others do not. This is not random. Citizens and businesses can request bike racks to be installed wherever there is a need.

Your favorite coffee shop doesn’t have a bike rack in front of it? Now it does.

Your friend’s house doesn’t have a bike rack nearby? Now it does.

None of your friends can lock their bike outside of your house? NOW THEY CAN!

With the bikeshare and scootershare in San Francisco and other cities, the dockless “widgets” need to be locked to something, and this means it can be difficult to lock it up in neighborhoods that aren’t full of parking meters or poles. Fear not, you can request a bike rack anywhere you desire!

My Rack Request

I live in a neighborhood with few poles, and decided to request a bike rack in front of my house. I filled out the form on February 9th, 2018, and the bike rack showed up in front of my house on June 7th, 2018. They said it would take around 4 months to be evaluated, so that’s just about what was estimated. Even if you don’t think you’ll need it in 4 months, request it anyway! If you needed it at some point, another person will benefit from it in the future.

Update: Starting in 2019, SF has promised to double the rate of bike racks installed. Hopefully this will reduce the wait time. Comment below how long it took yours to show up!

A San Francisco Bike Rack
What a glorious piece of metal.

When filling out the form, I described why I needed it and exactly where I thought it would be best placed. In my case, between 2 sidewalk trees. Adding this extra info makes it much more likely your request will be successful.

Immediately after the bike rack was installed, I started to see bikeshare bikes and personal bikes locked there daily. Little did I know this was a need on my street I didn’t even realize!

Remember, you don’t have to live somewhere to request a bike rack there. If you have a favorite establishment that doesn’t have enough bike parking in front of it, you can request a bike rack as a customer of the business as well.

Fun fact: Did you know there are only 300 bike parking requests per year in San Francisco? That number should be higher. Go request a rack!

A bicycle locked to a metal gate halfway down some stairs. It has bullhorn handlebars and a helmet clipped to the lock. And very pretty tiffany blue rims.
This is what happens when there aren’t any bike racks on your street. This may look secure, but that fence can be easily cut and bent, rendering your fancy U-lock useless.

Rules

There are rules to the bike rack installations. They won’t just be put anywhere. General rules are as follows from the SF Streets Blog:

“Racks must still leave a six-foot clear walkway on the sidewalk, they can’t be directly in front of building entrances or driveways, they need two-feet of clearance from utility vaults, they can’t be in front of a blue disabled parking curb zone, and they have to be at least two feet from the curb. SFMTA likes the walkway clearance to be even wider on sidewalks with high pedestrian traffic volumes.”

An old SF Streets Blog post

Or if you want to see placement guidelines directly from the SFMTA, here’s a great picture.

SFMTA Bike Rack Requirement Guidelines
A bit hard to understand, but all those numbers mean feet and represent minimum distances between things.

After checking out the rules, find out exactly where you think the bike rack should be and describe that spot for the SFMTA so it will be easy for them to approve and install it.

Damaged Racks

Sometimes you’ll see some of these racks around the city that are damaged or loose. If you see a damaged rack, don’t forget to 311 it! They have a 311 app for San Francisco, which makes the requests very easy. Download it for iOS or Android.

Once you have the app, you’ll realize there are many things you can request to be fixed with that. Broken bike racks, trash or glass in the bike lane, broken street lights, things on the sidewalks that shouldn’t be there, and anything else you think the city should be doing. They’ve also recently added the ability to send pictures of cars blocking the bike lane!

I’ve had decent luck with reporting problems to 311. If it’s easy it’s usually done within a day, but sometimes the city doesn’t have the proper tools to fix these things right away. That’s why I’m excited about the new bike lane sweepers that can finally clean all the glass that’s been collecting in all the new protected bike lanes.

Addendum

I wanted to add some more thoughts before I ended this article.

If you want more specs on a San Francisco bike rack, here is a completely nerded out spec written by the SFMTA. At the bottom of the document they have a very “official” picture.

If you have some extra cash and time, you may be able to install a more custom bike rack in front of your house or business. I’m not sure exactly the process, but I’ve seen them around.

Ice cream cone bike rack san francisco
I was in the city hall meeting when the owners of the ice cream shop, Xanath, requested permission for this bike rack to be installed right in front of their business.

Happy biking and good luck parking!

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