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MItch Cohen

Enabling bike parking at restaurants

Good to see this effort is making progress.

Public House on White Oak

It has taken some time, but a community effort to add bike racks in the Heights is seeing results.

Heights resident Mitch Cohen has placed two racks along 19th Street this year that can each store about 10 bikes and will continue raising money for more.

“I haven’t exactly taken over the area with bike racks, but it has been fun,” said Cohen, who manages the Heights’ First Saturday Arts Market and began working on the rack project about two years ago.

This grassroots effort was inspired while Cohen and other organizers of White Linen Nights in the Heights were cycling from business to business in the area to encourage them to participate.

Cycling is a popular activity and mode of transportation in the Heights, but the volunteers noticed there weren’t many bike racks along the community’s busiest streets, including 19th Street and White Oak Drive.

Cohen knew the Houston Heights Association had placed some racks in the area, and he decided to start a similar effort.

Fred Zapalac of Blue Line Bike Lab, 3302 White Oak Drive, agreed to help Cohen buy the racks at cost.

The fundraising effort got a boost in September 2012, when a couple of artists at the First Saturday Art Market raised $200 in one day by selling pins.

Cohen used that money to buy “Property of the Heights” T-shirts designed by then-Heights resident Leigh Hajovsky. From there, he was able to raise $400 by selling the shirts for $20 a piece during White Linen Nights. With Zapalac’s help, Cohen bought two bike racks with the money.

See here and here for the background. I’m not at all surprised by Mitch Cohen’s persistence in getting this done, but it sure would be nice if he had a little more help. You could probably put a bike rack in front of every business in the greater Heights for a few thousand bucks. Surely the various civic organizations, or maybe a generous donor or two, could help Mitch get this done in a much shorter time frame. The city is now officially encouraging bike parking for businesses in dense neighborhoods. We should be doing more to embrace that.

More bike racks

The Chron notes that Houston is on the verge of becoming an actual bike-friendly city, and that we ought to recognize that and do something to help facilitate it.

Public House on White Oak

Notably, many downtown buildings lack accessible and visible bike racks. For those who live close enough, biking to downtown destinations, whether work or the Theater District, is a tempting alternative to the cost and hassle of downtown parking – especially with the new Buffalo Bayou path. Signposts and benches may have once sufficed, but Houston is steadily approaching the tipping point of actually being a bicycle-friendly city, and we’re going to need enough places to park all those bikes. And for huge buildings like those downtown, sometimes one rack is not enough.

But rather than an infrastructure burden, this is an opportunity to invest in functional public art. Cities from New York City to Louisville, Ky., have turned to local artists to create racks that reflect the spirit and creativity of their towns.

As we know, there’s a restaurant-driven effort to supply bike racks to restaurants in some parts of the city. It makes all kinds of sense to me, because you can add a lot of parking capacity in a small amount of space. Some folks in my neck of the woods are working on this:

When Mitch Cohen was planning White Linen Nights in the Heights last summer, he and the other organizers spent much time on their bikes, cycling from business to business to talk to owners.

“We could get most anywhere in 10 to 20 minutes,” said Cohen, who also manages the Heights’ First Saturday Arts Market. “But there weren’t as many bike racks as we expected.”

Now Cohen is working with other community members to raise money for more racks, which they’re hoping to place in front of businesses along 19th Street, White Oak and other Heights streets.

Cohen said their efforts will complement the work of the Houston Heights Association, which has placed a number of bike racks in the community.

“There are racks here and there, but there’s been no strategic effort to place them where people go shopping,” Cohen said.

“We’re going to tackle that.”

Awesome. More like this, please.