Car Parking Regulations
This might seem to be a strange issue when discussing increasing bicycling, but it is far more important than most people think. In many countries, car parking regulations have mandated the availability of free parking at every destination in the community. This sets driving out as the most convenient form of transportation for most people and thus directly causes more people to choose to drive instead of bicycle.
Incredibly, another forgotten detail of providing free parking is the cost. A Canadian study by Auto-Free Ottawa showed that 86 percent of the American workforce commutes to work by car, and more than 90 percent of those commuters park for free. The average national value for a parking space is approximately $1,000 each year, so that results in $85 billion in annual subsidies.
Another aspect of providing prime real estate for free parking is what that space could have been used for instead. In the last few years a new wave of creative parking space use has taken hold in the U.S. Most notably, the annual PARK(ing) Day where citizens choose a parking space and instead of parking a car there all day, they create a mini park where they enjoy each other, chatting, picnicking, playing music and enjoying the public space. Take a look at: www.parkingday.org
Here's an inspiring video from San Francisco's Park(ing) Day in September 2009:
Cities around the world are also taking more permanent action by converting car parking spaces into areas for multiple bike racks, protected by barriers but easily accessed from the street.
Here's a very useful manual on converting car parking spaces into parklets: San Francisco Parklet Manual.
Drivers looking for on-street parking contribute enormously to traffic congestion which also compromises the bicycling experience. Since parking is free, those who find a spot have no incentive to move their car so spots rarely open thus causing congestion by drivers looking for parking spots.
Donald Shoup, a professor at UCLA, has done extensive studies about the car parking problem, much of which he captured in his book The High Cost of Free Parking. One of his top solutions is to charge the correct price for parking so that people will choose other modes such as bicycling and, if they do drive, will leave their spot as soon as possible thus decreasing the need for other drivers to drive around looking for a spot.
Learn more about Professor Shoup and find links to his book and other articles here: http://shoup.bol.ucla.edu/
Enjoy this video with Professor Shoup showing how charging correctly for parking frees up spaces, cuts traffic and pays for improving the street: http://www.streetfilms.org/archives/illustrating-parking-reform-with-dr-shoup/
This study focuses on a street in a New York neighborhood and how these car parking issues have affected traffic there: Park Slope’s Parking Problem