If Marc Berg had his way, bikers headed to work in downtown Minneapolis would be able to pull into an indoor bike center where they could secure their bikes, shower, hang sweaty clothes and change into work duds.
The 52-year-old lawyer is making some headway in promoting the idea, even though it is probably several years from happening.
The city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee endorsed studying the feasibility of such a center. The Downtown Council of Minneapolis is involved in discussions about the scope of the study as a representative of downtown employers. Advocates say many questions would need to be resolved before a bike center could open to users willing to pay a monthly fee.
But Berg still thinks that such a center is inevitable.
“It makes too much sense not to,” he said, noting the growth in workers commuting to downtown. “There are policymakers and government staff who get it and are supportive.”
Such facilities already have opened in cities such as Chicago and Indianapolis. Madison, Wis., is planning one. St. Paul’s Union Depot has indoor bike storage and lockers for $7 a month, but a disagreement with a planned operator has meant the facility’s showers are not yet operating.
Not every biker needs a public bike center. Some have employers or landlords who provide secure storage for bikes, showers, changing areas, clothes racks, repair stands and other amenities for free or a nominal charge. A city ordinance now requires showers and lockers in buildings of more than 500,000 square feet (the IDS Center is 1.4 million square feet).
Berg is relatively lucky. He commutes up to four times a week between his home in St. Louis Park and his job in Downtown East, a 14-mile round trip. He’s invested in a pricier suit bag that keeps the clothes he sometimes needs to wear to court in good shape. (One downtown employer’s bike facility includes ironing space and a steamer for dealing with wrinkles.)
He can change out of his bike togs — three layers in winter — in the locker room of the fitness center at the office building where he works. There are individual changing rooms with a shower, sink, mirror, soap and a hair dryer. It’s all covered by the rent that office tenants pay.
The only flaw is that his bike is locked to a rack in a covered but not secure area of the building’s parking ramp. Berg lost a bike to a thief about five years ago. Now there’s a security camera.
Questions about location, who will be in charge and consumer costs need answers before a bike center could be available to potentially hundreds of cyclists in downtown Minneapolis. In some cities, a lead government or corporate sponsor has emerged.
Hennepin County staff have been involved in determining the scope of a feasibility study, primarily because the county can’t meet demand from its own employees for outdoor bike lockers — even without showers.
The Downtown Council isn’t aiming to lead the study but does view creating a center as supporting its vision that more people use transit and other ways of transportation to reach downtown by 2025.
“The end-of-trip experience for people served by bikes needs to be improved,” said Ben Shardlow, who directs public initiatives for the council.