Popularity of bicycle lockers whizzes upward despite cost

by Michelle Moriarity

Tim Peters has lost two bikes and spent more than $150 on bike locks at the University.
But when Peters, a senior chemistry major, rented a bike locker three months ago, the thefts came to an end.
“I can’t afford losing bikes,” Peters said. A bike locker was his only alternative, he said.
Constructed of molded plastic and plywood, bike lockers aren’t the most attractive structures on campus. But officials and users say they are among the most functional.
Despite affordability and size problems, the bicycle storage units that adorn Coffman Plaza, the West Bank Plaza and the St. Paul campus have increased in both numbers and popularity.
Steve Sanders, project manager for Parking and Transportation Services, said bike lockers are an excellent option for parking bikes on campus.
“They provide a much higher level of security,” Sanders said.
Sanders said the construction is almost foolproof against thieves and vandals. Workers assemble the unit piece-by-piece, bolting each one to the concrete foundation. Each locker is key accessible.
“If somebody takes the trouble to break into it, they won’t know if there’s a bike in it,” Sanders said. The opaque locker does not reveal the unit’s contents.
The number of bike lockers has slowly but steadily increased since the first unit appeared on Coffman Plaza in August 1995. Five of the box-like structures currently speckle the campus.
Roger Huss, assistant director of Parking and Transportation Services, said bike lockers were implemented in a campus-wide effort to make the University more bike-friendly.
“Bike lockers had just started becoming popular in the Twin Cities,” Huss said. “We though it’d be natural to have some on campus.”
Each custom-molded unit holds six bicycles.
Parking officials purchase the lockers for about $6,000 apiece. In turn, they charge students $60 per year for rental.
“They’re pretty durable,” contract parking manager Linda Rogers said. “It’s more protection for your bike.”
But Sanders said problems such as affordability and space economy are fueling an interest in improving the locker design.
Parking officials are working on a type of bike locker that will be less costly and take up less space. Sanders said he hopes the new and improved structures can be available to students as early as this summer.
Rogers said the lockers appeal mainly to bicycle enthusiasts.
“It seems to me most people rent them because they have expensive bikes they want to store safely,” Rogers said.
But this storage option is handy for any bikers on campus, Sanders said.