With federal grant money that will pay up to 80 percent of the cost of their installation, a proposal forwarded by the Kent Planning Commission that the city require bike racks for builders of new commercial buildings constructed in the downtown is something City Council should seriously consider.
The proposal is similar to ones being taken by Towson, Md., home of Towson University. Farragut and Aloca, two communities in the Knoxville, Tenn. area are considering similar legislation.
A modest part of the cost of a new building, the bike racks would be required for every 5,000 square feet of commercial space, in most ordinances under consideration.
The legislation would make Kent a more friendly pedestrian- and bicycle-oriented community. It would be in keeping with the goals of PARTA's multi-modal transportation center. It would indirectly improve the health of those who go by bicycle rather than by other means. It would probably provide an initiative for the city to come up with a better way for bicyclers utilizing area bicycle trails to pass through Kent's downtown. It would be consistent with goals of those who want Kent to be more environmentally friendly.
Not all communities have accepted bicycle rack ordinances. A Google search shows Northbrook, Ill. having rejected such an initiative, for instance. We can find no evidence that Oberlin, Ohio, well known for its bicycle emphasis, has such an ordinance on the books, but the college is bicycle-oriented and has placed bike racks all over the town.
We do not have a good feel for how Kent will receive such an idea. Americans love their cars and in their respective communities want good streets. Businesses try to be automobile-friendly in that context.
Nevertheless, the proposal from the Kent Planning Commission is an interesting one and merits serious consideration. We think it would be a positive step for Kent, but recognize not everyone will agree.