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Bike commuters have their own parking problems

Thursday - 5/15/2014, 5:30am  ET

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At the Council of Governments building, bike racks are in the garage steps from a fitness room, and security patrols the garage. (WTOP/Kate Ryan)

WASHINGTON -- It's nearly National Bike To Work Day, and if you're planning on taking part in the May 16 event, there's a question to consider: Where can you park once you've cycled to work?

Nicholas Ramfos, director of commuter connections for the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, says there has been a huge increase in biking -- "particularly in the District of Columbia, Arlington, Alexandria and southern Montgomery County" -- and with that growth comes the need for more bike parking.

Some areas have street parking, but the size and design of bike racks vary, and a look around business districts from Bethesda to Alexandria shows that racks are often packed. And there's the risk of theft, which can discourage would-be bike commuters.

So roll the bike into your office, right? Ramfos says not every office provides bike parking, and some even bar employees from bringing bikes into their buildings.

The Council of Governments, whose offices are on North Capitol Street around the corner from Union Station, provides bike parking in two areas of the parking garage. COG transportation planner John Swanson gives the parking facilities an "A."

The EPA bike room gets bragging rights for great accommodations. (WTOP/Kate Ryan)

"I think we've got a great facility here. It's really easy to ride in; we've got security folks and they greet me in the morning," Swanson says.

Also, the EPA has a fitness room adjacent to the bike parking. Swanson says he arrives in the morning, and gets a 20-minute workout in after his ride to work.

And after all that exercise? Showers are provided for men and women.

"It's just an awesome way to start the day," he says.

Ramfos says about a quarter of all employers in the D.C. region provide some kind of bike amenities for workers.

"It makes it much easier for employees to feel comfortable coming to and from work on a bike."

Jim Titus, who occasionally bikes to work at the Environmental Protection Agency, agrees that good facilities spur bike commuting. At the L Street offices where he works, the bikes aren't left in the parking garage; they have their own space in a bike room that Titus calls "state of the art."

"First, there's a bike room that holds 50 or 60 bikes, and then there are two locker rooms: a men's locker room and a women's locker room," each of which has showers. "EPA's bike room is a model for a cost-effective design that gives you everything you need."

WTOP's Kate Ryan contributed to this report. Follow @WTOP on Twitter and WTOP on Facebook.

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