The Bike Parking Revolution is Growing … in New Jersey, Alas

Rendering: Oonee
Rendering: Oonee

Grand Central Terminal will get six secure bike-parking spots from Oonee — part of a large expansion that almost entirely focuses on New Jersey, the company said.

The need for bike parking in Manhattan is well documented, but Oonee’s announcement on Monday of 1,500 new spaces by the end of next year includes 29 of the company’s pods in Jersey City and just seven in New York City. In addition to the Grand Central Terminal space, the company said it would open parking pods at three Port Authority sites, one in New Jersey and two on this side of the river — part of a pattern of the Garden State being more aggressive and innovative when it comes to supporting much-needed bike infrastructure, said Oonee founder Shabazz Stuart. 

“I’m eternally grateful to have been able to find expansion opportunities in the region, but I always think it’ll be very frustrating and breaks my heart a little that we weren’t able to expand faster in New York,” said Stuart. “I hope that the next round of leadership in the city will be more aggressive and more excited about this work.”

Stuart, who declined to provide more specifics, was especially excited about opening an Oonee pod at Grand Central before the end of this year.

“This is an amazing first step,” he said. “I can’t wait to see many more.” 

The concept behind Oonee is simple: scores of prefabricated parts can be quickly assembled into a 14-foot cube that houses 20 bike racks, or into Oonee Minis, which house about 6-to-10 spaces. Subscribers unlock the unit with a card key or smartphone, then simply lock their bike vertically to the racks. Membership is free, thanks to Oonee’s deals with advertisers, whose logos appear on the outside of the units.

Oonee is also coming to Brooklyn and Queens. In Williamsburg, Oonee is partnering with developer Two Trees to open 20 secure bike parking spaces to North First and River Streets, near the popular Domino Park.

And in Queens, Oonee is partnering with a developer to open a high-capacity hub in Woodside next to the 61st St-Woodside station, and is still in talks with Madison International Realty to bring 20 secure bike parking spaces to the Queens Place Mall.

Bike parking is so scarce in Midtown that developers RXR Realty and TF Cornerstone abandoned its request to reduce the number of spaces in their planned 83-story mixed-use tower above Grand Central Terminal at E. 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue — dubbed Project Commodore — after backlash.

And a recent Transportation Alternatives report revealed that the de Blasio administration’s failure to build out enough infrastructure to keep up with the growing bike boom — failing to meet its own modest goal of 1,500 racks per year — has undermined public safety, creating a rise in bike theft.

Department of Transportation Commissioner Hank Gutman promised in February to install 10,000 bike parking spaces by the end of 2022, but progress remains slow.

Oonee operates a bike parking cube near the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, which opened in 2019, and in Journal Square in Jersey City. The company had a pod at Whitehall Street near the State Island Ferry terminal in lower Manhattan, but was forced to close in July, 2019 after it could not come to an agreement with the DOT about what kind of advertising would be permitted on the outside.

Stuart told Streetsblog in February that full-size Oonee pods like the one in Downtown Brooklyn are helpful in filling the giant hole in bike parking created by the de Blasio administration, but he believes that smaller units could more easily be rapidly deployed everywhere, once the city gives the green light and investors see that the concept works.

What do we want? Bike parking! When do we want it? Now! The Oonee pod at Atlantic Terminal. Photo: Yosef Kessler
What do we want? Bike parking! When do we want it? Now! The Oonee pod at Atlantic Terminal. File photo: Yosef Kessler

“This should function like bike corrals,” he said of his pods. “People should be empowered to request one of these for their curb space. Why should a person with a car be unilaterally allowed to say, ‘I’m going to take up eight feet in front of this random building?’ Why can’t the majority of residents of the block say, ‘No, we want to use that space for bike parking’ or ‘We want that space for a cafe’?”

Earlier this year, Oonee announced that it would launch two new hubs in Brooklyn in partnership with the real-estate firm Totem, one at 737 Fourth Ave. in Sunset Park and another at 1045 Atlantic Ave. in Bedford-Stuyvesant, which is currently snaking its way through the city’s Uniform Land-Use Review ProcedureEach hub will provide more than 100 bike parking spaces for the community, specifically geared towards working cyclists.