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What Happened to West Portal’s Lonely Little Bike Lockers?

Until a few weeks ago, these two bike lockers were hidden away at the back of a municipal parking lot near West Portal Station. And now they’re gone. Photos by Streetsblog/Rudick

Four BikeLink electronic bike lockers used to live in the back corner of the Ulloa Street parking lot, 140 paces from Muni's West Portal Station. They were hidden on two sides by a large retaining wall. There were no signs at the station letting you know they were there. In fact, when I asked a station attendant where the bike lockers were she insisted there weren't any. I only found them because I was so incredulous about the total lack of bike parking at West Portal that I decided to check the BikeLink web page. Even then, it took me a while to find them.

But once I did, I found them incredibly useful--not just for getting to and riding Muni, but also as a place to stash my bike if I wanted to stop for a coffee in West Portal.

But now, sadly, they're gone. I went to use them earlier this week and found myself staring at a car where the lockers used to live.

Alas, the hidden bike lockers are removed to make room for one more car parking spot. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
Alas, the hidden bike lockers were removed to make room for one more car parking spot. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

As most Streetsblog readers already know, the L-Taraval, M-Ocean View, and K-Ingleside (and the West Portal shuttle and a couple of bus lines) all meet here, so it's one of San Francisco's most important hubs. One would think a bike rack or two, at the very least, would be in order.

So why were the lockers removed?

"...they were not utilized enough to justify keeping them at the lot," wrote Paul Rose, a spokesman for SFMTA, in an email to Streetsblog. "We did significant outreach to let cyclists and the neighborhood know they were at the Ulloa parking lot (see attached PDF of flyer/poster). Even after that outreach, the utilization numbers did not increase."

And here's the flyer/outreach:

Image: SFMTA
Image: SFMTA

I don't recall ever seeing this flyer before--certainly not in West Portal station. If you did, please comment below.

Rose also wrote that "As you know, the lockers were visible from the entrance of the lot."

And here's the view from the entrance of the parking lot. Yes, technically, they were visible... see them way back there in the corner?

The lockers are, technically, visible from the entrance of the parking lot. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
The lockers were, technically, visible from the entrance of the parking lot. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

Again, notice the retaining wall--putting the lockers completely out of view from pretty much anywhere except the spot where I took this photo. And the only sign to tell you about the lockers was located behind the lockers. So, basically, the sign would only tell you where the lockers were if you had already bumped into them.

Moreover, the lockers were completely out of view from the station itself or for anyone riding the train.

Besides the fact that they were so hard to find, there's something maddening about placing the bike lockers in the worst parking spot in the lot. Even the parking spots around the back right corner of the lot are more convenient, since there's a pedestrian passageway that leads out to an alley and to the main strip. The message seems to be: thanks for biking, good luck finding the bike boxes, and, by the way, we've reserved the crappiest spot we could find for your bike.

Why were there no signs about the boxes in West Portal station and why were SFMTA's own employees unaware of them? And why can't we get a few bike boxes or racks in a more obvious location, such as, oh, I dunno--in front of the station!? Why should it be necessary to go on Google and then return to the station and hunt around for them, as I did a few months ago? And how many people would even think to look for them, if a Muni attendant tells them there's no bike parking?

Fortunately, there's some hope for making West Portal more bike friendly. A representative from Motivate, which runs the Bay Area bike-share system, said they are "...looking to expand in the West Portal," perhaps sometime in 2018.

And there's even a chance of getting the lockers back, hopefully in a more visible location: "As part of the Business Plan for the Long Term Bike Parking project that’s underway, our consultant team just completed survey work at several locations around the city, including West Portal. We are currently doing a site and cost analysis for a secure bike parking facility at West Portal, so there could be a second attempt in the area," wrote Rose.

The lockers, meanwhile, were moved to a garage for San Francisco General Hospital.

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