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Bike rack shortage is a good problem to have

With the number of cyclists in Boston growing rapidly, the city faces a pleasant challenge: finding a place for all of them to park. Although the city now has 3,000 bike-rack spots, triple the number it had just six years ago, the supply still hasn’t kept up with demand. Some cyclists report having to circle blocks looking for places to lock up their bike. The shortage poses a challenge that the city should meet creatively.

Boston isn’t alone in grappling with a bike-rack gap, and other cities provide examples of ways to respond that go beyond just plunking down more racks. New York City changed its laws to make it easier for workers to bring their bicycles into commercial buildings and park them inside. Cambridge hosted a design competition to come up with more attractive racks, and plans to install 40 to 50 of the winning models in Kendall Square.

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Meanwhile, Washington and Chicago have glassy downtown bicycle garages that hold hundreds of bikes and double as architectural monuments to cycling’s place in the city — in the same way grand urban railroad terminals once planted a flag for train travel. Some European cities are even further along; Copenhagen’s busiest railway station, which already had space for 900 bikes, is currently being redesigned to include “beds” for 1,900.

Boston doesn’t need to copy any of those particular plans. But it should take inspiration from what those approaches all have in common: a new kind of solution for a new kind of problem.

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