Proposed changes to the city's parking code have businesses and bicyclists at odds over how close to a store's front door bike parking must be.
Earlier this month, bicycling advocates stalled new parking rules to make it easier for businesses to open by raising last-minute concerns about bicycle parking.
Bike racks now must be within 50 feet of the entrance. Advocates objected to a proposal to make it 75 feet from the entrance if extra security measures for the bikes are added.
They also objected to a new formula to determine the number of bike spaces required and provisions for employee bike parking.
Developers and business owners say close-up racks are not always practical or even necessary, and the debate is delaying needed changes to reduce the number of parking spaces required for businesses - rules that have been years in the making.
The issue arose when the City Council was about to give final approval to land-use-code changes that would have eased parking requirements to be more business-friendly - an key issue in the 2009 city election that is back for this year's campaign.
With the help of Councilwoman Regina Romero, on the night before a March 8 council hearing, bicyclists proposed last-minute changes to the parking code to make it more bike-friendly.
Romero and bicycling advocates said the bike-friendly rules are needed to earn a "platinum rating" from the League of American Bicyclists, a national organization that ranks cities. However, it is unclear whether the bike parking mandate is actually needed to achieve "platinum" status.
Eric Post, an attorney and bike advocate, said it's more a problem of what kind of message bike parking conveys.
"If we don't make platinum this year, it's not going to be bicycle parking - it'll be because ridership is down," said Post, who added that last year one of their weaknesses was bike-friendliness.
"How do we increase ridership? We don't increase it by making it hard for bike riders to lock their bikes," he said.
And having cyclists walk farther from their bicycle isn't the problem - it's an issue of safety and security, Post said.
"Some of the business owners are flat-out hostile towards bicycle riders. They would like to have the bicycle rack out by the Dumpster. Or in the Dumpster," Post said.
But small-business owner Eric Ruden said the bike-parking regulations are "kind of ridiculous."
"For my business, there's no need for a bike rack because customers don't come to my business," Ruden said, who owns Essential Pest Management, where his workers drive to customers' homes to perform services. "That should be up to the individual business, not mandated by the city of Tucson," Ruden said.
For cyclists, this is an equality issue, said Larry Robinson, a member of Tucson's Bicycle Advisory Committee who has been in the construction business for 45 years. Robinson said without close-by parking, cyclists will either not go to that business or illegally park their bike on a handicap sign or other anchor nearby. "I believe it's pro-business to invest in bicycle parking," Robinson said.
Developer Richard Studwell said he sees the problems for both cyclists and developers, but the current bicycle-parking code requires too many spaces.
"I think businesspeople will respond to true needs because it's good for business," Studwell said. But having spaces for bikes at carwashes and Home Depot is an unnecessary burden for businesses, he said.
In addition to safety and convenience, bicyclists want closer parking because it could help boost the area's bicycle-friendliness ranking. The metro area now has a gold ranking, the second-highest.
Fears by cyclists that the new parking regulations would hurt the effort to win a platinum rating was the main reason the council delayed the new parking rules.
The path to a platinum rating isn't based on a strict list of requirements, said Carly Sieff, the program assistant for the Bicycle Friendly America Program, run by the League of American Bicyclists.
Platinum-ranked cities might have adhered to parking recommendations, but the rating is more subjective than things a community can "check off a list" to achieve friendliness, she said.
Councilman Steve Kozachik said the proposed changes took a "broad brush" to regulations. "It's far too restrictive, and it's going to wind up hurting some of the small local business people," Kozachik said.
But Romero said the council will have a new, more workable draft of the rules today when it takes the issue back up.
Kellie Mejdrich is a University of Arizona journalism student apprenticing at the Star. She can be reached at 573-4142 or at firstname.lastname@example.org