A new location for a bike rack in downtown Decorah has become controversial.
Several business owners in the 400 block of West Water Street told the Decorah City Council Monday night they want the rack returned to its previous spot on the street.
The city had new bike racks installed last spring, including one in a parking space on the street in front of the Northeast Iowa Montessori School, 418 West Water St. The racks were removed for the winter, and when they were re-installed this spring, that bike rack was placed in the Montessori parking lot.
Benji Nichols, co-owner of The Courtyard and Cellar, 420 West Water St., told the Council the majority of business owners in the block want the rack back on the street. At its present location in the parking lot, it isn’t being used because no one sees it, he said. Instead, bikes are being parked along buildings.
Council member Tade Kerndt said the city wanted to try both spots and “see how it goes.”
“Basically you haven’t given it a chance,” he told Nichols. “I’m not saying either way is better, but you never gave it a chance.”
Council member Paul Wanless said while he appreciates Nichols’ feelings and those of other business owners, he said he also heard from families that felt more comfortable parking their bikes in the parking lot rack.
“They felt it’s a safer environment,” Wanless said.
He said less than a day after the decision was made to move the rack to the parking lot, he began receiving complaints via emails that the location wasn’t working.

Other comments
Decorah resident Gerald Harvey said bike racks should be located where people are going to shop.
“If you go to Java Johns, you don’t see it (the bike rack). People going to the Sugar Bowl are not using it. We’re already seeing bikes being parked against buildings,” he said. “It’s a bad decision to put a bicycle rack where no one can see it.”
Andy Nelson, chair of the city’s Self Supporting Improvement District (SSMID), said the consensus of SSMID members was to put the bike racks back in the same locations they were last year. Property owners within the city’s SSMID, which includes the downtown area and West Side, pay a special property tax to fund amenities such as flower baskets, benches, trash receptacles, bicycle racks, trees, kiosks and Christmas lights.
“When I saw it in the Montessori School parking lot, I was surprised it was not in the parking stall (on the street). SSMID doesn’t make the decision, but we helped pay for it (the bike rack),” Nelson said.
Sharon Huber, owner of Fancy Pants, 411 W. Water St., said being bike friendly would contribute to the success of businesses in the block. Having a bike rack on the street improves pedestrian traffic by preventing bikes from being parked against buildings, light posts and trees, she said.
As an avid cyclist, Huber said she prefers to park her bike where there is high visibility, not “where there is no light and in a slanted parking lot.”
Drew Stevenson, co-owner of the Decorah Hatchery, 406 W. Water St., said the bike rack was “extremely successful” where it was located last year. He said since the rack was placed in the parking lot, he’s seen more children being dropped off at the school from the street instead of the parking lot.

Signage
Council member Gary Rustad said signs should be erected to direct people to the bike rack. He said a block down the street, a rack in the Oneota Food Coop’s parking lot is heavily used. An additional rack in the lower parking lot below the Coop also is well utilized, he added.
“You need to give it a try. We may find out last year’s spot was a better location. Next year, we’ll have something to compare it with,” Rustad said.