By TED MANN
May 29, 2013, 9:20 p.m. ET
In a move to jump-start use of bicycles to reach the city’s newest arena, the Barclays Center is turning to a perk drivers can relate to: the valet.
Transportation Alternatives, an advocacy group, will conduct a trial run of bike valets on Wednesday at a concert by the Brooklyn-based band The National. Workers will collect bikes and helmets of arriving concertgoers, store them in existing bike racks, and redistribute them after the show is over.
The charge to riders: nothing. Cyclists also won’t have to tote a bike lock or carry a helmet around during the show.
The valet system is an effort to nudge residents of the surrounding neighborhoods in Brooklyn to bike to events. While concert and game attendees have largely used trains and subways to reach the arena, which sits at a major transportation hub, the 400 bicycle racks at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Dean Street have often stood mostly empty.
In part, that’s a function of winter weather, said Ashley Cotton, vice president of developer Forest City Ratner Enterprises, which manages the arena. The Barclays Center opened in September 2012 toward the end of the good weather.
But the absence of bikes in the elegant steel racks has been glaring, she said. “It’s just been one of those annoyances that our bike lot hasn’t been fully used yet,” Ms. Cotton said.
Previous experience running bike valets at Brooklyn events shows a little bit of convenience can be an effective lure, said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives. The organization already runs similar operations at the Celebrate Brooklyn concert series at the Prospect Park Bandshell, as well as the Great GoogaMooga food festival.
For Transportation Alternatives, which lobbies for bike- and pedestrian-friendly policies in the city, running a bike valet is only partly about revenue. The group will get $850 from Forest City to run the service for the National show, Mr. Steely White said.
“For us, the value of doing bike valet is as an organizing tool,” Mr. Steely White said. The group collects email addresses when riders fill out the valet forms when dropping off their bikes. The people tagging and guarding bikes are a mix of volunteers and paid temporary workers, he said.
On a recent rainy Friday, Mr. Steely White, Ms. Cotton and Terence Kelly, the community affairs manager for the arena, all hopped on bikes in Park Slope and cruised the few blocks to the back of the arena. There, Evan Feldman, a Transportation Alternatives official, demonstrated how the bike handoff works. In his three seasons parking bikes, Mr. Feldman said, the group had handled roughly 20,000 bikes and “never had a problem.”
Bike transportation was supposed to play a bigger role at the Barclays Center. The developer initially pledged to have a bike-storage center with room for 400 bikes in a tower planned for the space next to the arena. But as developer Bruce Ratner adjusted his construction timetable, the construction of that building was pushed back, and with it the bike room.
The racks for 400 bikes that now occupy the southeastern corner of the development have taken the place of the bike room.
Mr. Steely White, who cycled up to Barclays jauntily holding an open umbrella and riding a black matte Dutch commuter bike whose weight he estimated at about 50 pounds, said the valet service has been a hit in other bike-friendly locales.
The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition uses a manager and 23 bike supervisors, as well as volunteers, to park bikes at San Francisco Giants baseball games, communications director Kristin Smith said in an email message.
The bike coalition also handles bikes for culinary and music festivals in the city, and believes the service boosts bike ridership.
“When people know their bike will be safe, it makes sense to pedal to the event, to not worry about parking their car, trying to grab a cab, or manage the overflowing buses,” Ms. Smith said.
Write to Ted Mann at firstname.lastname@example.org
A version of this article appeared May 30, 2013, on page A17 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Barclays Pedals Bike Valet Service.