Today saw the opening of a smart new Bike Station at 2208  Shattuck Avenue, the result of a partnership between the city and BART, as well as community biking organizations. The station offers convenient, free valet-parking space for cyclists commuting via the Downtown Berkeley BART, as well as repair facilities, a retail store and amenities designed to turn novice cyclists into enthusiasts. (Watch the slideshow above, clicking on “captions” for more details.)

The station, which was five years in the planning and was funded to the tune of $765,000, is located in the double-height ceilinged space formerly occupied by a Shoe Pavilion store. It was offically opened today at 11.00am at a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by, among others, Mayor Tom Bates and Assemblymember Nancy Skinner (sporting a red bike helmet).

The facility is being run by Alameda Bicycle, which also manages BART’s bike stations at Embarcadero and Fruitvale stations. Owner Gene Oh said he hoped the station will “help people get the cycling bug” and make commuting by bike part of their lifestyle. The station has a fleet of bikes for rent,  accessorized with bags, lights, locks and racks.

There’s a 24-hour smart-card activated self-park area, which costs just 3 cents per hour on weekdays, bike repairs, free bike safety check inspections and restrooms. The space is open and airy with orange and green painted walls and contemporary graphics.

The station has the space to store 268 bikes and is, according to BART Board Vice President Bob Franklin, the second largest bike station in the nation after Chicago. It replaces the cramped bike storage area on the concourse of Downtown Berkeley BART, set up in 1999, which could only accommodate 80 bikes and was often unable to meet customer demand.

The East Bay Bike Coalition, which worked on getting the new facility open, is moving into offices at the rear of the station. Rick Richards, the EBBC’s acting Executive Director, said he hoped the space would be as much a community hub as a biking facility. Another self-service bike station is planned for Ashby BART station later in the summer.

Assemblywoman Skinner said there was no reason Berkeley couldn’t be the bike capital of the United States, or even the world, and — even though progress towards that goal has moved at a snail’s pace thus far — the new station was a step in the right direction.

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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...