Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Parking Bikes in the Winter

From anniebikes
As the snowplow clears the latest snowfall from the roads, I've been pondering what it's like to be a winter cyclist, navigating less than ideal conditions. It's tough enough, traveling and sharing narrower lanes with vehicles. But what happens when a rider arrives at work or stops to do errands? Where do they lock their bikes?

Walking around town, I've noticed that uncovering snowbound bike racks is the furthest from most business owner's minds. Whether it's city-owned racks or the YMCA, it seems that people aren't quite used to the idea of winter commuters—not to mention providing a safe place to lock bikes.

How long until 3 feet of snow melts?
So while some riders have abandoned their bicycles at racks—now buried beneath 3-4 feet of hard-packed snow—the same fixture is not available for use by others until the snow melts. Really. Racks remain buried until mother nature lends a helping hand.

But getting back to businesses and parking. There is one place that treats cyclist the same year-round: City Market. They have covered bike parking right in the front of the store. In fact, it preempts car spaces, and if you present your Bicycle Benefits sticker upon checkout, you score a discount. How's that for celebrating bike commuters?

On the other hand, I can think of two bicycle shops that have less than ideal parking, even for employees. I would think these particular businesses would be the first to encourage commuters—the least of which is a safe place to store their bikes. The first business provides two racks in front of their shop, which is great for customers, but employees are reduced to sharing the same racks. To their credit, racks are at least kept clear year-round. The second shop has no racks in front of the store, instead, preferring to offer a 50 foot line-up of bicycles for sale across the entire front of the store (usually in warmer weather). It's mystifying... I showed up one day and had to lock my bike to a tree. It was only later, when I exited out a side door, that I noticed one small rack against a windowless expanse of the warehouse-sized building. Another time, I discovered employees park their bikes outside a back door in a secluded spot with woods a few feet away.

So, I propose that bicycle shops—you know who you are—set an example and offer inside accommodation for employee owned bikes. And, go one step farther and supply a rack in a visible location for your customers. This simple message goes miles towards promoting cycling as transportation.

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