Sunday, February 16, 2014

Parking Bikes in Winter

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.


  1. I believe the key issue here is "cycling as transportation". It's been my experience that LBS's aren't interested in me as a customer. They only seem to be interested in supporting racing (road) bikes.

    I spend between $500 - $800 per year on bike stuff. Except for rim tape I must order all of it from somewhere else. Just yesterday I went to one of the local shops looking for a quill stem with an up angle on the bar end and a bike computer that doesn't loose it's odometer settings when the batteries run down. Didn't find either. The sales person offered to order them for me. I don't need him to order anything for me ------ I can do that myself. I need for them to stock the stuff. Ordered both last night on line. If they can't stock it, I'm not going to reward them by paying full retail for them to order it.

    My great grandfather was a country peddler who sold goods out of a wagon pulled by mules. Likewise, my grandfather ran a country store all his life. He passed on a little bit of wisdom to me from my great grandfather. I think of it every time these guys offer to order something for me. "Son", he'd say, "you can't sell out of an empty wagon".

    1. All bike shops in our area sell commuter type bicycles. The second bike shop I mentioned even holds a commuter challenge. Go figure.

  2. Come to think of it, my local bike shop doesn't offer any bike parking, either. They do let you roll your bike up into the store, which I take advantage of every time I shop there.


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