Just Give Us a Place to Park Our Bikes

Anyone who regularly uses a bicycle for transportation in the United States knows the feeling — the nagging anxiety about what will happen when you arrive at your destination, especially if it’s a place you’ve never been on your bike before. Will there be a place to lock up? Will security guards be helpful or will they hassle you? Will your bike be there when you get back? Or will it be gone — not stolen by a common thief, but clipped by the building management or by the police?

It can be kind of humiliating, frankly, to be treated as if your mode of transportation is something so dirty and dangerous and unsightly that there’s no decent place to put it. Not to mention infuriating.

New York City’s pending Bicycle Access Law is a big step in the right direction. But this country has a long way to go before it begins to be the kind of placing where rolling up on a bike, locking it and heading about one’s business is considered normal — or even acceptable.

To wit, this post from Streetsblog Network member Soapbox LA:

301279557_63c63fa482.jpgBicycle-unfriendly in Denver. Photo by Jeffrey Beall via Flickr.

On Tuesday night, flush with victory after sitting through hours of LA
Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting, several cyclists rode from the
LAPD’s Parker Center (a facility that has a new "wave" bike rack which
fails the city’s bike plan specifications for adequate bike parking) in
search of sustenance and nutrition. The cyclists rode the deserted
streets of downtown LA and found themselves at 5th and Flower, which
features Weiland Brewery Underground, a wonderful restaurant and pub
that serves great food long after the rest of the downtown dining
opportunities have closed shop. The Weiland website also features
abundant driving instructions and directions to the automobile parking. As for bikes, not a mention.

at 5th and Flower, the cyclists crossed a fairly deserted and typical
downtown business district courtyard…. With no bike racks near the
entrance, they locked their bike to a rail that surrounded the
courtyard and that already hosted a couple of bikes. They chatted with
a security guard who wore a blazer and carried a clipboard and grew
confident that this was a safe place to lock their bikes.


"Gilbert" appeared. With a smile on his face he informed the cyclists,
"If you leave your bikes here, they will be gone when you return."

Thinking he was referring to the safety of this area, the cyclists
looked around but it was well lit, it was close to the entrance, it was
in the most traveled area of the entire complex and there were already
bikes there indicating that others also considered it to be a safe
place. Gilbert clarified "If you leave your bike there, we will cut the
locks and take them."

Under what authority does a security guard
threaten to impound personal property? …Why
can’t they treat those who walk, ride or take mass transit with the
same respect as those who arrive with thousands of pounds of personal
property? If a motorist parked his car illegally would "Gilbert"
and the clipboard team break in and roll the car off into City National
Plaza McGuire impound? I think not!

More from the network: Bike Portland reports record participation in the city’s Bike Commute Challenge. Transit Miami has the news on a master plan for bikes there. And M-Bike.org talks about how Michigan stands to lose millions in funding for bike trails.

  • A timely post, Sarah–over the next two months, two important New York City bicycle parking laws take effect–the bicycle access to buildings law and the bicycle access in garages law. Unfortunately, these laws are likely to change nothing without organized efforts by bicyclists to promote implementation.

  • Andy

    8×12 feet for a car parked on the road? No problem!

    2×6 feet for a bike? Whoa there buddy, you are asking too much

  • Intro 871 has caused loss of bike access to my office building, because the freight runs during weird hours and the building is punitively prohibiting bicycles outside of freight hours. (My employer’s strongly probike, and bikes were previously allowed by the building.)

    I see no way of closing the loophole, other than rewriting our (ten-year) office lease, or shrugging the union rules which require manned freight operation. Meanwhile I’m keeping my bike at my desk for four hours a day.

    F Jeffries Morris,

  • I’m sure this happens all over, and that every avid cyclist has been victim to this sort of thing:

    If you lock your bike to a street sign on the NW corner of Franklin & India in Greenpoint, you will find piles of trash on your bike and stickers on the seat (DO NOT ATTACH BIKES TO THIS SIGN!), left their by the landlord who sees it as his/her property. The longer you leave your bike their, the more abuse it will be subjected to. I removed it before they busted out the clippers, but I never caught them in the act (I let it go one for a full 24 hours just to see how weird it would get).

    A law could help in this area, perhaps in the long-term goal of changing the culture, but it won’t do a whole lot to alleviate situations like the one I’m alluding to.

  • Tim

    Because of this i have stopped ridding my bike. its just too much hassle

  • Then “Gilbert” appeared. With a smile on his face he informed the cyclists, “If you leave your bikes here, they will be gone when you return.”

    Ah yes, that good old Western insincere smile. “Yes, my friend, you’re in a fix and I’m not going to lift a finger to help you. Have a nice day!”

  • Hopefully soon people will realize that bicylcing is part of transportation too! Though there are an increasing number of businesses and communities accomodating biclyclists, it can still be discouraging! People need to understand that more and more people are taking advantage of the quicker, cheaper and more environmentally-friendly choice of bicycling as their commute! This is a great way to improve personal well being as well as being an environmentally conscious person!

    On that note, has anyone heard of the Commuter Nation Ride Free Sweepstakes? I was pretty pumped to find out about it. You can enter to win FREE COMMUTING! Which includes bicycling! You can use the prize to make bike repairs, buy bike equipment, and even pay for bike parking!

    Definitely check it out! You can also get more information about participating in commuter benefits, a program that can save you up to 40% on your commuting costs!

    Head to http://www.commuternation.com and click on the sweepstakes link!

    Good luck!

  • LN

    Just take a parking space and make a bike pile by locking all the bikes together like this:

  • NattyB

    @ Bicycles Only,

    A timely post indeed, but I share your concerns about the implementation.

    I only moved to NYC about 6 weeks ago but I’ve been locking my bike up to Scaffolding (The scaffodling isn’t coming down anytime soon)next to my office in the FinDist. I’m not keen on using scaffolding, but, there are literally no other options nearby. I don’t even need to bring my bike into my building, I just want a safe place to lock up. Is that too much to ask?

    I share the sentiments that the other commentors have been articulating, in short — “We’re trying to be green here, please [gov’t, police, state,] don’t treat us like degenerates”

  • Amen. I was at a friend’s house on the Upper East Side, walk out and NO BIKE. The bike was tied to the only thing within dozens of feet – the building’s awning support that wasn’t in a tree planter. “F*ck… It’s stolen,” I think. Walk around the neighborhood a couple blocks here and there, stop in a local bike shop and ask if someone came by with my bike. Of course not. So I figure the delivery chop-shop ring took it and by now it’s covered in electrical tape and the fenders are ripped off. I return to the building and ask the doorman if he saw anything and reported he didn’t. I leave my number with him. After a week of moping, thinking about what bike I should get next, I get a text from my friend – “Just ran into my super. Your bike is in the basement.” I have yet to go get it (since this was yesterday I found out) and my happiness turned to anger – did these bastards clip my bike because it was on their precious awning? I hope not…

    If so, they owe me $60 for a new lock.

    At least I still have my bike though.

  • NattyB, implementation is everthing; I can’t imagine many garage and buklding owners getting on board without some level of pressure and enforcement action.

    As for the scaffolding, they are one of my favorite places to park, when there is not legal bike parking available. The key is locking to a load-bearing vertical element, so that thieves cannot remove the element without the scaffold coming crashing down on their heads. Also, if you lock the bike on the outside of the scaffolding structure–as opposed to the inside passageway, where pedestrians are intended to go–you avoid inconveniencing pedestrians any more than the scaffolding already inconveniences them. Plus, the scaffolding shelters your bike from the rain!

  • Shemp

    Kaja, you need to explain how the passage of the law reduced bike access to your building beyond just asserting that it’s gotten worse since the law was signed. The bikes in buildings law doesn’t even take effect until December.

  • Prudence

    Please check out Cooper Union’s repsonse to not having any safe bicycle parking!: http://www.smac.us/2009/10/08/this-bicycle-is-a-sculpture/

  • Augra27: Superintendents for the buildings on the block where I live seem to think its their right to cut locks after some unspecified period of time. They’re accustomed to piling up the garbage in the tree pits and view bicycles as a nuisance , whether they’re chained to building fences, trees, parking signs, or even City bike racks. And when they cut the locks they don’t bother to bring the bikes inside. They just leave them out of the sidewalk for anyone who will take them away.

    LN: By any chance is this your handiwork?

  • Not on point for post, but Stacy mentions building supers. Why does every building super in NYC think the only way to remove debris from the pavement in front of their building is to systematically fire a hose at each square inch, each morning? Before dog waste laws were enforced, this might have made sense, but now its just a colossal waste of water that needlessly floods the drainage system each morning, with bicyclists riding by getting sprayed in the bargain. . . .

  • Si

    The company that owns the building in midtown NYC, to which my employer recently relocated, last week implemented a ban on bike access literally overnight. Previously we’d been able (told by the doormen) to use the freight elevator. On Tuesday last week, we were no longer allowed to bring our bikes in at all. For some this has meant leaving their bikes locked up on the side walk. Others have gone back to relying on the subway and losing the benefits of cycling to work. All are utterly dismayed at the backwards approach of the company concerned, and the blunt manner in which the ban was imposed. To its credit, my employer has sought alternative arrangements for bike parking which will be in place shortly. However, these won’t meet the concerns of cyclists working for other tenants in the building who are affected by the ban. Hopefully, the NYC access law will force the building owners to think again.

  • Sam

    Bike parking

    I am working on a high-density bike parking solution that would be an automated secure and protected facility that would operate 24/7 for around 200 bikes. This could be a solution that could be a implemented in metropolitan areas with space constraints. I see that a lot of bikers yearn for one. The question of trade-offs however needs to be addressed.

    Please see the following link to a survey that has been setup for this
    purpose. If you could put this up and/ or spread this questionnaire, it
    would help in understanding the problem from different aspects.

    Once there are sufficient responses, I’ll publish the results.

  • Sam

    The link to the survey was scrubbed, for some reason, So here goes once again



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