An Uninviting Sight Outside A Business: Bicycle Parking


Bike Parking Looks Ugly!

Bike Parking Looks Ugly!

Confessions of a cyclist, bike parking looks ugly! It has all the visual appeal of a really bad haircut or the vision of an overweight guy in a suit designed for a person of athletic build. Not a pretty sight.

That feeling washed over me a couple of weeks ago at an outdoor venue in Evanston. I was just reading yet another article about Bicycle Heaven in which hundreds if not thousands of bikes are parked in an on-street area looking for all the world like a scene out of some Sci-Fi movie about the Apocalypse.

No wonder the Japanese have taken the time to create underground parking lots that hide this visual clutter from the eyes of shoppers and tourists.

Nobody Wants To Discuss This

Here in Chicago we like to talk about Bike Corrals. And the ‘selling point‘ for these things is that they will invite other cyclists who will come and supposedly spend a good deal more money with your establishment than the would be motorist. Well rather than asking about the money spent, I as a business owner would be appalled at the visual clutter that bike parking presents.

In thinking about it there are at least two reasons for this:

  1. Bikes are non-standard in both design and size. You can have myriad-sized upright bikes (this is the typical situation in Amsterdam) but you can also have everything from recumbent bicycles to recumbent trikes all of which need to be tethered and frankly no single rack design I have ever seen even comes close to handling uprights. With recumbents they are nearly worthless.
  2. Cyclists are slobs. I’m sorry but there it is. Cyclists have long since forgotten how to be neat. They have been locking their bikes to inadequately designed things for so long that they have lost their sensitivity to how neat they could be with a little effort. Instead they look for any free bit of steel on a given rack and lock over, under and through the bikes beneath them. It is no wonder than a bike other than a beater is worthwhile in an urban environment.
Flickr/.m for matthijs

Flickr/.m for matthijs

What the Japanese have done (at least for uprights) is provide ample room for the differing designs and provided a means of stowing them underground where the inherent clutter of a bike parking area is invisible to those walking around above it all. There is no longer the need to ‘watch your step‘ as you walk past a group of filthy disgustingly dirty bicycles with rusty chains and in sad disrepair in your Sunday finest while you window shop.

If we really want to keep things ship-shape here in the United States we are going to have to commandeer sections of the myriad parking lots around town and reserve special areas for bicycles. And of course bicyclists are going to have to get used to walking a couple of blocks after having parked their wretched heaps to reach the shops where they hope to do business.

And of course the ones who routinely get blotto on ale are going to have to find an app for their cell phone which will lead them back to the location of said bicycle. When it comes to neat looks bicycles are the pits when parked above ground.