Arlington County is doing a great job of encouraging more residents to bike more often. Between the ever-present roadies on expensive bikes wearing expensive kit and the low income people who have few better transportation options grows a population of people in between who are spending more and more time on their bikes.

But while this is great for those who live in dwellings with garages or other storage options, people in apartment buildings, especially in lower income apartment buildings, have considerably fewer options. New bike-friendly apartments are all the rage – if you can afford them. For the rest of us, we have to make do with the little we can scrounge.

A survey of a few blocks in Arlington show how badly needed proper bike storage is:

I think this is where bikes go to die. None of them appear to be ridden recently and some are clearly missing parts. Perhaps if these owners had had proper storage, this would no longer be a pile of nearly useless bikes.

I think this is where bikes go to die. None of them appear to be ridden recently and some are clearly missing parts. Perhaps if these owners had had proper storage, this would no longer be a pile of nearly useless bikes.

Some of these bikes might get more use, as well as the covered scooter. But I suspect that those kids' toys get used more.

Some of these bikes might get more use, as well as the covered scooter. But I suspect that those kids’ toys get used more.

These bikes look like they are in better shape. And the fact that one has a baby seat suggests that it's used more frequently.

These bikes look like they are in better shape. And the fact that one has a baby seat suggests that it’s used more frequently.

We watched this apartment complex get renovated and these new bike racks installed. I bet the residents were thrilled to have so much space for their bikes. Too bad covered bike storage wasn't installed instead.

We watched this older apartment complex get renovated and these new bike racks installed. I bet the residents were thrilled to have so much space for their bikes. Too bad covered bike racks weren’t installed instead.

Speaking of covered bike storage - they could build fancy fences and covers for the dumpsters but not for the bikes?!?

Speaking of covered bike racks – they could build fancy fences and covers for the dumpsters but not for the bikes?!?

Surrounding a nearby new and "nicer" apartment complex are bike racks labeled "temporary." But who can blame the residents from parking their bikes there?!

Surrounding a nearby new and “nicer” apartment complex are bike racks labeled “temporary.” But who can blame the residents from parking their bikes there?!

"Temp. bike parking - 4hrs max" - yeah right.

“Temp. bike parking – 4hrs max” – yeah right.

Rusty chain at a "temporary" bike rack suggests otherwise...

Rusty chain at a “temporary” bike rack suggests otherwise…

Well, where *do* you store your baby trailer when you aren't using it? For a small apartment, that's a big piece of equipment that can't easily get hauled up stairs. And once in an apartment - it's probably as big as a kitchen table.

Well, where *do* you store your baby trailer when you aren’t using it? For a small apartment, that’s a big piece of equipment that can’t easily get hauled up stairs. And once in an apartment – it’s probably as big as a kitchen table.

No doubt the bike racks next to this bus stop were intended for individuals to bike to the bus stop, to ease commute options. Now, however, it's yet another pile of dead bikes.

No doubt the bike racks next to this bus stop were intended for individuals to bike to the bus stop, a good “first mile/last mile” solution. Now, however, it’s yet another pile of dead bikes of nearby residents.

If the bike rack you are supposed to use is overly crowded, and you don't want to carry your bike upstairs, and don't have a place in your apartment, a sign pole works fine, right?

If the bike rack you are supposed to use is overly crowded, and you don’t want to carry your bike upstairs, and don’t have a place in your apartment, a sign pole is your best bet.

There's always the tree storage method.

There’s always the tree storage method.

Not everyone is as obsessed with dedicated to their bikes as The Mechanic and I, nor as willing to have bicycles as part of their interior design. But as this area becomes more bike-friendly, those who build and manage apartment buildings, especially affordable housing apartments, need to provide better bike storage. Why? I would summarize into two main points: maintenance and vandalism.

  • Maintenance. Unlike cars, which have their gears covered in sheets of metal, the functioning parts of bicycles are predominantly exposed to the elements. Fully enclosed chain cases are the exception here in the US, rather than the norm. Having seen the bike storage scenario in Copenhagen, I understand the popularity of chain cases so much better. But if your bike is left in the rain or snow for any length of time,  you are risking rusty parts, which will make it much less easier (and fun) to jump on your bike and go. If you aren’t a bicycle mechanic and can’t afford one, you are kinda screwed once your bike gets into bad shape. Replacing chains and other metal parts can set you back even at the best of times, and if you are already cash-strapped, well, good luck. You wouldn’t want to get into a car full of snow, would you? So why would you expect someone to get on a bike covered in snow?
  • Vandalism. In some ways, vandalism is worse than outright theft, which of course no one wants at all, and which is why properly locking your bike is important. But vandalism – missing rear wheel, seat stolen, pedals, even lights. Missing small pieces can add up to a very unrideable bike that either your insurance won’t cover or you don’t know how to replace or can’t afford to. Losing lights means possibly riding in the dark. Losing the seat makes for a very uncomfortable ride home or bus ride. Any sort of vandalism probably lead many people to abandoning their bike all together.

I don’t want to get into theft because there is a lot going on with locks and proper locking, but obviously any bike left outside unattended for a period of time is more vulnerable to theft than a car would be. It’s easier to steal a bike – no one notices, and they are easier to hide or throw in the back of a truck or whatever. Homeowner and renters insurance doesn’t cover a bike the way it covers a car, either.

Apartment developers and property managers should really consider installing bike lockers or at least provide covered bike parking, especially if they manage properties that have heavily used bike racks. High end buildings are beginning to offer free bike storage so there is no reason why the lower income apartments, including the historic garden style apartments, can’t provide bike lockers. At minimum, provide more racks – as shown in these photos, a few racks and a pair of staples here and there are not providing enough for the need. You can’t expect me to believe that rows of bike lockers are uglier than these piles of abandoned bikes. Charge a minimal fee, if you must – we pay an extra $10 a month to have a 4×4 storage cube. I bet apartments that can provide better bike parking solutions will have lines of happy prospective tenants.

This poor bike is a friend's - we had biked to dinner together in DC...

A common sight…

 

 

Save

Save

3 thoughts on “Need for Better Bike Storage in Apartments

  1. Very interesting problem. I have not yet seen this problem in the prairie city where I live (cycling mode share is 1% overall, with 3% for city core dwellers). Nor have I seen that volume of bikes at apartment bldgs. in Vancouver nor Toronto. I think some people just put their bikes on balcony or take them indoors. Not the best idea..

    • I think Arlington County is around 5%; I don’t know if that includes the lower income people who bike instead of drive (for any number of reasons). But only the newest buildings, aimed at the wealthiest, offer decent bike storage. People who live where they have balconies certainly use them, but I don’t see a huge number of buildings with balconies (i’ve never lived in one, but would love to! They seem to accompany the expensive buildings….). And not everyone wants their bikes as living room decor. So then where do you put them? Cities that claim to prioritize other modes still design dwellings for cars.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s