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:
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.