It’s shocking yet luxurious – not a single bike in our new apartment! Not even the folding bikes! You wouldn’t know, unless you looked closely and spotted my bike helmet in a cubby (or saw all the bike parts in The Mechanic’s work space), that here lives people who bike for transportation and for fun. I feel a bit guilty about not having my beloved Fauntleroy here in the cozy apartment where I can watch over him…. but I confess that most of my free time is spent watching over Gaston the Lionhead instead. Oops. Sorry, Fauntleroy. gastonOur new building has a large and secure bike room, accessible by fob, with required registration for each bike therein. A windowless room with motion-sensor lights, it boasts two long, double-stacked bike racks. It’s well-used, too; several bikes clearly get used frequently. Some, not surprisingly, look like they’ve been abandoned, with flat tires and cobwebs. Poor bikes. There is enough open space that we can store all of our bikes in the bike room, with plenty of open racks still available. Yay! It’s nice to live in a new building that was built to accommodate bikes.

The bike room reminds me of a vault

The bike room reminds me of a vault

However….

It’s not 100% rainbows and unicorns, and highlights some ways in which bicycles are still seen, even in bike-friendly Arlington, VA, as recreation and/or toys, and not understood, let alone taken seriously. And although we have some previously only dreamed about amenities, we have still had to opt for a different set up to accommodate our daily bike life.

The vent over these upper racks makes them fairly unusable for any bike but folders!

The vent over these upper racks makes them fairly unusable for any bike but folders!

The challenges are:

  • The lovely bike room is in the basement parking garage.
  • The only way to get a bicycle in and out of the basement parking garage is the elevator.
  • The only way to get to the elevator is through the building. It’s not far from the main entrance and lobby. Which means walking the bike through the lobby, or, the preferred route, the side door.
  • The side door conveniently has an ADA-accessible door switch, so the door will swing open to more easily allow us to roll our bikes in.
  • The next door does not.
  • Then there is a door from the elevator into the actual garage.
  • Then there is the door to the bike room (trust me, I’m good with this one!), once you wheel your bike past a row of cars to get to the bike room.
  • Once you are in the room, the racks themselves are challenging – too close together to fit handlebars easily; hard to “feed” bikes into the wheel channels; and if The Mechanic and I have a hard time getting our bikes on the top rack, what about your average family that wants to bike for fun? Nope, not gonna happen.

It’s not impossible, clearly, just many barriers and steps. It’s obvious that designers and architects are not people who bike often, and (or) have clearly not thought through the steps it would take to get a bike to and from the bike room. It would be so much more convenient if:

  1. The bike room was accessible directly from the outside of the building. No hallways, no passing the concierge, no squeezing in the elevator with strollers…
  2. If the bike room had been built next to the elevator bank, so at least we didn’t have to walk through cars. You know drivers aren’t looking while they are hunting for their parking spot.
  3. The racks were designed to be more user-friendly to more than just the super-fit elite roadies. Yes, there are children’s bikes and trail-a-bike racks in the bike room. Help out those parents!

Because of these challenges, The Mechanic and I have started leaving our bikes outside. I know, I know – what?!?!? Yes, dear Readers, it’s true. They have become (predominately) outside bikes. So this has meant an upgrade in bike locks for me. I broke down and bought the Abus Bordo folding lock. I’m pretty impressed with it so far. It’s super heavy, and I appreciate that. I like that it fits in its case on my down tube, rather than the top tube, and looks more discrete than my U-lock.

Lock in action! See the case?

Lock in action! See the case?

 

It fits snugly in the case, so snugly that I have to work at it to get it out. But that’s preferable to it being too loose!

And this has nothing to do with adapting to our new bike lives, but I had to share anyway – I finally replaced my reflective Lululemon gloves with this swanky glove/mitten set from illumi-nite. They are lightweight, so not deep winter gloves, but something to wear when the mornings are in the 30s or 40s, and afternoons are in the 50s. And they have conductive tips, so I can once again start my Endomondo without having to take off a glove.

illumi-NITE three-in-One Mitten with Glove Liner

illumi-NITE three-in-One Mitten with Glove Liner

Microdots reflecting!

Microdots reflecting!

So in many ways, it feels like a new bike life – even new gloves! I feel like I’m ready for the new year, and we still have December to go!

One thought on “Sorting Out Our New Bike Lives

  1. Good thoughts about designing for people who use bikes for transportation. We are moving to Baltimore in December and have been looking for housing there so I have been thinking a lot about this. My bikes are extra long (a cargo bike and a tandem) both have to be stood upright in our freight elevator here in Portland. The elevator has two doors, a hinged door and a automatic vertically lifting door. I had to petition the condo board to get then to allow door stops installed on the outer door. Without them it was impossible to try holding the bike upright while getting the door open. Still I rode my bike everyday.

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