Comfort Biking: Office Bike Racks

I am very spoiled by working for a company that encourages biking to work, and knowing that I am one of about half our staff who bike to work on a regular basis. The bike rack in our office building has always been packed full of bikes whose owners I know.

A little crowded here at the office bike rack!

A little crowded here at the office bike rack! (The owner of the bike whose front wheel is locked up next to the frame is not one of us – we know how safe the rack is.)

So it is with mixed emotions that I now approach our new bike room at work. Yay, we have a large, spacious area to lock up our bikes! Boo, now we have to bike past cars to get to it! Yay, more racks! Boo, the vertical kind I dislike….

Bike Racks 1

Imagine my surprise when I rolled up the garage ramp one day to discover that our “wave” rack was gone! Luckily you can see the new racks off in the distance – or I might have been upset (because of course there was no signage)!

Okay, let me get this off my chest, then we can move on with the post – I hate vertical bike racks. I find them intimidating, awkward and challenging. They are not what I categorize as “comfort biking.”

Are you kidding me?!

Are you kidding me?! (okay, maybe “hate” is a strong word – dislike)

When I voiced my disappointment on Twitter and Instagram, an employee of the company found me and said that the racks were installed incorrectly, and sent me some info on how easy they are to use.

I appreciate the public outreach, but frankly, watching that woman hoist her bike onto the racks did nothing to endear me to them. Sorry Dero, this is not a design you will ever convince me to love. Or like. Or use.

However, I want to encourage buildings’ efforts to add more bike parking, so here are my pros and cons on our new space:

Pros:

  • Check it out, we have a ton of space! It’s a room just for bikes! The floor is painted green, to reinforce the sustainability of bike commuting.
  • There are three vertical Dero racks, but the old “wave” rack remained, just moved into the green bike area. Arlington County Bicycle Parking Guidelines require at least 30 percent remain horizontal and ground-level racks to ensure access to “the widest ranges of ages and physical abilities.” (whew!)
  • The bike area is right next to the door to the elevators, and has nice sturdy pillars to protect the bicycles from larger vehicles.
  • In addition to the yellow posts, there is a huge no-parking area next to them. So that means there is no danger of cars backing into our bikes. Which happened to my bike once.
Green floor, yellow poles, right next to the elevator doors - check!

Green floor, yellow poles, right next to the elevator doors – check!

Cons:

  • I haven’t asked yet if there is a security camera on this area. I hope so. Previously our rack was right under the parking office window, so I was comfortable knowing that someone was keeping an eye on our bikes. My lack of knowledge makes this a Con, because a Pro would have been signs saying “This area watched by closed circuit TV” or whatever those signs always say.
  • Previously, we could roll up the garage entrance ramp and turn left into the bike rack. Now we have to turn left then right, and bike past a line of cars before making a U-turn to get to the bike space. This does make me feel less safe, knowing some careless driver could pull out and not see me trying to get to or from the lovely bike area.
  • Dislike of vertical racks. Listen, I lift weights, I do yoga, I do push ups – I am not an weak, unfit person. So telling me to just start working out so I can lift my bike into these vertical racks is not only sexist but missing the point. I shouldn’t have to feel intimidated by the bike parking in my office building. Don’t we keep talking about making biking easy and accessible to all? “All” should include people who just want to roll up on their bikes, lock up and go – not incorporate a workout into it. I mean, do we make cars jump through hoops to park? And please note: there are two cargo bikes in our office building.
  • Those yellow poles make it hard to get to directly to the wave rack….

Dero clearly got someone out to fix the racks, because eventually they were staggered, as they are intended to be.

I think his back basket is on the floor

I think his back basket is on the floor

Curiously, the wave rack has stayed well utilized. And I know that most of the bikes on the rack are owned by men. So it’s not a women vs. men thing with the style of rack.Bike Racks End of Sept 2

Some usage here

Some usage here

The bicycle area is not advertised, so I’m not sure how long it will take to be better utilized. I hope there are plans to eventually put up signs advertising the large bike parking area.

I understand the desire/need to pack in as many bikes as possible, hence the attraction of the vertical racks. I’m just grateful they aren’t the double-decker racks! Even the slick ones in Zurich didn’t sell me on wanting to use a top-level bike rack. I love the fun, creative racks (I want a squirrel rack in front of my apartment! Or maybe the book) that Dero makes, as well as the logo bike racks. If I was a company, I would want at least one logo rack in front of my office building!

(This is not a selling point to me)

This is not a selling point to me. I can’t see me doing this in my work clothes, either.

I imagine that for many people, having any kind of large indoor area to lock up bicycles while working is comfort biking and a huge feature, and it is an ideal amenity in an office building. I am glad we have it. However, it doesn’t entirely fit my personal definition of “comfort biking.” Maybe swap one of the vertical racks for some standard U-racks that can comfortably fit cargo bikes or larger Dutch style bikes? Having two vertical racks and two ground-level, horizontal racks would be ideal. Much more comfortable and friendlier for all, regardless of age, physical ability, bike style, and definition of comfort.

ICYMI: Apartment buildings in DC understand the bike storage demand. Let’s talk about apartments with “gear walls” built into them!!!  Love that!

Too Many Bikes – I Can’t Imagine

A story has been circulating lately that has many bike advocates and people who bike wishing they had this problem – Amsterdam has run out of bike parking, and the city is contemplating building underground parking for 7,000 bikes! For the rest of us, this is unbelievable, mind blowing, a wet dream, or all of the above. I mean, the city plans to spend 200 million Euros on new bicycle infrastructure (as part of it’s long range planning)! This makes me want to cry.

Amsterdam Bicycle Parking near the Central Station

Amsterdam Bicycle Parking near the Central Station

The city is considering underground bike parking, as well as adding more floating bike parking stations, around the Central Train Station, to a whopping total of 21,500 by 2030. Construction isn’t expected to start until 2017, but I have no doubt it will happen – 43% of Amsterdam residents bike to and from work, according to the City Lab article, with over 50% biking daily.

Floating Bike Parking near Amsterdam's Central Station

Floating Bike Parking near Amsterdam’s Central Station

I have to confess, however, that my first thought was, “Well get rid of the abandoned bikes first!” When we were in Amsterdam last summer, we noticed that not only are the racks crammed full of bikes, a great number of those bikes appear to be abandoned. I’m pretty sure that flat tires, rusted or broken chains, missing parts, etc., is a good sign that a bike hasn’t been ridden in a while. And City Lab reports that Amsterdam removed 73,000 “wrongly” parked bikes in 2013, so I guess they do keep tabs on that. Copenhagen was the same way: we saw seas of parked bikes, only to get close and realize that a significant percentage were clearly not ridden on a regular basis. Apparently it’s a problem that urban planners and others in Copenhagen are just beginning to realize and recognize.

Sure, this might not be an abandoned bike. Someone may have parked it this way on purpose.

Sure, this might not be an abandoned bike. Someone may have parked it this way on purpose.

They might look rusty to us but are probably (?) well-used bikes!

They might look rusty to us but are probably (?) well-used bikes!

This story has reduced me to sighing wistfully and clicking through photos of both our visits to Amsterdam and Copenhagen. I know The Mechanic and I remarked on those trips about the sheer number of bicycles in mass bike parking lots, and how we wished we had the problem of abandoned bikes piled up on the racks. I mean, how does one cram one’s bike into an overcrowded rack?! I guess that’s part of the reason they all ride clunkers.

Where do you put your bike in this Copenhagen bike parking?!

Where do you put your bike in this Copenhagen bike parking?!

That bike on the top row of this Copenhagen bike rack is what I'd call "wrongly parked."

That bike on the top row of this Copenhagen bike rack is what I’d call “wrongly parked.”

I'm willing to bet that all these bikes in front of Copenhagen's Magasin du Nord are there just for the 50% off sale!

I’m willing to bet that all these bikes in front of Copenhagen’s Magasin du Nord are there just for the 50% off sale!

While we struggle to get adequate parking in most places in this country, we can all dream of the day when we have the Amsterdam problem of too many bikes, not enough bike parking. Someday….