Saturday, December 10, 2011

Let's talk about bike parking... parking ettiquette that is.

We already know that bike parking is inadequate (or maybe that's just me that thinks that). There's never enough bike racks, and if there are racks, there's never enough room for your bike.

I am convinced there is a billion dollar idea out there for the perfect bike rack that is simple, sturdy & will accommodate any size/shape bike. Cruisers, track bikes, Cargo bikes...they all fit easily & happily. If someone comes up with that idea, I will pay a billion dollars (no I won't, I don't have that kind of money).

Currently, the most common bike rack is the upside down "U". It's simple, sturdy--and sucks. At most it can accommodate two bikes, and even then its a bit of squeeze.

On-street U-racks

If you are like me and ride a gigantic cruiser bike w/ basket & possibly panniers, it's almost impossible to fit your bike next to someone else's at these racks. That is, unless they are positioned in such a way that you can park perpendicular at the racks, rather than parallel:

bikes parked parallel to each other-SMOOSH SMOOSH SMASH SCRATCHY FRAME!

bike parked perpendicular to the rack-YAY BREATHING ROOM (p.s. handcuffs are not a recommended method of locking a bike)

This is not always feasible due to sidewalk width, positioning of the racks, etc. There have been plenty of times where I've simply given up and parked my bike at a sign or another rack in the next block, simply because there was no way I could squeeze Betty onto a rack that was already taken. No big deal. It's annoying, but I'd rather do that than risk damaging someone else's bike (or someone damaging mine) by trying to force her into a space she doesn't fit.

Don't even get me started with the ridiculous "art" bike racks that so many cities seem to be in love with. ABSOLUTELY USELESS. Yes, its cute to have a bike rack shaped like a cup of coffee--BUT I CAN'T LOCK MY BIKE TO IT BECAUSE IT IS PHYSICALLY IMPOSSIBLE.

Source. You say Tomato, I say AAAAAARGH.

Of course, it should go without saying that you shouldn't lock your bike to a tree. Not only is it illegal (at a tree less than 12" in diameter), but its just not very nice. A good rule of thumb is that if you can get your U-lock around it, you shouldn't lock to it.

This tree is crying. please don't lock to me, it hurts. *tear*

Of course I realize that public bike parking means that my bike can get a little scratched. Betty has plenty of scratches from racks & other bikes. It's no big deal. It happens. It's minor and doesn't interfere with the ability to ride my bike.

A few weeks ago, you may recall that we all celebrated a fun little holiday called Native American Persecution Day Thanksgiving. My method of celebrating this holiday, besides reenacting that scene from Addams Family Values  where Wednesday and the little geeky kid ruin the summer camp's Pilgrim Play, was to run the SOME (So Others Might Eat) Turkey Trot 5k. I figured this would be a fun way to do something Good for the Community, and also burn some of those holiday calories off.

The Boy even decided to tag along to cheer me along. He grabbed Jamie (my Jamis hybrid) and I grabbed Betty and we biked down to Freedom Plaza together to join in the fun. We were there pretty early, which was good since about 10 million people (this maybe be inaccurate) decided to participate as well. I couldn't find any bike racks (grrrrr) so we locked up to a couple of street signs along Penn Ave.

The Turkey Trot was pretty awesome. It was my first organized race in quite a few years. I am definitely not a runner (duh. otherwise this would be a running blog, and not a cycling blog) but I can put one foot in front of the other in a vaguely runnerish manner for a few miles. This is exactly what I did. I will say this: there are quite a few super-fast 3 year olds. One of them paced me, and he was in a stroller.

I would put up photos, but I can't seem to find any. I do remember photographers along the race course, but I can't find any info on how to obtain these mysterious photos.

Anyway, I crossed the finish line eventually. It was a perfect way to start the morning. The sun was shining, there were blue skies, my blood was flowing and I was high on endorphins (or still drunk from the wine the night before, kinda hard to tell). I was eager to get on with the rest of my Thanksgiving holiday by going to work and serving the wonderful people of the District of Columbia. Ok, maybe I wasn't looking forward so much to that, but I was still feeling good.

So imagine my chagrin, my rage, my crushed spirits & my dismay to find that whomever locked their bike next to The Boy's (my Jamis) had managed to do some pretty serious damage.

The handlebars & stem were turned almost completely 180 degrees. This was quite a feat, because Jamie has fenders, which makes it almost impossible to do that--but they managed it. Not only did they manage it, but they snapped the front brake cable in the process.

What. The. Eff.

This wasn't some scratch on the frame. This was some pretty serious damage that rendered the bike unsafe to ride. There is no possible scenario in which this person could not have known they seriously effed up this bike

Did they leave a note? An apology? Anything? No.

I was so angry. I fantasized about slashing the offending bike's tires (which I would NEVER do, not only because that's a crappy thing to do, but also I can't be 100% positive the bike that was locked up next to The Boy's was the offender since its possible, but not likely, someone else locked up before them and did the damage).

Now I have to pay out of pocket to fix the damage they caused. Happy Thanksgiving, right?

Guys, don't be that person. If you damage someone else's bike to the point where it's probably not safe to ride (such as snapping a cable)--LEAVE A NOTE.

Even better, DON'T LOCK THERE. If you have to lock your bike next to someone else's by jamming & forcing it there in such a way that you know you messed up the other bike--don't. Find somewhere else to lock, even if it means the next block over, or even *gasp*, across the street (there were plenty of OPEN street signs for this person to lock to directly across the street).

We all make mistakes or suffer from bad judgement. It happens. But when it does, don't be an ass. Take responsibility and own up.

Here are some bike parking guidelines:

-Thou shall not lock your bike to another bike, unless thou knowest the person to whom the bike belong-est.

-Thou shalt not turn any bike's handlebars more than 45 degrees to accommodate your bicycle.

-Thou shalt not lift any bike that is not thine own.

-Thou shall, whenever possible, lock thy bike perpendicular to the U-rack, unless to do so will interfere with pedestrian or vehicular traffic.

-If thou must lock parallel, thou shall do so in such a manner as to not damage any bikes that are already present.

-Thou shalt not lock to any tree that is less than 12" in diameter.

-Thou shalt not lock to any private property that does not belongeth to you or family/friends.

-Thou shalt not lock your bicycle to any *public* bike rack for more than 24 hours.

-Thous shalt not lock your bicycle to moving gates/fences.

-If thou accidentally cause significant damage (interferes with functionality of bike) to another's bicycle, thou shalt leave a note with thy name & phone number and offer to make amends for said damage.

-Thou, if feasible, will remove panniers from bicycle so as to allow others to park at bike rack as well. If it is not feasible to remove panniers, thou shall be considerate to other cyclists and make sure there is room for they as well.


Coming soon to this blog:

-Epic adventures in bicycling: The 2011 DC Tweed Ride

-Even MORE EPIC adventures in bicycling: My debut as  DC Lady Arm Wrestler

-The sentencing hearing is back on! It is scheduled for December 21st. I swear I am going to post details about why I haven't talked much about it very soon.

THINGS YOU NEED TO DO RIGHT NOW: You need to purchase these awesome buttons from this awesome blog because it benefits this awesome organization. I bought two. I might buy more. I like buttons. Every time you wear one, a cyclist gets his/her wings.


  1. I think you are making a mistake by advising people to lock their bikes perpendicular to inverted U shaped racks. They often come in sets with multiple in a row, and if you lock up perpendicular to them not all of them can be used. People should instead lock up parallel to them, with their chain and drive train away from the rack. It is important to keep the drive train out to prevent damage to the bike and it allows the frame to move closer to the rack. This allows two bikes on each rack. As an aside all of the "thou shalt" language makes me take the list a lot less seriously. It makes it seem either preachy or a joke that you don't even take seriously.

  2. I have some more rules-

    -Don't leave your lock locked to public bike racks when it is not locking your bike there. (Seriously, what is up with this trend? Carry your lock with you as it is not your personal bike rack!)

    -Don't lock your bike to a fence/ railing on the sidewalk in such a way that it obstructs a narrow sidewalk. (Have been seeing this more lately and find it especially awkward on U St west of 15th.)

  3. Here here!

    I read your rules in my best monty python impersonation.

  4. Perpinducular locking on those U-racks is almost universally derided because, as noted above, it reduces the number of bikes that can be securely locked in those installations. I get how frustrating it is given the configuration of your own bike but if you feel forced to do this absent other options, just be aware you're kind of hogging that space.

    Love the blog and just about everything else in this post. I couldn't agree more about the cutesy art racks. They come from the same mindset of graphic designers (and editors) who splash design elements and daring colors across web and magazine pages that, otherwise, you might be able to read.

  5. I have a frame lock on each of the two bikes that I use most - this comes with a chain which locks into the frame (check out AXA Defender) makes it much easier to lock to non-traditional bike racks.

  6. These locking issues are a big part of the reason why I decided to get a folding bike - I still have to lock outside sometimes, but far less frequently than I did before. Also, check out these photos - perfect example of why you should not lock to a tree.

  7. Sorry about your bike, that REALLY sucks. I don't know that I'd be as kind to the bike locked there. I think I'd at least wait til the person showed up to unlock their bike and ask for payment. GAH!
    I love turkey trots. And I am the proud owner of a DC Sharrows button!

  8. I kind of agree with the comments about parallel v. perpendicular parking...I tend to mutter "asshole" to myself when I see someone parked perpendicularly across the racks and leaving me no space.

    I think an ideal solution would be better spacing between bike racks, because you're right, it's easy to scratch and break stuff when they're too close.

    That being said....that's just beyond rude what that guy/girl did to your bike...why didn't s/he just go find somewhere else to park??

    And re: cutesy bike racks...have you seen the ones outside Filter in Dupont? Useful and cute!

  9. Always make sure your beach cruiser is locked up with the proper lock.
    Also make sure you lock your tire to the frame of the bike, and the bike frame to the bike rack.
    bike basket

  10. The thing that frustrates me the most about bike racks is the fact that it's sometimes extremely difficult to safely lock a bike to them without using a minimum of two locks. (And if you want to lock your back tire, even more.) The art racks are the worst (tomatoes, seriously?) but the other ones that endlessly annoy me are the U-shaped ones that are connected together. There's no good way to put your bike in the lower ones without it falling over, making it more likely to totally damage your bike and someone else's without the offender even noticing it until they return.