When businesses don’t understand bicycle racks.

Recently I went to the Clique restaurant. At the checkout, the cashiers mentioned there was a bicycle rack.

I knew that.

The comment caused me to reflect on what Tom Babin at shifter.info had recently written about badly designed and installed bicycle racks. The strange thing was, I had filled out a comment card at the restaurant explaining what was wrong with the bike rack. It was as if the comments had fallen on deaf ears.

Here are 6 points that critique what I like to see.

1) Placement. A bike rack jammed up against a wall doesn’t work. Many bicycles are around 5ft long. This means that there needs to be sufficient room to put a bicycle in the rack and room on all sides of the bike to allow people to lock them up. Some racks jam bikes so close together that all the spaces can’t be used so people often have to lock bikes sideways across the entire rack. Would you park your car in a lot with spaces so narrow that you can’t get out of the car? The trend for many years has been for narrow parking spaces that exclude wide two door cars that used to be very common.

2) Undesirable locations: Placing bike racks in undesirable locations like under greasy kitchen exhaust vents isn’t promoting bike customers. Its actually an insult and a statement about how little bicycle customers are appreciated. Customers pick up on this very quickly.

A similar situation exists for drivers when they have smoke from kitchen exhausts blasting them in the face every time they get out of their cars. They wouldn’t park there either.

3) Security. A bicycle rack that isn’t even bolted down increases the risk of bike theft and also theft of the bike rack. If businesses can’t even be bothered to bolt racks down, will cyclists see this as a lack of concern about their bike security?

4) Visibility. The best location for bicycle racks is where they can be seen by patrons. This means right outside a window. If customers have to carry locks, many will not risk leaving their bike in a rack where it cannot be seen. Even people who carry locks will feel more compelled to do business at places where they can keep an eye on their bikes. Bicycle thefts in Calgary are on the rise and it seems that increased drug addiction is causing the increased thefts, not just for cyclists, but for drivers as well.

5) Damage. Bike racks that cause damage. Some racks cause damage because of their design. Some racks bend wheels or cause derailleurs to hit them. A rack needs to provide support for the frame, not just the wheels. This didn’t use to be a big problem with until rim/disk brakes and derailleurs became common. Misalignment of these components requires additional expense for repairs. If drivers don’t want to pay for repairs when they park at your business, why would anyone else?

6) Managing risk. Where proper bike racks are not provided, metal fences provide better security than street sign poles for instance. People can figure this out. They are not going to risk a stollen bike every time they come to your business. If businesses don’t care, cyclists won’t care to do business either. Its a two way street.

Is it any wonder that I don’t see other cyclists at this business?

I think not.