Bike Racks on Whidbey: the Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful

By Nancy Hepp and Ken Carlin 

Bike racks—not an especially scintillating topic, yet here we are, able to generate an entire blog post devoted to them. First we’ll examine what cyclists need and want in a bike rack, and then we’ll look at issues for business owners around installing a rack.

There are racks that are poorly designed and those that are more functional, so first we’ll ponder rack functionality and the state of rack access on South Whidbey.

Security. The main purpose of a bike rack is to secure a bicycle against theft. There are levels of security in locks, so cyclists may choose their lock style based on the relative value and desirability of their bicycles and on where it’s being locked. Here on South Whidbey we’re not too concerned about theft, although it does happen. Most of us who stay on Whidbey are comfortable using a chain or cable lock, but cyclists who ride in Seattle or other large urban areas require a U-lock. Racks here need to accommodate U-locks for those cyclists. We prefer to secure both the frame and the front tire of our bike to the rack, but if we must choose, we want at least the frame firmly fastened to a rack.

Location. As we approach a stopping place, we’d like to be able to find a bike rack without too much difficulty. Having it visible from the street is helpful. Even better is encountering a bike rack that is placed so that we don’t have to ride in and among  cars backing up and pedestrians to access it. Those lucky cyclists who have invested large sums in their bicycles prefer to keep them visible while they visit a restaurant, park, or local business.

Aesthetics. While not the highest priority for cyclists, the aesthetics of bike racks  bring pleasure to the inner artists within the cyclists, pedestrians and neighbors who encounter them. As long as a bike rack is functional and accessible, cyclists are not opposed to having a bike rack grace a space with an artistic flair.

Let’s see what options we have here on South Whidbey:

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This rack at the Star Store in Langley is barely functional for locking bikes. It’s difficult to secure the frame with a chain or cable and almost impossible to use a U-lock on this rack. The location requires that cyclists travel through a tight parking lot along with pedestrians and cars moving in and out of parking spaces. Aesthetically, this bike rack earns a D. Even so, it’s far better than nothing.

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This rack at South Whidbey High School is of almost the same design as the one at the Star Store, but the location is abysmal. Not only is the rack not visible from the street or parking lot, but this trash can blocks the entry so that a bike’s handlebars will not fit through the opening. Is SWHS making cyclists feel welcome? Are facilities personnel sending the message that cycling to school or work is a good option? We don’t think so.

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This rack at Useless Bay Coffee Company in Langley is adequate for cyclists who use cables or chains, although U-locked bikes need to be positioned perpendicular to the intended tire-in orientation. Only about three bikes could be secured with U-locks here. However, the designer of this parking area gets bonus points for taking bikes fully off the sidewalk and keeping bikes within viewing distance of café seating, although the curb and frequent occupancy of the car parking spots make riding to this rack difficult.

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This rack at the Bayview Park & Ride is functional for cables and chains, but still a challenge for U-locks, for which the bike would need to be positioned perpendicular to the slots, allowing only perhaps three or four bikes to be secured to it. The rack ranks high in aesthetics, and having some protection from rain is wonderful (although the drip line from the covering is right at the saddle for this bike–not so helpful).

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At the Langley Town Hall, this rack is adequate for securing bikes with all types of locks, and bikes are off the sidewalk. However, cyclists cannot ride directly to this rack from the street but must either walk or ride along dozens of feet of sidewalk to access this rack.

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The Goose in Bayview provides no rack at all, and cyclists need to improvise. This shopping cart rack serves as an adequate locking place for bikes, although car doors and shopping carts pose a risk for damage to bikes. We would definitely prefer a bike rack.

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Here at the corner of Second and Anthes in Langley, we find a fully functional rack. Cables and chains can easily secure a bike frame, and U-locks are usable on the ends. The rack is easily visible and accessible from the street. While not particularly aesthetic nor providing protection from rain, this rack earns an A on all other features.

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This rack in Clinton is visible, accessible and functional for all lock types. It is simple and to the point. A similar rack is available at Island Athletic Club in Freeland.

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Can you spot the bike rack at the Clinton library? While a little difficult to find and access, it’s present and serviceable, which is unusual—and commendable—in Clinton.

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Island Transit provides wonderful racks at several locations, some of which display an artistic flair. From left to right we see racks at a bus stop on Main Street in Freeland, at the park & ride at Woodard Avenue in Freeland and at the park & ride by the Clinton post office. Island Transit generally earns high marks for considering the needs of cyclists in its ways of moving people from one place to another.

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Freeland has recently added a marked bike lane along East Main Street, but bike racks have been few. OYB has been working to raise consciousness in Freeland about the need for racks. This rack at Payless Foods in Freeland is usable, visible and accessible from the street. It used to be tucked away at the other end of the store where it was not visible, and where cyclists had to traverse a busy parking lot often full of moving cars and people pushing shopping carts. This location is far better for access. Might the relocation this spring be a result of some OYB-ers suggesting to the manager that the rack be moved? We’d like to think so.

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Here at the Noble Creek Park & Ride in Langley we find bike parking that’s usable by all types of locks, that’s protected from rain, and that’s visible and accessible from the street. It’s aesthetic, and there’s even a bike pump—an outstanding rack! Island Transit gets the gold star today!

Up and coming racks

We recently wrote to Whidbey Telecom respectfully asking if they would consider installing a bike rack to complement their electric vehicle charging stations. We heard back from them that they have one planned for installation this summer. Thumbs up to Whidbey Telecom—if they deliver.

Anchor Books in Clinton has told some OYB-ers that they plan a bike rack made from a large anchor that they recently acquired. We look forward to seeing this soon.

Mo’s Pub & Eatery in Langley is working to install a bike rack at the base of the stairs, but is working with the city and neighbors to have a plan approved. They may need Occupy Your Bike’s “support” to make this happen.

Still needing racks

There are dozens of other locations without a good place to secure a bike: most of Freeland, including Senior Thrift, the banks and the post office; most parks, including Dave Mackie Park, the Langley Marina, Trillium Woods and Dan Porter Park; the Deer Lagoon Grange; all of Kens Korner; the Clinton Food Mart; most churches … these are just the places that we have looked for racks and been left with an unattached bike lock in our hands. The list is long. However, as shown above, there is a general awareness on South Whidbey that cyclists are here and need a place to park their bikes. Having a secure place to park a bike is as important as a safe route if cyclists are to use their bikes for shopping, recreation, dining, and the many errands of life. How about it, the rest of you business owners, facility managers and governments? Will you step up and make it easier for cyclists to park and benefit from your offerings?

Bike racks: Ins and outs.

We finish here with information for those looking to install a rack:

The owners at Half Link Bike Shop in Bayview have told us that they are willing to provide a rack at cost to a business that wants to improve their bike parking. Racks can be purchased for less than $100, although prices can be higher depending on the style and type of installation needed. Rack installation is the responsibility of the purchaser.

Island County has no design standards for racks on private property, and so businesses are free to be creative in designing and implementing racks. There are no regulations regarding installing a bike rack on private property. A request for bike rack on county property needs to be made to the county planning department. Langley likewise exerts no requirements on bike racks on private property. If a business or nonprofit owner wants to install a rack on public easement or property (starting at the sidewalk on your side of the street, across the easement if there is one, and onto the street), a site plan needs to be submitted to the city along with a drawing or photo of the rack and a narrative describing why the owner thinks the rack is needed.

When in doubt, ask a cyclist and try your bike rack designs out with real bikes to be sure they are functional. And if you need support from Occupy Your Bike, let us know and we can step in with some gentle pressure, or even some design and consultation help.

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Opening Day: Langley 2nd Street Market

What a great afternoon last Friday for the opening of the farmers market in Langley. If you’ve missed it, no worries it will be every Friday from 3pm to 7pm and many OYBers will show up to future ones. Many bikes were occupying the many bike racks in Langley. A lot of shopping happened and there were even more discussions.

One occupier got to try a recumbent for the first time. A group of OYBers even went for dinner afterward at Mo’s Pub and Eatery. Bob was so kind as to find a cable and lock to help us lock our bikes.
See you next Saturday, 1:30pm, for the Maxwelton Mindfulness Ride with Holding Earth Sangha.

Reasons to Ride

OYBer Nancy Hepp recently passed along an article which inspired us. It was an article from Alternet.org entitled “Why We Fall in Love with Bicycles.” The young female author cited her own reasons: it’s part of her daily commute ritual with her boyfriend; she loves the exercise, the views of the world which exist outside the insulated and stifling bubbles of cars.

But we were particularly intrigued by her analysis of the factors which might encourage more people to ride: busting the illusion that you have to be “a cyclist” to ride; a shift in the bicycle industry which favors more practical, upright bicycles to the racing geometry that’s so favored in America (Europeans ride stylishly, making the bike culture on their continent far friendlier).

She closes by quipping, funnily: “What bicycling could really use is a good marketing department.” It may take more than a bike-friendly infrastructure to get people to ride!

The picture above, drawn from the article, pretty much says it all. It’s a fun post.

Why do YOU ride? And, if you DON’T ride, what do you think would enable you to get on a bike?

We’d love to hear from you.

Have a read, and let us know what you think. And, if so moved, occupy your bike.

http://www.alternet.org/visions/155349/why_we_fall_in_love_with_bicycles:_7_reasons_to_get_on_and_ride/?page=entire

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Mother’s Day “Tour de Caffeine”

by Pushkara

Just back from my first ride with Occupy Your Bike South Whidbey. With seven decades tread on my own two feet, I’ve been keen to try out a new-to-me electric bike I bought last fall from friends, Laurel Vogel and Christopher Diggins. Seattle Electric Bike owners, Stefan Schlesinger and Heidi Morford, who are the go-to folks here on South Whidbey, helped in refurbishing the bike and kindly gave me my first lesson and some useful tips. Since the weather has warmed, I’ve been going for short, safe rides. After all, my kids were still at home when I last rode a bike.

I still recall my Dad running alongside me at age 7, his arms extended front and back to give me the necessary sense of security as I got the hang of balancing on a two-wheeler. Of course, kids learn much earlier nowadays, and it’s hard to forget once you get the hang of it, but I admit to being a good 40 years out of practice.By the way, I want to mention Occupy Your Bike at Bayview Corner’s Earth Day in April: Nancy took me in hand, making sure I got current information about upcoming rides and potlucks. We stopped in at Half Link Cycle to pick up a biking map, so helpful in scouting more or less challenging bike routes. I was making connections, building up courage to join them. Arriving at Ken’s Korner on Mother’s Day, I received such a warm welcome from the Occupy Your Bike folks, eager to help: John, Joel, Derek, Tatiana, and Phil. They invited me to add some “bling” to my bike. I wrapped a rainbow feather boa around my handle bars, strapped on my helmet and took my place in the line as we entered the narrow lane alongside Langley Road. No way would I be out there alone, but these folks led out and also had my back, kind of like Dad on my first try. Observing the handling of their bikes, the traffic and the road went a long way toward relaxing into the ride. A celebratory arrival in Langley followed, only 7 miles and a few minutes later, with cheers all around, where we gathered for coffee with other Occupy Your Bike friends: Kurt, Sally, Linda, in the warming spring sun at Useless Bay Coffee Company. Our group attracted biking enthusiasts, Lee, Drew and others. In true “Occupy” form, working groups based upon specific interests and tasks are springing up: Kurt is paying an Occupy Your Bike visit to the Langley City Council, tomorrow. I might tag along with my blingy bike. Tatiana and Derek have volunteered to look after the website, blog and, Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/OccupYourBike). Phil showed-off a recent article and photo from the Whidbey Examiner.The point is to foster community, encouraging riders of all ages to support a bike-friendly Whidbey Island. To that end, Occupy Your Bike has been choosing routes that are short and fairly flat. I’m still getting used to my electric bike but I found I didn’t need much of an assist from the motor. There was one downhill stretch where I felt a bit shaky and slowed way down. Joel stayed at my back and those in front looped around, waiting for me to make the curve. Likewise, on our return, the group stayed together, looking out for each other.

I’d feel safer with wider, well-marked bike lanes. Better yet, separate bike paths supported and created by Whidbey residents would be a great incentive for more of us to ride. Yesterday’s drive up-island to Anacortes revealed a couple of interesting things: 1) actual bike paths starting from Coupeville to Oak Harbor, and 2) covers on gas station pumps that put me in mind of peak oil. Even with prices well over $4/gallon, these stations had run out of gas! Something tells me, I might be looking toward more than just recreational biking. And Occupy Your Bike is convincing more island residents to commute to their jobs in the Seattle area. They’re even working out “commuter pods,” bicyclists ferrying and riding into town together…a true 21st century biking culture!

Be sure to check out Occupy Your Bike events on the website: http://www.occupyourbike.org/#/eventscalendar/4561210282
See you at the potluck on Monday, May 21st!

Thanks,

Pushkara

We’re in the News!

Occupy Your Bike landed on the front page of the Whidbey Examiner today!

Read the story of the spark that has become a movement. Betty Freeman followed us around on the “Bikes on the Dikes” event, led by Nancy Hepp and Ken Carlin, on March 25th, and even visited our table on Earth Day to check and see whether she had gotten all our names and faces straight (see article photo of all the cyclists who came along that day).

Bayview Farm & Garden also caught a brilliant snap of Phil Jones in action, who also demonstrated that it’s entirely possible to carry an array of garden plants strapped to the rear rack of your bike (and give people something amazing to gawk at in the process). Very nice, Phil!

While we’re at it, we would also like to mention that this Sunday the 13th, on Mother’s Day, OYBers will be convening near La Casita at Kens Korner to ride into Langley for a cuppa joe. The event? It’s called the “Tour de Caffeine.”  With a name like that, you can’t miss it.

Occupy Your Bike. Like you mean it this time – should be easier. The sun is shining.

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Earth Day! at Bayview

The first tabling event for OYB at the Earth Day event at Bayview was a success! We had many fun discussions under a beautiful sun. It was great to see many people come to the event on bicycles.

One OYBer said, “Word of this movement is really getting out in the community, and I think we have a real opportunity to create a bike-culture on Whidbey Island—and not just for recreational riding, but to really replace car trips.”

Phil helped several people fix-up their bikes.

“Occupy Your Bike!”

Ride to “Carbon Nation”

A group of OYBers rode from Half Link in Bayview to the WiFire in Freeland to see the movie “Carbon Nation.” Two separate groups convened at Bayview, one Bikebus came from the Maxwelton Valley, while another group took a Bikebus from Langley. Eight cyclists in total rode, taking the beautiful and scenic, and low-traffic Newman Road, and arrived after a short 23-minute ride!

The group wrapped four bicycles in the freshly printed—and green-printed—Occupy Your Bike banner to make a stronger statement about zero-emissions transportation. Inside, OYBers joined a larger group to watch the Citizen’s Climate Lobby screening of the film, which presented both problems, and shared great solutions from ordinary Americans taking actions to address climate change.

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Commuting By Bicycle

by Kurt Hoelting

My friend Derek Hoshiko invited me to join his bike commute to Seattle today. Neither of us have done the 30 mile trip in quite awhile, and we’ve both been thinking its time to get our butts back in gear. Besides, we have a new reason to do so. We’ve recently founded Occupy Your Bike – South Whidbey, and this is a chance to put our money where our mouths have been.

It’s hard to maintain this commitment to live constantly against the flow of our car culture. That’s especially true when you live in a rural area, as Derek and I do, where the distances between home, work and recreation are always a challenge without a car. With more of my work these days happening in the city, and with lousy public transportation connections and a long commute, I’ve gotten lax in my commitment, and am driving more of the time. Sometimes I have no choice, short of moving to the city myself. So I’m finding myself behind the wheel of my car more often. Yeah, I drive a Prius, and eases my mind some. But that also makes me susceptible to the “Prius fallacy”, which interprets a modest technological improvement as an excuse to defer the much larger changes that are necessary if we have any hope of avoiding climate meltdown. Judging from the recent waves of climate catastrophes, nature does not seem to be all that impressed by modest steps. As the climate activist Adam Sacks has written,

“The most expert scientific investigators have been blindsided by the velocity and extent of recent [climate] developments, and the climate models have likewise proved far more conservative than nature itself.”

So Derek and I are reminding each other that the buck stops with us, and that in matters of such consequence, (to invoke the Buddha here) “our actions are our only possessions.” It’s more fun, and a lot less lonely, when we can share the adventure of making real changes in our lives. And the adventure has to be ongoing. Yeah, my Prius gets 50 miles per gallon, and I have a new electric vehicle on order. But I need to remind myself that my bike gets the equivalent of nearly 1000 mpg. This is one of the best ways I have to lower my carbon footprint, while at the same time raising my spirits, which riding my bike always seems to do.

Another plus with sharing the burden of difficult changes is the added incentive it gives us to stick to our guns. Derek and I had every reason to put our ride to the city on hold when we got up this morning. An inch of snow had fallen overnight, and the roads were icy. Neither of us is in the best of shape coming out of winter. It was cold and dark when we set out, and that long hill up Campbell Road to begin our ride to the ferry is a killer. But by the time we got to the ferry we were both feeling that old endorphin high. I’m continually amazed by how uplifting simple physical exertion can be in the midst of a sedentary lifestyle.

We stopped at a coffee shop in Mukilteo to work on some joint projects, and give the roads a chance to shed their ice with the morning’s moderating temperatures. The capacity for telecommuting is a real gift at times like this. We had some productive work time, then off we went, picking our way down into the city along the Inter-Urban Bike Trail. I’ve never attempted that route before, because the trail appears and disappears inexplicably on its wanderings through mixed neighborhoods and light industrial sprawl. But Derek knew the way, and it gave a new vantage on the trip into the city. I felt great the whole way. Our working lunch when we arrived in the city, at Beth’s Café by Green Lake, was lively and fruitful.

Here is some of my “take away”, a reminder of what I learned during my Circumference of Home year, and a re-dedication of my commitment to keep riding:

  • The biggest impediments to positive changes like this are mental, not physical. The hardest part is just getting going. It’s almost never as hard as I expect, and I’m almost never sorry I chose to bike once I’m up and running. Even on a cold and wintry morning, it felt great.
  • Traveling is “lived time” rather than “lost time” when I’m under my own power. The sense of connection to nature raises dramatically. I experience a sense of continuity between the places I live and work, a sense of greater belonging, and a more positive complexion to my whole day.
  • I feel energized rather than frazzled when I arrive where I’m going, and that translates into more pleasurable interactions and more productive, creative work.
  • It feels good to be doing something tangible, however small, to stitch my values back into my actions. It is best medicine I’ve found for my tendencies toward negativity and overwhelm.
  • The energy is cumulative. The more I ride, the more I want to ride, and the better I feel generally. It creates an undercurrent of confidence and emotional resilience that is palpable across the range of my activities during the day.
  • And if that’s not reason enough, I remember the stakes of not doing this, and that is usually enough to get me back on my bike, and remembering all the other reasons I wanted to be doing this anyway.

So thanks to Derek for upping the ante, and getting me poised for some longer rides and more frequent bicycle commutes. OCCUPY YOUR BIKE!

This article originally appeared on Kurt Hoelting’s blog Conversations Around the Fire.

Fun Bike: Bikes on the Dikes

On Sunday, March 25th, we convened for “Bikes on the Dikes”: a fun, low-pressure ride for bicyclists of all speeds and experience levels. We convened at 1:30 pm at Woodland Hall, then made our way north to Double Bluff in Freeland. We had a fun, social break at Double Bluff where the sun shined beautifully. We had a small snack before riding back.

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