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:
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.