How to kill bike commuting

The first, easiest, safest, most risk-free, and obvious way is obviously to run over the commuter with your motorized cage.

However, this fucks up your clearcoat, dents the hood, and requires some fancy driving skills on your part if you’re going to do it the old-fashioned hit-and-run-way, which countless people still do. Otherwise you have to spend minutes explaining to the cops how the cyclist veered in front of you and hurled himself onto your windshield, where he rightfully died.

New Yorkers lead the way in lots of things, truly, and one of the ways they lead is in teaching how to strangle bike commuting without killing the commuters themselves, even at a time when bike use is skyrocketing. Los Angeles, which recently came up with a life-saving program for pedestrians that has saved exactly zero pedestrians, will do well to emulate New York.

The technique? Don’t provide bike parking.

Yep, it’s that simple, and it works. The New York Times, almost always a dollar short and a day late, finally got around to noting the problem in an article that says there are 56,000 parking spots for 1.6 million riders. Seems reasonable. But the causal link between no bike parking and no bike riding was left to be illuminated by the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives in this report. Among their fun facts was that for every bike parking space in NYC there were 100 free ones for cars. Yay!

Now, I know what you’re thinking, and it goes like this. “Come on! Just lock it to a tree or a sign or take it inside with you, for fuxake. Don’t be such a frissy!”

Unfortunately, the frissies aren’t so easily persuaded, as ONE IN FOUR households in NYC has had a bike stolen this year. Quick question: What do you think would happen if one in four cars had been stolen from households in Manhattan Beach, PV, or Redondo Beach this year? Ya. Exactly.

But anyway, the frissies aren’t simply dissuaded by the reality that if they tie their bike to a hitching post it will be gone when they get back. They are also worried about weird shit such as weather damage.

“Whaaaaat? Weather damage? It’s a fuggin’ bike!” I can hear you saying it over the Internet, and you’re right. But the frissies disagree because whether it’s a $400 clunker or a $4,000 speedster, snow, wind, rain, and ice are not yet part of any manufacturer’s recommended maintenance. As one bike parking infrastructure firm put it, “It’s like leaving your fucking sunroof open in a rainstorm.” Okay, he didn’t say “fucking.”

There’s more. Even when bike parking is provided for, it’s better designed for the average cow or skateboard than it is for a bike. Remember those taco machines that were so popular in the 70’s? Yeah, the ones where you would jam a front or rear wheel in, and the bike would fall over or get slammed by someone/something, and you’d wind up with a tacoed wheel? Well, lots of municipalities still think those are peachy, and few cyclists who value their bikes will use one.

Sweeeet!

The bike rack at my foffice building on 21250 Hawthorne is exactly this type of junk, and the only way you can use it is by locking your bike to the far wall, where there’s cable and a place to secure the frame and wheels. Otherwise, it’s simply a decoration, and an ugly one at that. This brings up another great way to drive away commuters, which is to have a rack that makes it difficult or impossible to lock the wheel and the frame. Yeah, those. And that in turn leads to the ultimate reality of short-term outdoor bike parking, which is that anyone with a few Allen wrenches can strip your brakes, derailleurs, seat, pedals, and bars in a couple of minutes. Your frame and wheels are safe, though!

Of course highly secure bike parking is available and is an old solution to an ancient bicycle problem … in other countries. In Los Angeles, the Metro completed a report on secure bike parking and shockingly concluded that there wasn’t enough and that most of the existing parking wasn’t secure. However, they noted that providing secure bike parking would be expensive, failing to explain how they had spent hundreds of millions on secure Metro car parking throughout the city but couldn’t come up with enough change beneath the couch cushions to buy a few lousy secure bike boxes.

The fact that they had to add the word “secure” to the title “bike parking” shows you how blase motordom is with regard to bike parking, and how they mostly wish it would go far, far, away, by which I mean that the very concept of bike parking should include security. Because the only way to really terrify bike commuters, especially women, is to provide parking in dark places far from the building entrance. Yep, just like they do at LAX. When Baby Seal and I rode there last year we noted that the hidden, distant bike rack had a single wheel, long ago rusted, secured with an equally rusted U-lock. The rest of the bike was gone, and the skeleton served as a reminder to any idiot considering using it that their bike would suffer a similar fate.

We took our bikes inside.

Best of all is the fact that you can park about twelve bikes in a single car parking slot, but shoot the planner who suggests converting on-road car storage spaces, which is what car parking is, into secure bike racks.

Since I am a cheery optimist who believes the very best about people, I’m convinced that it’s all a minor oversight, or unintentional, or the result of Mars being retrograde in Leo. Right?

END

13 thoughts on “How to kill bike commuting”

  1. drives me nuts, keep thinking I should just ride here – then you look around for a rack or something sensible to bolt to and…nothing. Lets face it, even CoTKU, destination for god knows how many cyclists (pre-pandemic) can only muster a few dodgy poles

  2. Super light carbon bikes maybe suspect commuter bikes with poor storage, but they are light enough to carry with you when you go into shops and windows! The “ease of hoisting” is a too often ignored factor that the cycling media should start to report on! Climbing bikes for the win!

    1. I think taking your bike into most shops is kind of like bringing a dog into the grocery store. Who pays if the lube escapes your chain?

      1. Take mine into the grocery store all the time, only once had an assistant manager get freaked out, and not that the bike was in the store, but that it was blocking the high volume coffee accessories adjacent to the in-store Starbux.
        I caught her before she wheeled it off too far and we agreed on an “acceptable” place to lean the bike against. I considered she was probably having a bad “feeling powerless” day.

        Real service dogs are fine, perhaps take a rag to the chain to keep the drips at bay?

  3. Agreed! Bike corrals in a few parking spaces are obviously serving more people than the adjacent car spaces in my city. Secure bike lockers (eLockers?) require subsidy, but so do parking lots and garages.

  4. Margaret Smiddy

    I got so spoiled at UC Davis where there are thousands of bike racks for the thousands of bike riders. Everyone just bought a cheap thing at a garage sale for $25 to 50. No gears needed as it’s very flat there. Helpful accessories included a fender or produce bag for the seat.
    It was a real shock moving to southern CA where for the first few weeks I thought WTF is wrong with these people?
    I learned eventually

    1. I’m alsoba UC Davis alum, and I had the same withdrawal symptoms. Still, since Davis taught me it could be done, I pledged to live where I could easily ride to my daily destinations, and I’ve been able to do that.

  5. I’ve asked four local businesses to add simple bike racks. Walmart in La Palma is the only place that did so. It took 14 phone calls, emails and in-person visits to make it happen. I’ve made no progress with the other businesses.

    Advocating for bike parking is a grind, but without parking people have one more reason to leave the bike at home and drive the SUV half a mile to the store.

  6. I’m fortunate. My workplace (when we were actually going to the office), has a locked bike garage for employees, which is in a highly visible area directly across the street from the building main entrance. The same keycard that gets you in the office will get you into the bike garage. There’s a security camera in there as well.

  7. I didn’t read the entire NYT article yet, which means I read half, but I wonder if it mentions how unless your bike folds, then most workplaces, and by workplace, I mean high paying white collar workplace, don’t want your bike inside, and certainly do not provide any means outside.

    Didn’t you note/document in one of your postings, some structure somewhere in Europe that was some kind of automated underground garage for bikes?

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