Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Bike Rack Band

I am pleased to introduce the first in an occasional series of remote postings from Louisville, Kentucky by She Rides A Bike reader Sushi K! Applause please! Sushi K has some great wisdom about the placement of bike racks or the lack thereof. If you happen to know or love an urban planner or someone who is merely passing as one, please pass this post on to him or her.

Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Bike Rack Band

Louisville has quite a few bike racks. However, they are not everywhere. I often have to lock to a signpost or a parking meter when a proper rack is not nearby. Or sometimes a nearby rack is already full of bikes! That is always a sight that makes me smile! However, I am sad because I have recently noticed several forgotten, lonely bike racks that never seem to have bikes locked to them, such as this one:


This is a serviceable rack, maybe a bit old school, but otherwise fine. What is its problem? Why is it shunned by Louisville's bicyclists? Well, dear readers, the answer is....LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION! These racks, even though they are all in downtown Louisville, near destinations such as hospitals, schools and businesses, are tucked away into forgotten corners, and no one knows they are there. So sad. I realize that the folks who bought these racks and installed them had good intentions, but they seem to be assuming that all bicyclists have bike rack x-ray vision to help them find racks that are in strange corners of the city. That would be a handy skill.
This rack is around the back of a hospital: It is by a door labeled "Non flammable gas." Hmmm...what a great place for a bike rack. At least it isn't next to the toxic waste or the flammable gas entrance....but still is a weird spot for a rack. I go by it every day and have never seen a bike locked to it.

I found this rack in the dark back corner of a parking garage...it would be a good, secure place to park a bike in a rainstorm if people only knew it was there! A sign on the outside of the garage would help. The Do Not Enter" sign doesn't seem friendly!

Ahhh...finally a rack that is seeing some love! Yay. This rack is always full, often it is overflowing with bicycles. Located right next to the main (and only) entrance to the downtown YMCA, everyone knows it is there and uses it often. However, even when this rack is full, and people are locking to poles and fences nearby, its "sister" rack not half a block away in the YMCA parking garage is always empty:

Awww....so sad. This rack is so lonely. Even though I have worked nearby for several years, I didn't even know this rack was there until I recently discovered it when I was in the garage for an unrelated reason.

So..the moral of this story is: people don't use racks they can't find! I am tempted to put up some signs on nearby poles directing people to these lonely, forgotten racks. Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match, find me a find, catch me a catch! - Sushi K.

For more about bike commuting in Louisville, Kentucky visit Bike Louisville on the Metro Louisville website!

6 comments:

Dottie said...

Welcome Sushi K! Great points about the bike racks. The first few are not even real bike racks, as it would be impossible to lock the frame to the actual rack unless you can get a parking spot on the very end. So much room for parking cars, so little room for parking bikes. Too bad.

Carlos said...

Another reason the first rack pictured above may be shunned is that its design tends to be harsh on rims; whether accidentally or intentionally, it doesn't take much to knock over a bike locked to one of these, and the rider will often return to find his/her rim in need of serious truing (or worse). Undulating racks (like the full one pictured) and good old sturdy signposts are preferable because it allows you to secure the frame to the post rather than just the wheel. With a U-lock securing the frame, a potential thief may see the task of cutting a cable to steal wheels or a saddle as not worth the risk. But if that U-lock is only gripping the tire and the cable is securing the rest of the bike, it's much more tempting to come in with bolt cutters and steal the rest of the bike. I've seen so many of those wheel-bender racks with only a front or back wheel locked to them, and I'm sure some thief made off with the rest of the bicycle.

Sox said...

I was thinking along a similar line as Carlos. The top rack is so close to the wall that you could only lock a bike to the very ends; you would not be able to push the front (or back) wheel of your bike through the stand to be able to lock the frame, not the wheel.
It also looks like the one in parking garage is of a similar configuration.
Good for those places to try tho'. So many can't be bothered.

Filigree said...

Would be nice to dress up in a disguise and, under the cover of night, re-distribute the lonely empty racks to places where they are needed : )

She Rides a Bike said...

Great observations! I definitely prefer the undulating rack to the other design, which provides zero stability. I never use them for all the reasons identified. Perhaps a little signage could have partially overcome the location factor but I would not have used the racks with the rings. For work, when a rack is full I usually just put my bike in a vacant office, often leading to questions about how I am able to bike wearing nice clothes.

CynthiaC54 said...

As another Louisville cyclist, I can attest to the unevenness of bike rack placement around town. Many racks downtown are so artsy, you might be hesitant to use them, and others are too small for more than two or three bikes at a time. And few of them are sheltered in any way. I'd like to see more spaces with a degree of protection to extend the life of my chain, deraileurs, and other moving parts!

My employer has a bike rack in the executive parking garage, and cyclists are permitted to use it free of charge. However, the PARC garage across the street - where I have employer-subsidized auto parking - has grumpy signs about "NO BICYCLES" at the entrances, although there are several areas that would be perfect for bike racks.