Friday, August 10, 2012

Bike parking and the lack thereof. . . .

Attendees of last Friday's First Friday Art Walk in downtown Phoenix.
My husband and I went out last Friday night for our first First Friday Art Walk downtown.  We didn't really know where we were going or what to expect and I think we missed a lot. 

Bob patiently waits for me to get the perfect shot.
More than anything we were just trying to get our barrings by bike. 

An ice cold beverage on a hot, hot night brings a smile to Bob's face.
We stopped for drinks - the atmosphere by the time we got there was pretty young, undergraduate age, I suppose, so we were among the oldest people there.  After drinks we headed for dinner a few blocks away.

I'm not even sure if locking up to a tree is permitted by the business owners or the City of Phoenix but we couldn't find anywhere else to secure our bikes.
One of the thinks we noticed was a deciding lack of bike parking.  We found things to lock on to, such as sign posts and trees but few businesses seem to place bike corrals in front of their businesses or even where they can readily be seen.  This is too bad because bike corrals are a wonderful invitation to patronize a business.  They send the signal that I'm welcome inside their establishment; an especially polite message if I'm on a bike wondering if I might be a too casually dress (I think it's understood that I don't mean sloppily dressed).  If we can't find a bike corral and there is not a nearby sign or tree that I can lock on to, we'll probably keep pedaling and save our monies for elsewhere.  Let me say that again:  we'll keep pedaling and spend our monies elsewhere.  And we do.  Bob and I are foodies so we will spend money on delicious, intriguing menus.

The bike themed signage in front of my new favorite cafe, Astor House, is welcoming but a bike corral right out front would be even more so.  With bikes locked up to it, a bike corral also sends the message that the business is worth a visit.
I've noticed this in my neighborhood, as well, where many independent restaurateurs have set up shop.  We aren't seeing as many bike corrals as we'd thought we would, even though we see a lot of residents on their bikes.  I actually see quite a few who seem to be quite obviously on their way to or from work or school every day from the window over the kitchen sink. 

One of my usual bike routes in the Coronado District.
One of the reason people return to urban neighborhoods is the convenience of being able to walk and bike to retail and services rather than get their by car.  In fact many young people are choosing to be car-free because the expense of ownership often takes requires sacrificing in other areas of life they find more fulfilling.  Bob and I aren't so young but having the expense of only one car definitely has freed up monies for dining, art, travel, and now, for me, graduate school.

Waiting at Encanto Station.
A bike lane found at the Government Mall downtown.
I know that City of Phoenix is trying to promote transportation cycling as an alternative to driving.  I'm discovering more  bike lanes every day, and of course the Valley Light Rail and city buses offer bicycle accommodations.  I think the bike corrals I've seen near the Phoenix Public Market off Central were installed by the City, although I could be wrong.  But there really aren't enough of them, and I wonder if the business owners are themselves ignoring the potential revenues brought by transportation cyclists (even those who are of the weekend variety)?  Elly Blue and our friends at the Path Less Pedaled have both written about this subject quite a bit but maybe it's just us bike bloggers who've read about the economics of bicycling.  Does the City of Phoenix provide any type of incentive to encourage business owners to install bike corrals, like a reduction in how many parking spaces each business has to provide?  Not just any bike corral will do, by the way; bike corrals have to be functional and thoughtfully placed in a location that's easy to find.

Bike corrals are aplenty at UCenter at ASU's Downtown Campus.
I have to hand it to Arizona State University, though.  Whether it's the Downtown Campus or the main campus in Tempe, they do bike parking just right.  Bike corrals in front of every building; sometimes all the way around the building.  No searching necessary.  Lots of bike corrals that are really easy to lock on to.  So many great bike corrals everywhere you turn sends a clear message: PLEASE RIDE YOUR BIKE; WE'RE BEGGING YOU!  I had to go to Tempe Campus on Tuesday to have my operating system upgraded at the Technology Studio and even during summer semester's searing heat, I saw many students, faculty and staff on bicycles.  And people are using those bike corrals, too. Other than summer session, most bike corrals are packed.  I think most universities do a good job in general promoting transportation cycling; there is no shortage of bike corrals at Norther Arizona University either.  Why?  Because campus parking is expensive (What school does not contend with unending complaints from students, faculty and staff about the price of a parking permit?) and most universities have limited space on which they can grow in order to accommodate new programs and growing campus populations.  Nobody just throws up a parking garage if they can possibly avoid it.

My initial observations about the availability of bike parking at Phoenix businesses could be wrong.  I've only been here a month and, due to the heat, I haven't been out exploring as much as I'd like so there is probably a lot I've missed in my quest to escape into an air conditioned environment.  Nonetheless, I plan to take advantage of polite opportunities to encourage businesses that I patronize to install bike corrals in front of their establishments.  If you cycle in Phoenix, I hope you will, too.


David Bickford said...

Bike parking is still not what it should be here, but steadily improving. Some recent initiatives include the Arizona Diamondbacks sponsorship of new bike racks in the Downtown core (south of where First Friday is concentrated) and the Pedalcraft show of distinctive bike racks. Also, some restaurants really go the extra mile to welcome bicyclists. Postino Central and Churn, for example, not only have ample bike racks prominently placed near their dining patios, but also tag parked bikes with coupons redeemable on a future visit.

She Rides a Bike said...

David, I don't know how I could have forgotten about Postino on Central. I've parked my bike a couple of times in corrals just a few steps from the patio. Very easy to find! The Urban Bean also has a nice but small bike corral next to their patio. America's Taco Shop on 7th Street has two bike corrals right in front of their patio as well. They aren't great corrals but they are there. I love America's by the way. Best chicken tacos I've had anywhere and the staff is quite welcoming.

m e l i g r o s a said...

OMG the blue flurry custome!!!!! <3 :)

Cherilyn said...

Congrats on the move and your forays into the biking world of Phoenix!

I think many businesses just don't have bikes on the radar, and a bike rack is just one more $%@ thing that a biz needs to purchase, so it doesn't get done.

Bozeman, which gets flooded with bikes on Main Street during downtown events, created a bike rack that takes up one parking space and holds 12 bikes. It can be moved for the winter for plowing (not a problem in Phoenix, but still) or other road maintenance. Great design.

Congrats on your grad school adventures! Can't wait to hear more!

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