Bike Racks Just Make Sense

Bike Everywhere Month has passed, and perhaps you got caught up in the spirit and decided to use a bicycle occasionally. You went to the grocery store. Or you and your children rode to an ice cream parlor. Or you went to a restaurant with your spouse. And perhaps a new reality set in for you. “Where can I lock up my bike?” Well, it depends. Welcome to a dilemma shared by many who ride.

If your destination did have a bike rack, perhaps another concern arose. The bike rack was in an out-of-the way location. While I don’t have any hard data to back this up, I feel my bike is more secure if it’s out front where everyone can see it as opposed to being in a less trafficked area on the side or back of the building. More importantly, I also feel more welcome as a cyclist when an establishment has a bike rack right out front. It says someone made the extra effort to think of cyclists. And, as many establishments have found, making it easy for cyclists to stop at your place of business brings in more customers. More customers means more revenue. It’s much easier for people to stop and park their bike if you give them a place to secure it.

There are places that shine. Public facilities like schools, libraries, and Spokane’s City Hall have prominent bike racks. Some years ago, The Elk Public House in Browne’s Addition converted a parking spot on the street to bike parking. It’s a decision many cyclists have appreciated. And it’s a smart move. Bicycle parking space requires one-tenth of that for a car, which means that bike space can accommodate more customers than a car can hold. Without having to increase parking space, establishments can still increase customers. Dedicated bike parking makes cyclists feel welcome.

The STA Plaza and the Park and Ride areas have plenty of bike racks. The Spokesman-Review has a covered rack that’s under observation at all times. Kendall Yards has bike racks along the business and restaurant area. You’ll find racks outside the Main Market Co-op, Auntie’s Bookstore, River Park Square, and quite a few other places along Main Street.

There are a few places that are lacking. The downtown U.S. Post Office and the U.S. Courthouse each used to have a bike rack. But they were removed and now people lock their bikes up to the parking meters, trees, and light poles out front instead. I think it’s odd when a fitness facility has little or no bike parking. Ride to any big box grocery store and you’ll probably find yourself locking your bike to whatever is available. I prefer to take the bike into the store with me. Using the bike and panniers as a grocery cart works quite well. I get looks but no complaints.

A fun element of bike racks can be their design. The Garland District has a spiral “wiener dog” rack in which a bike fits inside each coil that make up the body. The Spokane International Airport has bicycle-shaped bike racks in front of the terminals. Bert Bike-A-Rack resides on the Centennial Trail side of the INB Performing Arts Center. It’s a spider-shaped rack that fits a bike wheel in each leg. The Flying Goat restaurant has a cool rack constructed of bike frames. The Indaba Coffee on Broadway has racks that incorporate miniature bicycles in their design. While artistic racks are appealing and cool, they sometimes present a challenge because their design may not be very functional. For example, Bert Bike-A-Rack can secure a wheel but not the frame. It’ll work if you’re just going to sit on the nearby steps and hang out by the river. But there is a standard rack next to Bert where you can properly secure your bike.

Bert the bike rack can hold one wheel in each leg.
Bert the bike rack can hold one wheel in each leg.

Whether a bike rack is starkly utilitarian or an eye-catching piece of art, businesses have reaped the benefits of installing them. Believe me, word gets out when a business is bike friendly. Check the well-used bike parking at places like Central Food, The Elk, and the Main Market Co-op and you’ll see what I mean. Be sure to thank the businesses that provide bike parking. And for those that don’t, be an ambassador. Politely let them know how bike racks can be a great investment and how you and other cyclists help make it so. //

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