If you ride your bike enough, you’re going to need to park it, lock it, and leave it unattended at some point. Here are some tips, thoughts and strategies for parking your bike.

RIDE A PARKABLE BIKE.

This means, when you go out on your bike and you know need to leave it locked up, likely outside, then ride a bike that you are comfortable leaving unattended. If you don’t have such a bike, then prioritize your life to procure one.

A parkable bike has things like a rack, saddle, lights and wheels that are attached with bolts, rather than quick releases. Any of these components are steal-able in any case, but bolts deter the opportunistic thieves from looting your bike as they walk by.

And if you have to fuss with either locking or removing racks, saddles, lights, and wheels every time you park your bike, then you’re less likely to ride the bike, which makes it less parkable.

You should also be okay with letting the bike get scratched up.

A BUSINESS SHOULDN’T HAVE TO LET YOU DRAG YOUR BIKE INSIDE TO BE CONSIDERED “BIKE FRIENDLY.”

A great thing about bikes is that they’re pretty small and compact. So they’re easy to find secure parking for. And a great thing about being a cyclist is being self-reliant in our transportation choice.

The only business where it’s okay to bring your bike into is a bike shop. You may have an arrangement with your workplace figured out so you can bring your bike indoors. That’s okay too. But you shouldn’t expect to bring your bike inside a business just because you are spending money there. That kind of entitlement thinking gives the rest of us cyclists a bad reputation! Securing your bike is no one’s responsibility but your own.

THE BEST BIKE PARKING IS A SPOT THAT IS VISIBLE.

Best-case bike parking scenario: right outside the window where you are dining or shopping, locked to a pole, under a light.

If there is a bike rack, but you can’t see your bike, then lock up to the parking meter, sign pole, fence post, or other secure thing that allows you to see your bike while you’re in the business.

If you can’t see it, then second best is a busy public space out in the open.

A good illustration of this is River Park Square downtown. There is an awful bike rack at the north entrance: a deserted-feeling rack under the parking ramp.

But at the south entrance of River Park Square, there’s a trio of new racks right out in the open. A thief will have to be a lot more brazen to shake down your bike out on Main Street than they will under cover of the parking ramp on the north side.

SMART BUSINESSES WILL HAVE GOOD BIKE PARKING; BE A SMART BUSINESS!

Tossing up a bike rack is a nice gesture, and we should generally encourage it. But racks are often designed and installed by non-cyclists. In fact, it seems like bike racks are often an afterthought that are put up in a left-over chunk of space that is unusable for auto parking or other higher priority items. They’re almost never covered, often hidden from public view, and they’re often silly designs that look neat but don’t work well for many bikes.
The best design is the inverted-U, which is admittedly boring to look at, but is the most functional rack around. And the best placement is right in front of the windows of the business where a potential thief would have an ample audience. Bonus points for overhead lights.

Serious cyclist-love is reserved for businesses that also offer covered space. But that’s the least important after visibility, lights and rack design.

NO LOCK IS SECURE.

Given enough time, a dedicated thief can get through any lock, cable or chain. The goal is to make your bike as undesirable as possible.

The challenge is not having a really desirable bike. Keep in mind that many bike thieves don’t know good bikes. All other things being equal, park your bike next to the flashiest looking mountain bike in the rack.

The second important aspect of making your bike undesirable is to have it be really inconvenient to steal. Using two different types of locks to secure your bike is probably the best solution. If you have to leave your bike outside overnight, go with multiple lock styles. Otherwise, go with a small U-lock or the heaviest chain you are willing to lug around. Small U-locks are desirable because their Achilles heel is brute force, as opposed to cutting, so the goal is for you to fill up the space in the “U” with as much bike and rack as possible.
After you get your parkable bike and locking plan dialed in, you’ll enjoy the satisfaction of getting the best parking spot every time you go out!

John Speare grew up and lives in Spokane. He rides his bike everywhere. Check out his blog at http://cyclingspokane.blogspot.com.