Bicycle parking is the red headed stepchild of infrastructure. Just about everyone gets excited about protected bike lanes, Dutch Junctions and even side paths. Bike racks, not so much.
Still, if you decide to commit to riding a bicycle for transportation it becomes apparent pretty quickly that having a place to park your bike is an important consideration. If you don’t have it, you’re likely to opt for the car instead.
There are three considerations I think are important when it comes to bicycle parking. The first is availability. The others are safety and security. They’re different, but related. My experience is that most bicycle parking solutions fail one or more tests.
Availability is about access. Interestingly enough, availability is not always apparent. We cyclists are a creative bunch, and we often make availability when it appears none exists.
Safety is akin to functionality. A safe location should not expose you to undue risk from traffic. It should be highly visible. It should be lit, so that you can access and unlock your bike after dark without worrying about who might be sneaking up behind you. Many merchants and government offices place bicycle parking close to the building entrance. This is good.
Security is about protecting your ride. It should be strong and connected to the ground in a way that makes removing it more trouble than it’s worth. It should be visible so that anyone who tries to steal a bike stands out like a sore thumb.
But security is also about protecting your bike from nicks and scratches. Good racks are designed in a way to allow you to have two points of contact with the rack. This is important, because when you have two points of contact your bike is less likely to move and be damaged. The ubiquitous wave rack is notoriously bad in this regard.
I’ve also noticed a tendency to install bike racks that are works of art. I don’t have a problem with this provided the rack is safe and secure, but if it’s all about form over function I’m going to move on and look for a better place to park my bike.
Safe and secure bike parking is good for business. There’s a grocery store close to home that I frequently visit because of its convenience. They don’t have bike racks and so I was locking my bike to a cart corral in the parking lot. Not ideal, but even in this case a better solution was found. One of the store’s employees came up to me one day and told me to bring my bike into the store and leave it next to the customer service desk. I won’t forget her kindness. I shop there more now than ever.