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Bike Parking
September 3, 2009 4:58 PM   Subscribe

On bicycle parking.
posted by aniola (75 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
"What Would Get Americans Biking to Work?" asks the hed.

Parking! is the reply.

Howzabout: "No snow, no rain, no shitty weather for a good part of the year where much of the population lives."
posted by docgonzo at 5:00 PM on September 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Another good answer: A job within 5 miles of my house.

For a whole summer once in college I biked to work. Seven miles each way, rain or shine. Great exercise, but about as far as I could reasonably go.
posted by DU at 5:06 PM on September 3, 2009


Here in Seattle, Bikestation has set up lockers for commuters. Some businesses are housed in buildings with locked bike rooms. UW is setting up racked bike lockers as more people bike to work and secure storage needs increase.

Anything that makes the lives of bike thieves harder is good stuff. At my old job in West Philadelphia, a ring of bike thieves regularly harvested bikes from campus bike racks, which were easy pickings given the density of and open access to the racks.

These facilities also protect bikes from the elements, which reduces maintenance needs and makes cycling a more tenable option for commuters.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:07 PM on September 3, 2009


Another way to reduce the need for ultrasecure parking is to buy a cheaper bike. You don't need a $500 commuter bike anymore than you need a $50,000 commuter car. Open the classifieds or look on craigslist right now and I guarantee you will find a bike for sale within a few miles of your house for under $50.
posted by DU at 5:10 PM on September 3, 2009


Showers at work.
posted by LordSludge at 5:12 PM on September 3, 2009 [22 favorites]


BikesnobNYC said it best. But really, we all know where this thread is going to end up.
posted by Chuckles McLaughy du Haha, the depressed clown at 5:14 PM on September 3, 2009 [5 favorites]


In Portland something I am seeing more and more is a single car parking space replaced with a block of ten bike racks (able to hold at least 20 bikes as long as people use them properly).

This is frequently done near evening / recreational destinations. Neighborhoods with a large number of restaurants, concert venues, cafes, and bars definitely benefit from convenient bike parking - even the people who drive to work often bike for other activities whenever they can, and we are that much more likely to go in somewhere where we can count on a convenient and safe place to park a bike.

Also, I really like the ones next to places with outdoor seating - are you really going to try to steal someone's bike when someone is sitting there a few feet away eating a meal and watching you?
posted by idiopath at 5:14 PM on September 3, 2009


Parking is one issue. Safety on the road is another. Most people I know with grey hair wouldn't take the risk of riding in urban commuting conditions. Denver has terrific bike routes, but not terrific enough. Riders here are either fixie pixies or sporty iconoclasts. Not very many of us simply get on a bike for transportation.
posted by Carmody'sPrize at 5:15 PM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Showers at work.

And a convenient way to change your clothes when you arrive.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:15 PM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


An office building that permits bikes in the elevators and suites made a real difference for me. Yeah, dry weather and car drivers who stay out of bike lane would be great too.
posted by applemeat at 5:30 PM on September 3, 2009


Yes yes yes. Secure bike storage (not a rack out front) but also showers.

Had this in Vancouver. Wish I had it in Ottawa.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 5:33 PM on September 3, 2009


But yes - indoor bike parking is great. I'd settle for sheltered bike parking outside; at a government job I once had, the parking lot had little roofed-in steel 'umbrellas' with hooks that you could hang your bike from. Compact, waterproof, and they had a good steel loop to lock to.
posted by anthill at 5:36 PM on September 3, 2009


There's a lot of bike parking in Tokyo and environs (particularly around train stations, where there are often relatively large bike park lots), but more is needed.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:38 PM on September 3, 2009


That, and storage. My daily commute is a 3-mile bike trip each way, and I have a huge crate mounted on it to keep my backpack, extra sweatshirt in case I go home late, and whatever else I need to carry. People take for granted all that storage space in their cars.
posted by spiderskull at 5:38 PM on September 3, 2009


You don't need a $500 commuter bike anymore than you need a $50,000 commuter car. Open the classifieds or look on craigslist right now and I guarantee you will find a bike for sale within a few miles of your house for under $50.

While I definitely agree with you, I did this approach ($60 Magna bike), and now I'm in the market for a much better bike. This is something you'll be riding every day, so if it's a higher quality, more comfortable bike, then it's completely worth the relatively small investment and theft risk.
posted by spiderskull at 5:40 PM on September 3, 2009


Howzabout: "No snow, no rain, no shitty weather for a good part of the year where much of the population lives."

I biked in Tokyo for 5 years and it was awesome, even if the weather sucked in the winter and summer.

Here's a pic I have of the parking arrangement; if you zoom in you can barely see the $10 loop-lock on the top-tube.

I could leave the bike -- a $500 Bianchi -- there over the weekend and be reasonably sure it'd still be there unmolested on Monday.

Solve the streetcrime problem in the US and you solve the bicycle parking problem. I need to get out of this f****ed country again.
posted by Palamedes at 5:41 PM on September 3, 2009


Oh, I'll also add: bike racks on buses. It makes a big difference when you know if it's raining like hell or you're more tired than you expected you can get both yourself and your bike home. Articulated buses here and in Van have them on the front.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 5:43 PM on September 3, 2009


I wish San Francisco would get a law saying any building with a freight elevator must allow bicycles inside. (And that buildings are not allowed to forbid tenants from keeping their bikes in their offices [modulo usual requirements about not blocking fire routes etc.].)
posted by phliar at 5:45 PM on September 3, 2009


Hmmm. My co-workers and I just leave our bikes lying around the office. Obviously that's not going to be ok in a lot of workplace, but at the job before last, we actually had a lock-up in the underground car park, and all the cyclists had a key. Strikes me that a secure cycle park could be an inexpensive fringe benefit in some cities.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 5:46 PM on September 3, 2009


I've seen bike lockers in some areas. Benefits include protection from elements, storage for anything you carry, and a secured door. Drawbacks are that the lockers must be bigger, and most often cyclists must reserve or rent one in order to guarantee usage. The locker idea is good if you have a private facility that has a somewhat static population of cyclists, but terrible for most public places.

Bike racks in frequently-traveled areas only seems to deter casual thieves or vandals, in my experience. Skilled thieves seem to have magic fingers that can pick locks, and enough confidence to look like nothing's out of the ordinary as they remove the bike and ride away. And I remember a couple of "hidden camera" experiments that showed sometimes, people don't pay attention to a bike that's not theirs, even if they were specifically asked to watch it.

My paranoia at having my bike stolen got to a point where I had to carry around several layers of lock protection, just to try and make things as hard as possible for thieves. I bet the combined weight of u-bolts, cables, and other hardware equaled the frame itself.
posted by CancerMan at 5:49 PM on September 3, 2009


What Would Get Americans Biking to Work

Tungsten frameset and vibrating massage chair for a saddle with a 3 litre engine and a hot dog rotisserie, George Foreman grill, television and megaphone on the handlebars.
posted by fire&wings at 6:08 PM on September 3, 2009 [5 favorites]


And a cup holder.
posted by fire&wings at 6:20 PM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


42 bikes.
posted by fixedgear at 6:23 PM on September 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Obscure reference, do you not have bathrooms at your place of business? I find that hard to believe.
posted by shownomercy at 6:24 PM on September 3, 2009


Obscure reference, do you not have bathrooms at your place of business? I find that hard to believe.

You're snarking. You don't mean that, you actually mean, "Why don't you change in the bathroom?"

You're a smart guy, you could figure out why you wouldn't want to change 500 times a year in your office bathroom. Are you going to do it in the middle of the floor? No? In a stall? Most office stalls don't even have a lid on the toilet. They're small. Imaging trying even to change your shoes in a stall - where do you put your feet up - is that what you want to do twice a day?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 6:36 PM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


While I do enjoy the liberty to be able to drive wherever I want, on balance, I hate cars. I hate paying for them, I hate maintaining them and I hate being trapped into an abusive owner-possession relationship with them. But even though I've made significant efforts to shift away from them, it's proven very challenging.

I'm fortunate that I have an office where I could keep my bike at work, but there are two things that discourage me from biking to work.

1. Phoenix weather is boiling hot five months out of the year. The sheer thermodynamics of mid-May to mid-October make it prohibitive to bike to work without being completely wiped out by the time you get there. Showers would alleviate this, but can't really address the underlying problem of trying to bike in weather that's 110+ degrees in the shade..

2. We have bike lanes, but some car drivers can be completely unaware of the road. I'm a very defensive and attentive car driver and on a regular basis, I find someone nearly ramming me, merging in on me illegally or doing something completely unpredictable where I have to be defensive for both of us to prevent an accident. I don't feel safe in my 5000 pound machine, so I can't imagine putting myself out there perched on a bare aluminum frame where I could be virtually ignored by those bastards and crushed at the slightest mistake on their part.

If I felt like I could reasonably address these two problems, I'd be all over getting rid of my car entirely. But short of shifting the earth's axis and developing a Globe of Invulnerability, it's probably not going to happen.
posted by darkstar at 6:38 PM on September 3, 2009


fietsflat
posted by jouke at 6:41 PM on September 3, 2009


I take that back: it would take something far less dramatic to solve those problems for me. Namely, an enclosed bike with a.c. and a steel roll cage. Plus the electric assist to compensate for the added weight. So yeah, probably not going to happen.
posted by darkstar at 6:41 PM on September 3, 2009


One thing I like about Chicago is that they have the simplest and most useful on-street bike racks I have seen. A squared arc, well anchored into the pavement at both ends. If you work at it you can get four bikes on, compared to the ring-and-post racks in Toronto where you're lucky if you can get two (assuming someone hasn't already broken the ring off the post).

I totally agree about changing in the bathroom. I hate changing into work clothes while someone is taking a dump right next to me.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:45 PM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


showers, bike paths.
posted by blue_beetle at 6:53 PM on September 3, 2009


darkstar If I felt like I could reasonably address these two problems, I'd be all over getting rid of my car entirely. But short of shifting the earth's axis and developing a Globe of Invulnerability, it's probably not going to happen.
Or move to a more hospitable place.
posted by jouke at 6:58 PM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


DU's hit the nail on the head. There is a practical limit to the mileage you can reasonably log on a daily commute. I used to ride 20 mi. to my office a couple times a week-with all my gear, laptop, change of clothes, etc, on my heavy-duty cyclo-cross bike w/38-mm bulletproof steamroller tires (because I ride through Philly's lovely "Glasstown" section), I did the ride in about 1:20. And then of course there's the ride home. Point being, many people drive 20 miles and more each way, but doing that distance on a bike is daunting, especially when you add in riding on shitty roads through iffy neighborhoods, rush hour traffic, etc. The ride was daunting for me, and I'm a person with probably 100,000+ lifetime miles on a bike, and a former bike messenger to boot. This ride was still a challenge.

Even 10 miles will take a while (45 min or more) and you're liable to work up a sweat and all that. I think 10 is the max I would do on a daily basis.
posted by Mister_A at 7:06 PM on September 3, 2009


Exactly, jouke...that's really the crux of the issue: living in the Phoenix metro area.

But as my Dad always says, you go where the jobs are.
posted by darkstar at 7:11 PM on September 3, 2009


I've recently started riding my bike to work about two days a week. What did it for me was:

1. I have a relatively short, mostly flat commute.
2. I don't have to do it every day. If I had to choose between the bike and the bus, I would probably go with the bus. Because my office doesn't have showers, I definitely don't want to ride my bike when it's really hot out.
3. I can do most of my ride on a bike path. I'm still not totally comfortable riding my bike on busy streets.
4. I got a really cheap second-hand bike, which meant that I could try out riding my bike to work without making a huge investment. I think I might upgrade to a nicer bike sometime soon, but I wouldn't have bought a bike in the first place if I had to spend a lot of money on it.

I probably wouldn't ride the bike if there weren't a bike rack right outside my office, but I don't need anything fancier than that. And a bike rack alone wouldn't be enough to get me to ride my bike if my commute were longer and more hilly or I had to ride on a scary big road.
posted by craichead at 7:20 PM on September 3, 2009


On a positive note, my commute is now 10 mins by bike (8 if I'm frisky or lucky). I take the subway if the weather's really bad - takes 15 mins. Yes, I love it, yes I got rid of my car, yes I have more time with my family because I've cut 5-7 hours from my commuting time.
posted by Mister_A at 7:20 PM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Weekly commuting time, obviously.
posted by Mister_A at 7:22 PM on September 3, 2009


Geez, I feel guilty now because our office (for some bizarre reason) has a full bath with a *really nice shower* in it.
posted by Lucinda at 7:29 PM on September 3, 2009


Not to get all indignant-Canadian on Slate's ass, but it's worth noting that the "pilot projects" that are being investigated about turning old parking metres into bike parking have been reality in Toronto for over a decade now. The post-and-ring bike locks dot the city and have become fairly iconic.

Yes, Toronto. A cyclist's paradise.

awkward pause

In other news, one thing I learned researching this comment is that apparently Jack Layton (a former Toronto councillor who went on to lead the federal social-democratic party and noted mustache advocate) takes credit for the post and ring design. Funny old world.

This and more in this interesting blog post.
posted by bicyclefish at 7:46 PM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Apropos: http://bikesnobnyc.blogspot.com/2009/08/rectilinear-or-obtuse-cycling-in-media.html
While I'm certainly in favor of more and better bike parking, I also can't help suspecting that the people who claim they don't ride their bikes to work because there's nowhere to park them are the same kinds of people who say they'll quit smoking when cigarettes reach $[insert number here] a pack: in other words, they're not looking for reasons to do it; they're looking for excuses not to do it.
posted by clvrmnky at 8:14 PM on September 3, 2009


Well I did when there was, and I don't now that there isn't. You do the math.

Once they've got bike parking, then they'll probably require an on-site shower. Then, when they've got that, they'll need special loofahs and moisturizers and so forth.

Wow, what a totally reasonable perspective.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:26 PM on September 3, 2009


Oh man, I wish I lived in Korea for bike commuting - where there is a cheap awesome sauna in every third building, complete with ice tub, hot tub, and man-scaping stalls complete with soap, razor, shower hose, and mirror.

I would roll out of bed, roll down the road, then steam shower and shave... damn, I'm feeling more relaxed just thinking about it.
posted by anthill at 8:44 PM on September 3, 2009


Bike couriers are implicated in a lot of bike thefts in Perth. I’ve known a few, and there are certainly a lot of dropouts, guys who are in graffiti crews and into shoplifting, and alternative types with roaring drug habits to support, so it doesn’t surprise me in the least.

My wife works in the CBD and the bicycle parking spot is a freaking glorified cupboard with a waiting list to use. An inordinate amount of high end bicycles have been stolen from there over the years, even though only cyclists have a key to the door.

It’s a shame and a disgrace.

I was lucky enough to work in a gym in the CBD that had a private courtyard and showers. We had a couple of members who joined only so they could park and shower.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:04 PM on September 3, 2009


No shower at work but my bike commute is only about 10 minutes so even in the hottest weather, I don't work up too much of a sweat. At least I don't smell any worse than your average software engineer.
posted by octothorpe at 10:10 PM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Open the classifieds or look on craigslist right now and I guarantee you will find a bike for sale within a few miles of your house for under $50.

Part of the problem with this is that, like car stereo equipment, buying cheap makes you part of the problem.

in other words, they're not looking for reasons to do it; they're looking for excuses not to do it.

I suppose this could be true as well, but the "if you build it they will come" approach seems to work pretty successfully in a lot of transportation senses, from paved freeways replacing the efficient railroads, to high-speed rail replacing short-haul air travel, and the availability of bicycle lanes turning many cities into -- comparatively -- bike paradises.

Another consideration of being bike-friendly is that this tends -- unlike cars -- to promote and encourage high-density development, meaning more people can have shorter commutes.
posted by dhartung at 10:39 PM on September 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Interesting how the arguments seem to be so very similar here in Finland.

First, what is needed is a comprehensive biking policy. Not just bike parking, not just bike lanes. All aspects should be considered. And even then the social adjustment is going to take years, maybe even decades.

Howzabout: "No snow, no rain, no shitty weather for a good part of the year where much of the population lives."

Here in Finland people in Oulu (200 km from the Arctic Circle) bike twice as much as people in Helsinki which is situated 500km south. Weather is an important aspect but the fact that Oulu has had a biking policy in action for a couple of decades makes the difference. Proper bike lanes etc.

Showers at work.

And a convenient way to change your clothes when you arrive.


Yes, that is a good thing if you work in a office. But do you think that everybody needs those? In my line of work, for example, I always get sweaty anyway so I can consider biking as a sort of "warm-up excercise".

Increasing biking from say 5% share of traffic to 10-15% doesn't mean that everybody should/could start biking. Or bike to work every day. Let's start with making it easy for those who can switch easily and occasionally.

Imho the future of bike-commuting is e-bicycles. The electric car is a pipe dream,electric bicycle is a real option today.

And do check out Traffic by Tom Vanderbilt, the article's author. Full of surprising insights.
posted by hoskala at 12:40 AM on September 4, 2009


Part of the problem with this is that, like car stereo equipment, buying cheap makes you part of the problem.
It depends. I bought my cheap bike from a non-profit that fixes up and sells donated bikes, and I highly doubt it was stolen. When I upgrade I'll donate it back to them and someone else will be able to get their hands on a cheap, non-stolen starter bike.

Bike people are adamant that new riders *should* be willing to pay $500 for a bike, but the fact is that many new riders aren't willing to pay that for a piece of equipment that they're not sure that they're going to use regularly. One way to get people on bikes is to come up with creative ways to allow people to start riding bikes without paying a fortune for the privilege. This could be done through non-profit bike exchanges or medium or long-term rental programs.
posted by craichead at 2:57 AM on September 4, 2009


I don't think cycle parking is the key missing link that would get everyone onto their bicycles, but it does make a difference. When I cycle into town, I can park my bike in a nice covered cycle park with well-spaced racks, secure lockers to hire if I want them, CCTV coverage, open 24 hours a day, and if it's full there's a similar facility on the other side of the town centre. When I cycle to the train station, I attempt to find a spare bit of rack somewhere in the chaos, which means adding an extra 5-10 minutes to a 20-minute journey, and if it's not been nicked when I come back it's probably wedged in between three other bikes. That does make a difference in how likely I am to cycle.
posted by penguinliz at 3:44 AM on September 4, 2009


I think there's something to be said for bike policy but I almost think it's more important to do away with the defacto pro car policy. In most cities any commercial building has to offer a considerable amount of free parking. On most streets there is enough free parking that it's hard to find parking without driving around endlessly. Gasoline isn't taxed anywhere near it's externalities. Zoning laws in American suburbs/exurbs make integrated neighborhoods where housing and things people might want to go to separate. If we didn't do these things it might not reach an optimal level for bicycles, but it would almost certainly do better than the status quo.
posted by I Foody at 4:26 AM on September 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


On the shower issue, I've had very good luck with unscented wet wipes wiping off the sweat before it has a chance to stink up, and I'm a sweaty type. Also cleans off the road grit. You still need a private place to do this, as well as change, though.
posted by Kyol at 7:23 AM on September 4, 2009


My office allows me to use the freight elevator to take my bike up to my office. The freight closes at five. Work ends at six. I am not allowed to take my bike down the front elevators...

I do anyway.
posted by orville sash at 7:28 AM on September 4, 2009


Bike people are adamant that new riders *should* be willing to pay $500 for a bike, but the fact is that many new riders aren't willing to pay that for a piece of equipment that they're not sure that they're going to use regularly

The flip side of that is that there's a pretty good argument to be made that crappy bikes that weigh a ton and break often turn people off from cycling who might otherwise do it. What the solution is, I don't know.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 8:32 AM on September 4, 2009


Remarkably enough, the fact that a $50 automobile will be a pain in the ass and more trouble than it is worth does not keep people from learning to drive and taking on a lifestyle of daily driving. The issues are culture and convenience. If it is seen as a normal and reasonable thing to bike to and fro, and it is convenient and reasonably safe to do so, people will get bikes and take up biking.
posted by idiopath at 8:46 AM on September 4, 2009


Crappy bikes and crappy cars are both perfectly fine when you're not going far and don't care if you occasionally and without warning suddenly can't get there.

That does not describe my work situation, or that of most people I know.

I say that having put up with a lifetime of truly crappy department store bikes (having grown up with them and not knowing any better) until a few years ago, and it makes all the difference in willingness to ride. Fear of theft is the only thing preventing me from taking it *everywhere*. Add showers and off I go to work, for at least for a couple of days a week, 2-3 seasons a year. It's pretty much that simple.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:13 AM on September 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Remarkably enough, the fact that a $50 automobile will be a pain in the ass and more trouble than it is worth does not keep people from learning to drive and taking on a lifestyle of daily driving. The issues are culture and convenience. If it is seen as a normal and reasonable thing to bike to and fro, and it is convenient and reasonably safe to do so, people will get bikes and take up biking.
That is, I think, both true and a little bit beside the point. The question here is how you change the culture. You change the culture by getting people on bikes, so that bike riding seems normal and not exotic. You can't get people on bikes by overwhelming them with the force of your self-righteousness, although a lot of bike people seem to think that you can. I also think there's a real danger that bike-riding is going to be seen as a sanctimonious liberal yuppie lifestyle thing, not as a normal and neutral way to get around. A lot of pro-bike rhetoric seems to me to play into that perception. So you may be right that a $50 bike is shitty and people like me who will only buy a $50 bike to start out with are shitty people. You win: I am personally crap. But I'm a crappy person who now rides a bike, which I wouldn't be if I had just focused on the evilness of a culture in which it seems reasonable to spend a lot of money on a car and not a bike. And in terms of actually normalizing bike riding, I'm not sure that your righteous rhetoric is accomplishing any more than my very-non-righteous but visible habit of tooling around town on my crappy $50 bike is.
posted by craichead at 10:20 AM on September 4, 2009


The benefit of going to a good bike shop is that you will get a bike that fits you, and be able to take test rides. A good bike shop will have a variety of bikes to suit most budgets.

How do you tell a good bike shop? I'm sure everyone has an opinion on this. I can tell you how to tell if a shop is NOT good, though: if you get any attitude when asking a simple question and telling them your reasonable budget, you are in the wrong shop. Go up the street to the other store.
posted by clvrmnky at 10:22 AM on September 4, 2009


Whose rightous rhetoric? Mine personally? I have been pretty vocal about bicycle rights on mefi lately, but I don't think I have disparaged people who need or want to drive a car at all. I would not suggest that someone who rides a $50 bike is crap, ever. I would suggest that you may have a more rewarding experience on a better quality bicycle. That is all.
posted by idiopath at 10:26 AM on September 4, 2009


I've encountered the "people are willing to buy $10,000 cars, so why aren't the willing to spend $1000 on a bike?" thing a lot in my returning-to-bike-riding google adventures, idiopath, and it sticks in my craw. It just seems to completely ignore the actual constraints with which actual non-rich people make spending decisions. When I bought my bike I hadn't ridden a bike in 12 years, and I hadn't ridden a bike in a place with hills in even longer than that. I didn't know if I was going to like it. To be honest, I wasn't even sure that I was going to be able to do it. I went to the local bike shops and asked about used bikes, and the cheapest one I was shown was $300. And I'm not willing to pay $300 for something that I think I might not use. Now that I'm fairly certain I will use it regularly, I'm saving up for a decent bike, because I've determined that it is actually worth it. But had it not been for the non-profit bike place with the crappy used bikes from Wal-mart, I think I would probably just have decided that the whole riding my bike to work plan wasn't feasible.

Part of the problem with creating a bike culture is that there are relatively high start-up costs to get involved in bike-riding. Part of the solution to that is to encourage kids to continue riding their bikes, rather than to stop riding when they're teenagers. It would be great if the next generation didn't experience the long non-bike-riding gap that I did, so they'll never have to get over an initial period of trepidation. But I think that part of it also has to be to quit telling people that it's worthless to buy a cheap bike, no matter how contemptuously real bike-riders may feel towards those bikes. Tell them that more expensive bikes are more enjoyable to ride, sure, but realize that the super-witty condemnations of cheap bikes can be really alienated to people who are choosing between buying a cheap bike and buying nothing.
posted by craichead at 11:25 AM on September 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Part of it is just getting people on bikes and understanding how it changes the scale of things. I resisted biking to work because I just thought, "oh no, that's waaaay too far to bike, it would take me an hour and a half!" It took about 45 minutes on the train or bus, and bikes are slower than trains/buses so that's what I thought.

Then I mapped it out. 8.5 miles. Hmm. But since I hadn't ridden a bike since high school, I still had no feel for how long that was.

And then I did it. I bought a bike and rode to work. When I first started it took about 50 minutes, but now it takes me about 35-40. Less time than the train! And like I said, being on a bike is a totally different scale from which to experience the environment than the car or walking. On a bike you're going fast enough for it to be an efficient means of transportation, but you're going slow enough that you can actually observe and interact with the environment.

You hear it when people talk to you about riding to work. "17 miles every day! That's so long!" Sometimes I'm tempted to bask in the unearned respect and let them think I'm a beast, but I try to tell people it's really not far on a bike.

I'm very lucky because my office building has bike racks on the secure loading dock, and we have an employee fitness center with showers and stuff. I recognize that. So I ride every day, rain or shine, and will see how far into the Chicago winter I am willing to go this year. Now that I'm into it, I'd ride even without the showers and facilities but I'm not sure I would ever have gotten over the hurdle of trying it without 'em.

Most office buildings have some sort of parking garage, parking lot, or loading dock where installing bike racks should not be difficult, IMO.
posted by misskaz at 11:32 AM on September 4, 2009


A flexible transit system that can handle more load in the bad-weather months.

I bike to work in good weather, bus in bad weather. In bad weather, though, the buses are particularly full of people doing the same thing. I deal with it because I really hate driving and parking.

If I were a car person considering switching to biking, I'd be looking at either retaining the car for bad-weather days (which is a slippery slope... oh, I'll just drive one more day this week) or getting on a bus that's jammed with people doing the same exact thing (or even having that bus pass me by, too full).
posted by gurple at 11:51 AM on September 4, 2009


"What Would Get Americans Biking to Work?"

Peer pressure. It's what did it for me.
posted by lunit at 12:09 PM on September 4, 2009


I wonder if I could make money by opening up little Bike Stations in downtown areas. There'd be bike lockers, showers, changing areas, and maybe healthy snack foods and water/juice/coffee available. You could ride your bike to the Bike Station when you get up, lock it inside a locker, get a shower and into your work clothes, grab some food and drink, and then walk to work, or to a nearby bus stop.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:23 PM on September 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Pope Guilty, I bet you could. Chicago has one, and they charge $25 a month (or $150 for the year).
posted by misskaz at 1:51 PM on September 4, 2009


I'll tell you what is a real turn-off for my desire to bike to work: the myriad horror stories about bikers being hit by cars. In a couple of the other, more contentious threads on bikes vs. cars here on the Blue, bikers have pointed out that they and most every other regular biker they know have been hit by a car at least once. If that's not a ringing endorsement for not biking to work, I don't know what is.

Bike enthusiast: "You should bike to work, for all of these wonderful reasons."

Me: "I agree!" *starts to work out the logistics*

Bike enthusiast: "Oh, but you can count on being hit by a car at least once in the next few years."

Me: "Okaaaayyy, then..." *reluctantly renews car insurance, scopes out bus lines, shelves the idea of buying a bike*
posted by darkstar at 2:01 PM on September 4, 2009


That's neat, misskaz! I hadn't considered bike rental and repair, but that'd be good too (not to mention being a source of employment for bike people).
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:22 PM on September 4, 2009


darkstar, here is a partial summary of Ken Kifer's argument for bicycling vs. driving with respect to safety:
the majority of cycling deaths occur to the minority who are not following such simple safety procedures as riding with the traffic, stopping for traffic lights and stop signs, and using lights at night. Then, when looking at injuries, we find that the serious injuries are only a small part of the total, and that the amount of time between injuries is great. Again, the number of injuries can be reduced by being careful.

Putting all this together, a person who chooses a bicycle over an automobile for daily travel and who obeys the traffic laws and uses care at all times will experience greatly improved health and a greatly reduced risk of death as a result. Thus rather than being dangerous, cycling greatly reduces major health risks.
To this, I add that there is safety in numbers, and the more that folks are out there riding bicycles, the safer it will be to be out there riding a bicycle.
posted by aniola at 4:15 PM on September 4, 2009


I don't agree with everything Ken Kifer had to say, but there are certainly a lot of good ideas on that website.
posted by aniola at 4:16 PM on September 4, 2009


On a related note, I have seen research that riding a bicycle to work is actually not better environmentally than driving a car, because the extra resources used by the cyclist in their longer lifetime cancel out the reduced resource usage of less driving.
posted by idiopath at 4:23 PM on September 4, 2009


How does that work? Whose research was this?
posted by aniola at 4:31 PM on September 4, 2009


Oh, I see. I missed the 'because they live longer' part.
posted by aniola at 4:32 PM on September 4, 2009


(I'm still interested in seeing the numbers.)
posted by aniola at 4:35 PM on September 4, 2009


(I'm still interested in seeing who sponsored that research.)
posted by applemeat at 4:39 PM on September 4, 2009


I knew I should have taken the time to google and link: bicycles may be worse for the environment than cars are.
posted by idiopath at 4:39 PM on September 4, 2009


Hah. Well, by that logic we should all kill ourselves now, for purely environmental reasons.

If I didn't ride my bike, I'd take the bus, and the bus is going to go the same route whether I'm on it or not. So I don't personally think that I'm doing anything for the environment by riding my bike, although presumably in the aggregate bike riders allow the transit system to put fewer buses on the road. I'm not even sure that's true, though, because a lot of us ride the bus when the weather is bad, which means we all overload the system on the same days.
posted by craichead at 4:42 PM on September 4, 2009


Really, selfishly speaking, I would rather live longer than be more eco-friendly, and I think the longer expected lifespan issue is a better argument for bicycling than the environmental one, if it were somehow a choice of one vs. the other.
posted by idiopath at 4:49 PM on September 4, 2009


That looks like it could be a fun paper to write up a proper counter-argument for.

It is noteworthy that the author of the paper is an avid cyclist who "concedes that his theory might be undermined in practice due to increased environmental awareness among people who trade their cars for bikes."
posted by aniola at 4:50 PM on September 4, 2009


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