Bike News

Little Victories: Improving Bike Parking, Two Racks at a Time

Good bike parking is an important but often overlooked component of bike infrastructure, despite its relatively low cost. By and large, the situation in Madison isn’t too bad. The zoning code requires a modest number of bike parking spots to be installed in new developments, and many developers and businesses have come to acknowledge the benefits of providing bike parking.

But sometimes a little citizen activism is needed.

In the summer of 2015, 5th Element Coffee, a high-end coffee shop, opened in the mixed-use building at the corner of University and Highland. I’m a bit of a coffee geek, and so I was excited to bike over there and check out their offerings. The coffee did not disappoint, but the bike parking did: There were no racks in front of the shop, nor even in the general vicinity. One other biking customer had dealt with that by locking to a young tree, and I locked up to a traffic sign nearby. When I mentioned the lack of bike racks to one of the baristas, he acknowledged the problem. To move things forward, a couple days later I emailed the shop:

I love your shop and I love your coffee – and now it’s even better with the outdoor seating. What is missing, though, is a place for your customers to park their bikes. Just today I noticed three cyclists having to use traffic signs, streetlamps, and even a tree to lock up. You may already know this, but you can send a request to the city to install bike parking in front of your business, at no cost to you:
Thanks for looking into this!

A response followed quickly, and it was very positive:

Thank you so much for your business, but also for your concern and suggestion. I’ve taken your advice and submitted the request on the link you provided. I’ve also spoken with our City Alder, and she’s supportive of the idea.

We’ll do our best to get bike parking asap. In the meantime, thanks again for being our guest. If there’s ever anything I can do to make your visits more enjoyable, please let me know.

So far, so good. However, for the next ten months nothing more happened. I would get my coffee fix elsewhere, where bike parking was easier, and I was too busy with other things to follow up with the shop or the city. A couple weeks ago, though, I bike past 5th Element and spotted newly installed racks on the sidewalk! And not only were there racks in front of 5th Element, but also right next to the entrance of Oliver’s Public House, located in the same building.

One can argue that eight bike parking spots busy a coffee shop and pub is not a whole lot, and waiting almost a year for those to be installed is a long time. But hey, little victories still are victories. Have you successfully convinced a business to install bike parking? Do you know of locations that desperately need more bike parking? Share your stories in the comments.

Image: Current bike parking situation. Green are the newly installed racks. The rack in the back of Lombardino’s is wall-mounted and not very useful. Map: OpenStreetMap contributors, Harald Kliems