What About Parking?

When discussing infrastructure, the conversation usually centers around bike lanes and separated bike paths, but an often overlooked and important piece of the puzzle is bike parking.

I often hear people recommend a “beater” commute bike as a solution to our lack of secure bike parking in the U.S. The theory is that if your bike is a piece of junk, no one will want to steal it, and if it gets stolen, it’s not a great loss. What a lame excuse for our terrible lack of bike parking facilities!

The above photo shows a secure “bike locker” at a public transit facility in my home town. I’m thrilled that I have access to a locker, but it’s quite silly that there are only four lockers available at a mass transit facility that sees dozens of bikes go through daily. I’ve lost count of how many people have asked me how I scored the locker. The sad thing is that the annual landscaping budget for the facility is more than the cost of the lockers.

I know numerous, long term bike riders who would be much more likely to use their bikes for transportation if secure bike parking was available. These are people who are accustomed to riding nice bicycles and are highly unlikely to ride a junker. If we’re going to attract more “sport” riders to utilitarian cycling, we need facilities where they can securely park their expensive bikes. And I’m not just talking about at work; we need ample secure bike parking at retail centers, transit centers, and all public facilities.

35 Responses to “What About Parking?”

  • Dale says:

    YES ! ! ! ! ! ! This could be a ‘category’ of advocacy all it’s own.

  • Larey says:

    I work at a Federal facility that should be very bike friendly, but all I get is blank stares when I bring up the subject of bike lockers. There is no interest whatsoever, even when I asked if I could buy my own darn locker. We have the space, we can get the money, but there is no way in heck our facilities managers are going to give it one second worth of consideration.

    Your are indeed lucky to have a locker.

  • yangmusa says:

    America definitely lacks adequate amounts of bike parking. A secure rack is needed, even for a beater. I think you’re a little quick to dismiss the beater bike – look at any well developed bike culture (Denmark, the Netherlands etc) and you’ll see that most people don’t have particularly “nice” (or expensive) bikes. Because it simply isn’t necessary to ride a $1000+ bike made of unobtanium just to get to work, to the store or the library. In fact, my “sit up and beg” 40 year old Raleigh is significantly better for commuting and errands than either of my “nicer” (and certainly much more expensive) bikes. It was build by a company with decades of experience, at a time when everyone used their bike for transport – they knew how to make a practical vehicle. Esthetically it shows its age, but mechanically I keep it in perfect condition. It’s practical value far exceeds its monetary value, and I’d be really upset if it got stolen.

  • 2whls3spds says:

    @yangmusa…those Raleigh’s are becoming priceless IMHO. They are few and far between in my corner of the USA. I paid over $150 for my 23″ framed Superbe and had to have it shipped to me. NO WAY I am going to just lock it up where I cannot keep an eye on it.

    For Larey…unfortunately it will probably take an act of congress to get federal property managers to do anything at all.


  • Jeff says:

    Yes, I’d ride my trike to the train station every day, except that there is a 30+ person waiting list for lockers (I’d say there are about 30 lockers altogether, if that many). These look to be fairly roomy lockers, too, that I could possibly fit my trike into. The guy I spoke to to get on the waiting list asked if I could use another station. Sure, I said, what about the next station south? Not a whole lot further to ride from my house. 20 people on that list %}.

  • Alan says:


    “I think you’re a little quick to dismiss the beater bike…”

    Don’t get me wrong – I have nothing against the beater bike, I’m just tired of hearing it suggested as a “solution” to our bike parking problem.

  • Andy says:

    This is definitely a big factor in whether I ride my bike or not. This is one factor in why I will not invest in a Xtracycle -no safe place to lock it at the store.

    Whenever I do lock my bike up, I find myself:

    1. Worrying about it.
    2. Looking for a place to sit/be where I can watch it.
    3. Thinking about more locks for the bike.

    I buy cheaper bikes specifically so I don’t have to worry as much about them getting stolen.

  • Erik Sandblom says:

    yangmusa, whether or not it’s “necessary” to have a $1000+ bike made of unobtanium to get to work is beside the point. The point is that many people presumably want to, but they don’t have the choice because it will get stolen.

    I know people use beater bikes in Amsterdam and Copenhagen but I think that’s kind of a shame. If people spend a lot of money on their clothes, their car or something else, it’s reasonable to assume some of them want to ride a really nice bike to work too.

  • Joel says:

    There are a few of the BART stations that have bike parking available from private parties, and they are significantly better than the options offered by BART. Instead of a few lockers and some exposed racks you have semi-valet parking, inside. One (the one I’ve used more often) is run by a local bike shop, offers some mechanic services and is free during the day, charge for overnight. We should push for more of that style rather than dreaming of tax-funded programs (but then again, I’m a “small government” guy).

  • meligrosa says:

    This is a good point with an argument on advocacy that could go for ever.
    I do get really upset, and good point! on beater bikes.
    Some of my friends (that dont even ride) get bothered because I often call, ie. a restaurant and ask them if there’s a bike rack outside, or If I can store my bike somewhere in the bldg. It has worked, but I wish it wasn’t an everyday concern. Even in SF, that has such a massive use of bikes in comparison to other cities, could use a lot more of a better thought/planned bike parking infrastructure.

  • Duncan Watson says:

    I like my bike and since I ride recumbents I don’t have a beater bike. When I did have a beater bike that I used to use as a “station car”, I rode it to the train station and left it all day when I lived on LI, NY. I didn’t even park it at the station, even my single speed kids bmx crap bike was too risky to lock at the station, so I locked it where the security guards smoked outside of the library. That bike still was vandalized, someone spray painted the seat and frame.

    I would prefer to have a bike box like parking solution in high traffic, low security areas like train stations. Because if I tried to park a 10-speed in the situation above I would have come back to a bike stripped of parts. I.e. no crank, no wheels, no derailleur, seat, depending on what I didn’t lock down. If I tried to use my unobtainium bikes I would have found a bike rack (or fence, or tree or whatever) that had been hacked up to get the bike free.

    I also do think that I should be able to park my unobtainium ($1000+) bike without leaving a person to watch it. I refuse to ride a crap bike to work.

  • dweendaddy says:

    To get lockers going, I think cities should think about pay as you go lockers that would accomplish a few goals:
    1. Less of an economic burden for the towns installing them, as they would pay for themselves much quicker than car parking spaces.
    2. Rather than assign one person, one locker, you can just have a card that opens any free locker, and you get charged a small sum (10 cents or less an hour so that locking it up during a work day is not expensive, using it all week is a little more expensive). Then , you are using more lockers more efficiently to secure more bikes.

    When I lived in Berkeley, the N Berkeley BART station had a waiting list that was so long I was told I would “never” get one!
    They let car commuters park their cars there for $1/day, which will take a long time to pay off a parking space in that high rent district!

  • ksteinhoff says:

    Lack of a good place to store my bike is what kept me from commuting to work. We had racks in a covered parking area, but I didn’t want to have to strip off my lights and stuff to secure them. The stuff ON my bike is worth more than the bike.

    The first time I tried to ride to work, I took my bike up the freight elevator that led within 75 feet of my office. Before I could get down the hallway, an overzealous security guard nabbed me. I could have pulled some strings to get an OK for me to bring my bike into the building and, as telecom manger, I had enough hidey holes to put it in, but it wouldn’t have been fair to the other employees who didn’t have those kinds of advantages.

    Ironically enough, my boss two layers up used to bring his bike into the building on weekends and ride past my office ringing his bell in the hallway.

    Rank does have SOME privileges.

  • Alan says:


    We share our five-story building with our landlord. After they completely banned bicycles from the building, I ran into an employee of the landlord, nonchalantly wheeling his bike in the front door of the building, into the elevator, and directly in the front door of their offices. The first time this happened I was only a little annoyed, but by the third time I was pretty pissed. I hated to complain about a fellow cyclist, but the inequity was too much to bear, so a group of bike riders in our company filed a complaint with management; I haven’t seen a bike in the building since. I’m still not sure if it was the right thing to do, but we felt the rule should be applied fairly, regardless of how much we disagreed with it.

  • Gordon Inkeles says:

    Earlier this week my son’s “beater bike,” (actually a pretty nice older Novara road bike) was cab;e locked in front of his office building on Man St in San Francisco. He went for drinks with some colleagues after work and when he returned an hour later his bike was gone.

    So much for cable locks. The nearby video camera on the side of the building didn’t deter the thief either. He had been pretty excited about biking to work.

    Bike lockers would be a good solution and I’m going to at least suggest that he run it by his company. But if that fails to get traction, I’d be grateful for any security suggestions. There must be a way you can leave a bike on the streets in San Francisco during work. Are U locks significantly better than cable locks?

  • brad says:

    I saw this awesome bike garage in Chicago a few years ago and took a photo:


    Now that’s what I call bike paking! I’m not sure how the system works, but it looks pretty secure and holds a lot of bikes.

  • No says:

    I thought that many of the bikes in Netherlands and Copenhagen are not as cheap/beaten up as you might think. People used to a culture of “$1000+ bike made of unobtanium” sometimes see utility style bikes as messy because of the less clean lines and all the attachments, and then make the assumption they are beaten up or cheap.

    I can see bike lockers for commuting, and companies should be persuaded/forced to provide them for their employees, but not so sure about their value to most shoppers etc. A bike locker is a little more hassle to use than say a sheffield stand or lamppost, but more importantly because they take up much more room they will be less of them, so less likely to be right outside the shop you want to visit or full already. So lockers lend themselves to longer term parking (commuters and train/bus stations) and less so to shoppers IMHO.

  • Erik Sandblom says:

    I’ve been to Copenhagen a few times and the bikes there are in pretty good shape. I haven’t been to Amsterdam, but my impression is that the bikes there are in worse shape, and get stolen more.

    I’ve been to Lund a few times and many of the bikes people ride there are really bad. The wheels are so untrue that they rub against the fenders/mudguards. It’s a student town, and I bet the students get a car and ditch the crappy bikes as soon as they move and get a job.

    My conclusion is that you do not have a good bike culture just because a lot of people ride bikes for transportation. For good bike culture you need to have people on bikes that they really like. Cycling is great economy, but that economising can easily become a trap too.

    So I think protected bike parking is important. The authority building the train station should set aside space for a bike repair shop and rent it out to an entrepreneur, much like they rent out space to cafés and other amenities.

  • Gordon Inkeles says:

    Lockers are great but they represent a big step for most companies. Meanwhile, is there a lock that’s truly effective?

  • yangmusa says:

    @ Gordon Inkeles

    > Are U locks significantly better than cable locks?

    Generally, yes. If you go to the home page of a quality lock manufacturer (Abus, Kryptonite, Master Lock) they generally rate their locks in terms of security – check it out and choose a high quality lock.

    @ NO

    > then make the assumption they are beaten up or cheap.

    You’re right – most of the bikes are actually quality bikes, they just look different and are generally kept a long time – hence sometimes worn. I think cycling is less fashion/marketing driven than here. It’s just something you do – the bike is a tool, not a fashion statement/status symbol. I didn’t even think of myself as “a cyclist” until I came to the US, because it was only once I got here I was confronted with being an outsider, and being disrespected and endangered every day for doing something that I consider normal and a much better idea than the prevailing car culture. American identity politics seem to arise out of things like this..

  • Ron Georg says:


    A while back I was parked at our local library when another rider stopped to ask where he could get a bike like mine. He was riding a low- to mid-range Specialized mountain bike, and he said, “I really want to get something like that to ride around town so I don’t have to worry about this getting stolen”–comparing his mediocre full suspension bike to my spiffy touring bike. He was incredulous to the point of confusion that my Surly Long Haul Trucker was worth hundreds of dollars more than his rig. I can only hope thieves would be similarly disoriented, and they’d take his bike first.

    My bike may be worth more than my car, but I don’t see that as an ego-driven need to ride unobtanium. The Surly is 4130 steel, practical and utilitarian. Given that I take at least 95 percent of my trips by bike, I’m not going to put up with poor performance.

    Bike parking is not much of a problem in our small town, where a cable lock is sufficient even to protect unobtanium, and the local bike shops fall over themselves to provide racks (with small ad banner attached) to any business or other entity who requests one.

    May favorite example of bike parking inequity is also the top reason to move Interbike to Denver–Vegas hates bikes. If you dare to lock your bike to a railing at the Sands convention hall, as there are no racks, the lock will be cut and the bike hauled to security. The indoor parking provided for cyclists during the event isn’t an amenity, it’s a response to the Sands’ hateful policy toward bicycles.
    Happy Trails,
    Ron Georg

  • yangmusa says:

    Several of you seem to think I’m advocating that you ride crappy bikes – that simply isn’t the case. I believe I said my beater looked shabby, but is mechanically in great shape. I love riding it.

    As Alan said the other day, the right bike for you is the one that makes you happy to ride it.

    I think having a shabby looking bike is a good anti-theft measure. If someone thinks it looks like “junk” then so what? I know it’s nice to ride.

    @ Ron Georg
    > Given that I take at least 95 percent of my trips by bike, I’m not going to put up with poor performance.

    I don’t own a car, so 100% of my trips are by bike. Well, unless I’m walking! Hey – steel is real, not unobtanium :) The Surly isn’t stratospherically expensive, just a good, honest, quality bike. I think you should enjoy your daily ride, whatever it is.

  • Here, here… « Cycling Experiences… says:

    […] January 8, 2009 at 12:06 pm (blog) From Alan at EcoVelo… […]

  • Larey says:

    Great locks are great, but they usually can not protect your expensive headlight, blinky, saddle, computer, easy-off pannier, or the contents of your acorn saddlebag. It would be like a car left in a parking lot with the trunk lid open or the stereo attached to the hood with velcro.

    A bike locker is the best answer if you live in a risky town or if you are a little paranoid.

    So I’ve ended up with a bike I use to commute, where I’m not likely to have the bright little bits removed, and another bike I use for shopping trips minus any fancy commuting gear that I don’t feel so paranoid about leaving sitting for the 20 or 30 minutes I’m inside.

    My big shopping runs include a trailer with a storage box and that presents it’s own unique locking problems. Gotta love keyed-alike locks.

    My town is very, very low risk (knock on wood), but still…

  • yangmusa says:

    @ Larey:
    > “It would be like a car left in a parking lot with the trunk lid open or the stereo attached to the hood with velcro.”

    Good way of putting it! I always take off anything that is loose, and I think most people here in SF do too. It’s a good habit.

  • Dale says:

    After ALL these comments, it still strikes me that NOTHING, not beater bikes, or locks of any kind, or indoor parking, or stripping your own bike before walking away from it, is anywhere near as SAFE or DESIRABLE as an enclosed bike locker.

    The smartest idea put forth here in these comments is when Ron Georg talks about the local bike shops (in his town) who install racks with advertising of the shop ON the rack. The same approach could (and should) be taken toward “Lockers”: ie. “These Lockers are provided by Such-n-So Company as a SERVICE to Cyclists”. GREAT IDEA. (thanks Ron) The Locker could still be coin operated – to help defer the original costs of putting it there, and the monies could even be split between the provider and the Facility, on whose property it is installed. Perhaps another entrepreneurial opportunity for someone.

  • Alan says:


    Agreed… 100%.

  • yangmusa says:

    San Francisco is very fortunate to have FREE valet bike parking at the Caltrain station, care of Warm Planet Bikes (http://www.warmplanetbikes.com/)

    Here are some pictures: http://flickr.com/search/?q=warm%20planet%20bikes&w=all&m=&s=

    Since it is also a bike shop, it means you can drop off your bike in the morning and have any problems fixed by the time you come back to pick it up in the evening. Very civilized.

  • meligrosa says:

    excellent point! yangmusa

    I also forgot to mention how much I love the highly organized valet parking the SFbike coalition provides for many local bike events (and some non-bike related) throughout the year. http://www.sfbike.org/?valet

    Just fabulous treatment. Im a huge fan of that service —and of course, a long-time member :)

  • 2whls3spds says:

    Valet parking certainly has it’s advantages. Bike lockers need to be available in two classes, the reserved, as in you pay a monthly fee and have a locker to call your own, as well as available to first comers. Perhaps the stations need to consider leasing out the space to a vendor to provide the lockers? FWIW I work construction; I was reviewing a building we are bidding on, the local codes call for a total of 4 bike spaces per 1,000sf of building with building under 1,000 sf exempt from the code. 1 in 3 spaces must be either secured by locker or by a human security guard (paraphrasing) it is a start. However the same set of codes calls for 4 car spaces per 1,000sf minimum with no exemptions. They still don’t get it. As has been done in many locales you can park 6 bikes in lockers in one car space or rack a dozen.


  • David Hembrow says:

    Cycle parking over here in the Netherlands is on quite a large scale. For example, see this secure cycle park – one of 5 in Nijmegen (a city of about 160000 people).

    Or see the size of cycle parking at the train station in a small town. There are 624 unsecure places and 64 secure lockers for a town of under 10000 people. Enough for one in 15 of the population.

    What’s more, planning controls require that all housing is built with cycle parking, and have done so in one way or another for decades (with a brief hiatus a couple of years ago)

  • Elaine says:

    I would just like to see more covered bike parking — dammit, I like to ride in the rainy season, which around here is off and on from November through May!

  • Roger says:

    Lockers are great, as long as there aren’t too many required, since lockers take up a lot more space than racks. If the bike riding in your area increases at a high enough level (like most of us wish), then lockers can become rather impractical. I agree with Elaine though that having covered racks, with enough racks to accommodate everyone, would be great. Adding roofs over racks requires rather minimal work/money and don’t increase space requirements.

  • Duncan Watson says:

    You can fit a locker with room for 4 bikes in a car parking spot. I think the “space requirements make it rather impractical” line shows how car centric people are. Lockers sure do help the theft issue of accessories, which is a major issue.

  • Joel says:

    “yangmusa says:
    San Francisco is very fortunate to have FREE valet bike parking at the Caltrain station, care of Warm Planet Bikes (http://www.warmplanetbikes.com/)
    Here are some pictures: http://flickr.com/search/?q=warm%20planet%20bikes&w=all&m=&s=
    Since it is also a bike shop, it means you can drop off your bike in the morning and have any problems fixed by the time you come back to pick it up in the evening. Very civilized.”

    This is like the Fruitvale BART station, which has parking offered by Alameda Bikes. That’s the only one of the BART stations with that sort of parking (I think there are 3 total) that I’ve used and it works great. There is a small (I think $7.50) charge to leave your bike overnight, which was fine for me when I went to classes after work.

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