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Bike Rack Evaluation

Let’s take a moment to talk about this bike rack at my office building.  Here’s what my office building got right:

  • The rack is located very well.  It’s on the lower level of the 2-level parking ramp, which means it’s sheltered from rain, snow, and sun.  It’s located right next to the stairs out of the parking ramp, in a high pedestrian traffic area of the ramp – and as close to one of the doors to the building as it could be and still be sheltered by the ramp.  Fantastic!

Here’s what they got wrong:

  • To someone that doesn’t ride a bike, this probably looks like a perfectly normal and typical bike rack.  And that’s exactly what it is.  This is probably the most ubiquitous bike rack design out there – and yet, most cyclists hate racks like this.  You’re supposed to slide one of the wheels between two of those vertical bars – those bars place lateral pressure on the bike rim, which holds the weight of the bike up.  The only problem is that rims aren’t designed to withstand lateral pressure – they’re designed to withstand vertical pressure.  Most cyclists call racks like this a “wheel bender” because that’s exactly what it will do to your wheels.  This is especially true if the rack is nearing capacity, so people are likely to bump into your bike while trying to get theirs in or out of the rack.  Also, this type of rack makes it extremely difficult to adequately lock your bike to the rack (the frame will be too far away from the rack to use a u-lock).  Notice how I’m using the rack incorrectly in the photo… I’m just leaning the frame of my bike against the side of the rack.  This is the best way to use a rack like this.
  • The rack is not secured to the ground.  This means that it is susceptible to vandalism.  Specifically, it means that on snowy days –  days when the sheltered spots in the parking ramp are in high demand – some motorists will think it’s reasonable to just pick up the rack and move it out of the way so they can park there.  And they’ll do this whether or not there are bikes chained to the rack at the time or not.  Really.  It happens.

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