Monday, November 22, 2010

Bike Parking Fail: Wave/ribbon racks poorly placed

Bike Parking Fail is going to be an occasional post topic here. I often see bad bike parking situations:

  • Bad racks
  • No rack
  • Not enough racks
  • Right rack, wrong place
  • Bad access
  • etc.

Today's pics are racks that are marginal design, but placed where people can't really use them properly. Wave and ribbon racks are much better than "fence racks," - those racks that only hold the front wheel, unless you put your bike frame over the top - but they have issues.

A good bike rack will support the bike at two points on the frame. That means that you can lean your bike up against the rack, and it won't fall over. Wave and ribbon racks only support the frame in one place. Some also don't let you use the spots efficiently, because the upright posts are too close to get your handlebars through. Or the bottom part of the rack is too high, so it hits the bottom bracket when the bike is placed through the U.

But the biggest problem with wave and ribbons racks is that to lean your bike up against the rack and not have it fall over, your have to place your bike parallel to the rack, thereby blocking a whole bunch of "spots."

Then there is the problem in these photos: the rack is not placed in the correct location. If you put the rack, any rack, too close to a wall, you can't lock your bike frame, because your front wheel will hit the wall.

So here we go:

First, we have some racks at the library. Here, you can see two aspects of bike parking fail. The racks don't let you put the handlebars through the inverted-U part of the rack, and then you can't put the wheel over the upright-U part, because the rack is too close to the wall. The only way to use this rack with a U-lock is to put your bike parallel to the rack and take up multiple spaces. Or, you can lock just your front wheel and hope no one steals the rest of the bike. If you use a cable, then the bike is likely to fall over, and it's less secure.

Then, we have the racks at my local gas station/convenience store. I feel sort of bad putting them up as an example of bad bike parking, because they actually tried to do the right thing. I left them a note a couple years ago telling them that as a neighbor and customer, it would be nice to have some decent bike racks. I pointed out that lots of people that shop there use bikes to get there, and all they had was a fence-style rack that was hard to get to, way over by the propane locker.

The manager called me, and we had a nice conversation. I gave her some ideas of how to pick out a good rack, and she thanked me for the information. Miracle of miracles, new racks appeared right next to the entrance to the store. However, they were fence racks, and placed so close to the wall that your couldn't use them except by putting the rack parallel to the rack. They also have a tendency to pile up firewood and cases of bottled water next to the rack, so you can't even put your bike next to the rack. It would be funny if it wasn't such a pain to buy a half gallon of milk on my way home. (This photo taken before this latest trend became established.)

Last summer, a couple of friends and I decided to stop at the Panera at Cahill Main, just off the Capital City Trail in Fitchburg. They had wave/ribbon racks as well. [sigh] This style seems to be the easy choice for everyone, and we've gotten justed to it. OK, we'll cope, as long as we can get to the racks. In this case, there is a newspaper box right next to the racks, which are also too close to the wall. All the bikes parked there are wedged in at a slant, again, making several of the spots unusable.

Here we have a restaurant that is right next to a bike trail, in a development that is actually pretty bike friendly. But they clearly don't have enough rack space, and didn't put the racks in the right place. They are next to the door, so you don't have to go searching for them. That's good. But couldn't they have alloted a little more space to customer parking? There's tons of car parking. Maybe just one or two car spots would have given them adequate space, instead of trying to squeeze the rack and the newspaper box right next to the wall.

And finally, my favorite photo for this blog post is the racks at Home Concepts on the Beltline frontage road. They put the racks near the door, so again, they are easy to find. But something makes me think the racks don't get used much. Maybe people would use them if they weren't covered with evergreens!

However, as a follow-up, this photo is a couple of years old, and the shrubs have now been trimmed, so you can use the racks. Thanks, Home Concepts, you get points for caring about your biking customers!

So this wraps up this today's presentation of Bike Parking Fail! There's plenty more to come, so stay tuned.


  1. Robbie,

    Love it! I am thinking of putting together some videos of "Bike Parking That Sucks" in the style of James Howard Kunstler. If you have a favorite rack or site the should be maligned on video, shoot me an e-mail at:

    And in case you haven't seen Kunstler in action, here is what I am talking about:

  2. Thanks for highlighting this issue! I could send you plenty of Bike Parking Fail photos from around town. I think you could start a blog for just this topic.

  3. One piece of constructive advice I'd offer the city of Madison is that the wave and fence style of parking don't accommodate bikes with front racks & panniers.

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