Today I am at the Wisconsin Bike Summit, being held at Inn on the Park in Madison. Since the weather and outlook was a typically late-winter mix of precipitation - a bit of wet snow, and maybe rain and/or snow later - I thought it would be best to try to find sheltered bike parking, if possible. My bike has weathered many years of abuse, but I'd rather not have a wet ride when I get ready to leave.
The Inn on the Park has valet car parking, so as I rolled up, I thought I'd ask if they had indoor or covered bike parking as well. After all, the Concourse, just a couple blocks away, has bike racks in their garage, and they have provided a separate bike room for storage for some conferences.
Alas, they looked at me as if I had two heads when I asked about sheltered bike parking. So I parked at the side of the building and covered my seat with the plastic bag I keep stashed under my seat.
Now, being a local, I was pretty sure that there was no covered bike parking at Inn on the Park. I also know where to find covered bike parking within a couple of blocks, but I was late for my meeting, so was hoping that some accommodations were made for the Bike Summit and the anticipated large number of people arriving by bike today.
I also wanted to make a point as a customer, and this is really the lesson from this blog post. People who drive are quick to tell businesses if they find it difficult or inconvenient to park. Ask almost any business, and they will be glad to tell you how important [car] parking is to their customers. No conference hotel would dismiss the [car] parking concerns of their customers. Yet I was being sent out into wet weather to fend for myself with my vehicle.
Bicyclists need to be more vocal about their needs as well. Accommodating bicycle parking needs is relatively simple and inexpensive. Yet we as bicyclists meekly accept locking up to a sign post, overcrowded rack, or in the rain. We as customers need to ask for safe and convenient bicycle parking.
I'm not suggesting being mean or indignant, just asking, "Excuse me, could you tell me where I can park my bike?" And if you get a blank stare, or if the bicycle parking is not serving your needs, drop a note to the management suggesting how they can better provide for bicyclists. After all, you are a customer too.