Columns / Discourse / October 11, 2017

Bike Nice: Where to park your bike

I seem to have run out of self-righteous “thou shalt nots.” Don’t speed on the sidewalk, don’t lock bikes on ramps and railings, don’t blow stop signs. Now, only potholes remain—might as well hit one.

Can we find the right places for bike parking on campus?

This must be prefaced with the now-ubiquitous disclosure and disclaimer. I’m an almost everyday bike commuter, member of the Sustainability Council and employee in the Office of Communications. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

Bike parking on the Knox campus is below average but getting better. It’s getting better because the new racks are far better than the old ones. The replacements can not happen quickly enough. The new ones, variously called “staple” or “inverted U” racks, actually work. The old racks—the ones that hold only the front wheel, and not very well at that—are so inferior that it’s embarrassing that any remain.

When it comes to placement of racks, we’re sometimes hitting the mark, sometimes not. As you may have already heard from me, I find a single bike (especially the single-speed bike!) beautiful. But two or more bikes are, visually, a pile of plumbing.

Thus, bike parking, just like car parking, is an assignment in managing mess. If you care about appearances—about persuading people to come to Knox—public mess needs to be minimized. We need to balance charm, cost and convenience. We’ve learned this lesson with cars. Now we need to apply it to bikes: keep parking away from your pretty things.

Two examples. Good bike parking on campus = east side of Seymour Union. Bad bike parking on campus = east side of Seymour Library.

Speaking as someone in, but not speaking for, the Office of Communications, the junk pile of bikes in front of Seymour Library is a continuing embarrassment and frustration. A bike rack does not belong at that location any more than a car park.

On the other hand, I am encouraged by the bike parking solution installed on the east side of Seymour Union. While the racks are not perfect—too few, too close together, not covered—they are the right racks in the right place. In more ways than one. Putting a bike rack outside a large window increases security. A potential bike thief has to worry not only about being spotted from the rear, but also from the front.

Bike parking on the east side of Seymour Union should extend close to the full width of the building—a location that balances convenience and charm. But even in its present format, it’s the right move and I hope we make more of them.


Peter Bailley

Tags:  bike nice parking respect

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