It’s time for a return to my favorite sub-topic in urban cycling: parking.
First, the good news. Seven Stars Bakery on Hope Street now has two bike racks of the “hitching post” variety:
Like many of the hitching posts in town, these were made by The Steelyard. I’m sure that the design is unique to seven stars, but I don’t think it’s particularly attractive. The Seven Stars logo is a little more understated than these giant stars would indicate. The posts are installed at an angle, so the bikes don’t stick out into the parking lot (where they would no doubt get hit by a Volvo XC60). It looks like you could fit two bikes on each post, but it might be a little awkward for the bike facing the opposite direction – not sure if there is room for the rear part of the bike. Anyhoo… I’m very happy to see the hitching posts. I’ll have to write them a nice note.
In my earlier post on bike parking, I mentioned the lack of parking on Atwells Avenue. I emailed the Federal Hill Commerce Association to voice my disapproval:
Dear Federal Hill Commerce Association:
I’ve only lived in Providence for about 2 1/2 years, but I’ve come to appreciate many of its unique offerings including Federal Hill. When I first visited a friend in Providence, he made sure to take me to Pastiche, and I have been enjoying the Federal Hill area ever since. I am there at least once a month, shopping for specialty groceries, enjoying the many restaurants or visiting the art galleries. There’s just one problem: I don’t own a car and I use my bicycle as my main mode of transportation. I’ve been up and down Atwells Ave many times, and there is not one single bike rack on the entire street between I-95 and RT 6/10. There is plenty of car parking on the street and in the general area, but there is nowhere that a cyclist can securely lock his bike. I’ve locked to street sign poles, but they are flimsy and can be pulled out of the ground. I’ve locked to a bench, but then my bike is in the way of someone who might want to sit on the bench.
Many of the Federal Hill restaurants have valet parking for their dining guests. I’ll bet that for less than the cost of one week of hiring valets, these restaurants could install a “hitching post” type of bike rack. There are many hitching posts of this type in the Downcity area, and they are put to good use by the city’s cyclists. The Steelyard ( www.thesteelyard.org) makes very attractive bike racks in a variety of styles that you can see all over Providence (I am not affiliated with the Steelyard in any way). If there were a reasonable number of bike racks on Atwells Ave, I’m sure you would see an increase in the number of cyclists who would come to the area to enjoy the restaurants and shops. This would, in turn, take some of the pressure off of the parking and traffic congestion in the area.
It may be difficult to imagine cyclists riding to Atwells on a cold day like today, but once the spring comes, I can assure you that the cyclists will be out in force and they would love to have some legitimate bike parking on Federal Hill.
And here’s what I got in response:
Hi [carfreepvd], I completely agree with you that we need bike racks. I will bring this to the next meeting and have the proper committee look into it. Thanks so much for your input.
Federal Hill Commerce Association
“… have the proper committee look into it.” Is there a phrase in the English language that inspires less confidence that something will get done? I guess I should give them the benefit of the doubt. We’ll see if they get anything done by Spring. In the meantime, I’ll lock my bike next to one of the valet parking booths. The guys there were pretty amused that I ride my bike in the cold, and they seem to like keeping an eye on it.
I dropped by Providence Place Mall the other day. It was around 3:00 PM on a Tuesday, and this is what I found at the hitching posts:
I think there are 6 hitching posts, making for a maximum of 12 parking places. Once I parked, there were 10 bikes locked up here – on a 30 degree weekday in early February! I guess I should be happy that they have bike parking – but obviously they do not have enough. I don’t think they have bike racks anywhere else. Additional cyclists would be forced to lock up to fences, parking signs, and handrails. As far as malls go, Providence Place isn’t so bad. For one thing, I can walk to it and it’s not surrounded by an ocean of parking lots. It’s not a gigantic mall by most standards, but it does have a huge parking garage that only charges $1.00 for the first 3 hours (thus encouraging people to drive). But there are only 12 bike parking spaces. At least they are centrally located and in a well-lit, heavily traveled area (thus reducing the chance of theft).
Finally, the reason I started writing this post. I met some friends at Mills Tavern [warning: ugly website] the other night right after work. I go by Mills on my way home every night, but I’ve only dined there once before. I pulled up to the restaurant on my bike and looked around for a place to lock it up. The closest street sign was planted in the dirt – not the most theft-proof place to park. However, there was a nice wrought-iron fence right next to the restaurant:
(sorry, it’s the google street view of the fence – it was too dark to take a picture) A wrought iron fence is usually a good place to park your bike. This fence encloses an area that Mills Tavern uses for outdoor dining during the warmer months. I started locking my bike to the center section when the parking valet came out and said, “You just can’t lock your bike in front of the restaurant.” I replied, “Why not? I’m going to be eating here.” He suggested that I lock the wheel to the frame and put the bike inside the fenced area. I told him that would not work so well. Finally, I realized that I was giving this guy a hard time when he didn’t really deserve it – it was the manager of the restaurant telling him what to do. Luckily, there was a parking sign across the street that was installed in concrete that looked pretty secure. The valet assured me that he’d keep an eye on my bike. After locking up, I went inside and the host asked me how my bike ride was. I didn’t feel like making a scene, so I just said it was fine and they checked my coat and helmet for me. As previously mentioned on this blog, there’s plenty of valet parking on Atwells Ave, but not a single bike rack. Maybe there’s some inverse-proportion relationship thing going on between valet parking and bike parking. Makes sense, really. Valet parking is perfectly emblematic of the excesses of car culture. I just don’t understand the need for this totally superfluous service (maybe if its in a super-dense area and the valets are double parking cars in a lot or something.) Few things say “conspicuous consumption” to me like valet parking. First you drive to a restaurant that you could easily bike or walk to, then you can’t even be bothered to walk 2 blocks (or less) from a parking place so you pay somebody to park your car.
So, Mills Tavern has been moved to my “on notice” list for the time being. Furthermore, their food is mediocre for the price point. Next time I want to pay that much for a meal, I’d rather go to Chez Pascal, New Rivers or La Laterie - all of which offer a much better dining experience for the price.
Until the next parking rant,