Tag Archives: bicycle parking

It’s getting real in the Whole Foods parking lot

Complaining, whining, moaning, being a jerk. Sure, we all do it. And does it get us anywhere?


First, let’s go back in time to February of this year.


Good times there, right? I’ve seen snow piled up on a bike rack before, but this was particularly egregious. Every car parking spot in the lot was cleared. Not a spot of snow to get in the way of people parking their cars. So where to put that snow? Well, let’s just dump it on top of the bike rack. Evidently, fellow Providence bike-twitterer, @papabybike was displeased as well. But instead of just dropping a snarky tweet like me, he went in and talked to the manager about it. After a few other tweets, I hear through the grapevine that this particular Whole Foods was planning to install a new bike rack in April. Well it’s April now, and what do you know? Check it out:

Whole Foods Waterman Providence Bike Rack

Now that is some quality bike parking! Sure, there’s only 4 hoops, but there’s lots of room in between them and it looks like it will easily accommodate 8 bikes parked there at once. In fact, there’s so much room, you could park a cargo bike there!

Cargo bike parked at Whole Foods Waterman

photo credit: @papabybike

Other Providence bike twiterrers were pleased to see the rack as well.

Bike parking at Whole Foods Waterman

photo credit @goldenmeanie

I realize that this blog is full of snark, cynicism and negativity, but I’ll try to suspend that for a moment and just say THANK YOU, to the management of this particular Whole Foods for taking the time to install a bike rack that looks like it was actually designed by people who ride bikes. It may have taken a while, but they got it right.

Now, what do we have to do to get Eastside Marketplace to install a decent bike rack?

Eastside Marketplace Providence Bike Rack

That rack is so bad, the NEXT bike doesn’t even want to lock to it. I mean, I’ve seen better bike parking in a video game that’s based on the idea of stealing cars and running over people with them.

video game bike parking

The Indignity of Bike Parking: Trader Joe’s

I was first introduced to the wonders of Trader Joe’s when I was bachelor living in Boston. And what could be better for the Bostonian bachelor? Cheap eats, ready to easily cook and with a patina of responsible consumerism. Or something, I’m not sure what the vibe in that place is supposed to be – “funky”? “quirky”? “beach-y”? Also, there’s cheap wine.

But I am no longer a bachelor, and I no longer enjoy Trader Joe’s version of a Meal Ready to Eat. But I do still like their trail mixes, which make for an essential work-time snack. Plus, the Rhode Island location is just off of one of our major bike paths – the Washington Secondary Bike Path (also known as the  Cranston Bike Bath, Warwick Bike Path, West Warwick Bike Path and finally, the Coventry Bike Path. [and another thing, where’s the Washington Primary Bike Path?])

Here you can see TJ’s and its proximity to the WSBP:

Washington Secondary Bike Path and Trader Joe's

Green curvy line = Washington Secondary Bike Path. A pinpoint = Trader Joe’s

You can see there’s even a little spur heading out to Bald Hill Road. Of course, Bald Hill Road is a bit of a nightmare as far as cycling is concerned.

The beauty that is Bald Hill Road in Warwick, RI

The beauty that is Bald Hill Road in Warwick, RI

Oh my gosh, I think there’s actually someone walking on the sidewalk on the left!

So it’s a big crappy road, whatever, it does have a very wide shoulder, and you’re not on it very long before you get to Trader Joe’s. And what do you find when you get there? Nothing in the way of bike parking. About a year ago, I asked the manager if they were ever going to install any bike parking. He said, “oh yeah, we have a rack on order, it should be here in a couple of months.” All right, that sounds like kind of a long time to wait, but I can understand if it takes a little while to source and install a bike rack, right? Well, I stopped at TJ’s today and I see that the months of waiting got us this:

Bike Rack at Trader Joe's Warwick RI

Bike Rack at Trader Joe’s Warwick RI

I moved the rack a few feet in order to get a better picture. It’s not secured to anything, and it weighs about 25-30 pounds (i.e., about as much as a bicycle). You can buy one of these online for a little over $100. There are very similar models made by a variety of companies, I didn’t look closely enough to see which company made this one, but it looks essentially identical to this one. From the product description:

Parks up to 6 bikes.
Perfect for home and small businesses. Set it up outside or in a garage or basement to park a family of bikes.
Assembles in minutes.
Lightweight yet surprisingly solid. Durable and weatherproof. Welded frame with one-peice and sections. [sic]
Can be anchored in lawns, concrete, or asphalt using Anchors #6257 and #6258 (Sold separately).

See that? “Parks up to 6 bikes.” It doesn’t say anything about locking the bikes to this thing (here’s a hint – you can’t properly lock a bike to it!) “Perfect for home and small business… set it up in a garage…” Yes, exactly. I have one of these in my garage. I use it to store three of my bikes. The anchors are sold separately, and they were evidently just a little too expensive for TJ’s budget.

What Trader Joe’s should have installed was something more like this.

A decent bike rack

A decent bike rack

You can pick these up for $430 (plus $19 for the mounting kit) right here.

Oh, what do you know? I found a few of these, right on the WSBP! Check it out:

WSBP bike rack

WSBP bike rack

First of all, this rack is installed RIGHT NEXT TO A FENCE which means you can’t fit your wheel through the loops. Secondly, it’s installed right next to a parking lot. There is nothing within walking distance. Why would anyone park lock a bike here? There’s nowhere to go once you get off the bike. There are several more of these “wave” bike racks along the WSBP, usually right next to a little park bench. I guess the idea is that you might want to take a rest from riding your bike, so you stop at one of these benches and use the bike rack to lock up your bike while you are 3 feet away from it. This seems to be a trend, in this state at least. A few years ago, I discovered the most useless bike rack in the state in Woonsocket. That one won’t even fit a 700c wheel!

I guess I could lead a cyclists’ boycott of Trader Joe’s, but what would that accomplish? This bike rack makes it pretty clear that cyclists are not wanted in their store. Until I organize a boycott of TJ’s, I’ll just boycott their bullshit bike rack:

I turn my red tire to TJ's bike rack like a baboon turns his red butt to his enemy

I turn my red tire to TJ’s bike rack like a baboon turns his red butt to his enemy

I almost went in to have a discussion with the manager about this so-called bike rack, but I was wearing my “sporty cycling attire” that is, really tight bike shorts and jersey, so I wasn’t feeling that dignified. Maybe next time. IF THERE IS A NEXT TIME! Hear that TJ’s? You can kiss my occasional trail mix money goodbye!


I ended my Bartolomé Day ride with a visit to Fertile Underground for lunch.

Fertile Underground Bicycle Rack

Now that’s a bike rack!

Eastside Marketplace and Bottles

My neighborhood boasts something you don’t see too often, an honest-to-goodness independent grocery store, the Eastside Marketplace. Right next door is a very good liquor store, Bottles. Between them is an abomination of a bike rack.

Earlier this week, I visited Bottles to buy a case of wine. That’s right, I can buy a case of wine and transport it by bike. That earns me both smug points and Bourgeois points (and a 10% discount). This time, however, Spouse came along and transported half of the case by backpack. NO MATTER! I have the potential to transport it all and that makes me feel smug and that is all that is important.

When I got to the liquor store, I found a scene similar to this:

This particular bike rack has been deteriorating over the last few years. It’s a crappy design to begin with. The cyclist has the option of hoisting the bike over the rack as most have done (this can scratch the frame and possibly damage the headset), or lock only the wheel (as I did when I took this picture).

I’m okay with doing this for short periods of time because I have locking skewers. I would not recommend this for cyclists with quick-release or bolt-on wheels. You can find this type of rack many places. It’s kind of an old-fashioned idea of what a bike rack should be, and amazingly enough, they are still being built. This one has deteriorated to the point where many of the bars have either fallen off or were removed to facilitate bike theft:

The rack was pretty full when I showed up and I had had enough of this crappy rack! So, I brought my bike into Bottles. The young woman at the front said, “there’s a bike rack right outside there.”

“I’m sorry, but that’s not a real bike rack, I can’t use it – would you mind if I leave my bike up here while I shop?” I replied.

Another clerk chimed in, “Well, I wouldn’t say it’s not a real bike rack, but it does suck. You can leave your bike here if you like.”

Spouse and I picked out our wines (that is to say, Spouse picked 11 bottles and I picked 1 – I’ve never quite developed a wine palate). When I got home, I started drafting an angry email to the manager of Eastside Marketplace. After writing the draft, I decided to sit on it for a day, which is always a good idea when one writes an angry email.

The next day, I received an e-newsletter from Bottles. I’m on their email list, so I’m used to seeing their e-newsletters. Shortly after that, I got a second email from the manager informing me about some sort of special bourbon. I seized on this opportunity, and replied to the manager’s email thusly:

I’m happy to receive your emails and I enjoy shopping at Bottles. I
was very glad when you guys moved into the old Blockbuster space. I
have one small complaint that you may or may not be able to address.
The bike rack outside your store is in horrible disrepair. I couldn’t
properly lock my bike to it last night, so I brought my bike into the
store. Your excellent staff was kind enough to watch it for me while I
shopped. Does Eastside Marketplace own the bike rack, or is there a
landlord for the entire strip who is responsible for it? I would
greatly appreciate it if you could talk to whoever is responsible for
the rack and ask them to replace it. It’s a poorly designed rack, and
now it’s falling apart. Even on a relatively cold night like last
night, there were at least 8 bikes parked there, many parked in a way
that could damage the bike. More and more people are riding bikes for
transportation these days, and businesses that make the investment in
quality bike parking can expect to be well-patronized.

[I went on to request that they carry Southern Tier 422 Pale Wheat Ale, because while I may not have a refined palate for wine, I do know my beers and that shit is awesome.]

A few hours later, I received this response:

The “bike rack” outside is a joke — I completely agree with your comments.  We are partnering with the Steel Yard to have a new bike rack custom made for us this spring.  Stay tuned!


General Manager

I’ll gladly suffer through the winter if they’re going to end up with a Steel Yard rack. [for those unfamiliar with the Steel Yard, you can check out their work here.] But now what can I do with that angry email to Eastside Marketplace? Post it here, of course. Now that I know they are planning to replace that horrible rack, my rage is no longer justified. Instead, I’ll hold onto this until the next time I come upon dilapidated bike rack.

Imagine a customer drove his car to your store to find that he was unable to safely park his car in the parking lot. There weren’t any lines separating the spaces, so cars were parked in an un-orderly fashion, some pressed right against each other, causing them to scrape against each other. The lot was full of potholes that could damage his wheels. There were shopping carts left all over the place that could scratch his car. There were strips of metal in most of the parking spaces that could damage his car when he pulled in, and somehow, these same metal strips made it difficult to properly lock his car. This made the customer worry about his car while he was shopping. He hurried through the store as quickly as possible. The next time he needed groceries, he went somewhere else.

I’m sure that sounds like a parking nightmare. You wouldn’t put up with a parking lot like that, right? You’d have the lot repaved to get rid of the potholes. You’d paint appropriate lines separating the parking spaces. You would remove those metal strips so your customers’ cars don’t get scratched and they can lock their cars properly. In short, you would make sure that your customers don’t even have to think about the condition of your parking lot. They would drive in, park their cars, do their shopping, load up and go home. And your customers don’t have to think about your parking because you have a perfectly acceptable parking lot. There are plenty of well-marked, properly spaced parking spaces. I’ve driven a car to your store many times, and I’ve always found your parking lot to be perfectly maintained. Your staff does an excellent job of keeping the shopping carts under control. You also accommodate those who take the bus to your store by providing seating for those who wait for the bus.

Although I’ve driven to your store many times, I live less than 2 miles away and I prefer to ride my bike for short trips. The bike parking at Eastside Marketplace is equivalent to the nightmare parking lot I described above. The bike rack in front of your store is poorly designed and in a horrible state of disrepair. Although you may see this type of bike rack installed many places, it does not allow cyclists to properly secure a bicycle. This rack is designed to only secure the bike’s wheel to the rack. If a cyclists only locks the wheel to a rack, a thief can easily release the bolts holding the wheel to the frame and take the frame and rear wheel, leaving only the front wheel. Instead, many cyclists put their front wheel over the rack in order to secure both the frame and front wheel. This can scratch the frame and cause damage to some of the bicycle’s components. The best option is to lock a bike to one of the ends of the rack, but those two spots are usually taken. In addition to it’s poor design, the rack is falling apart. Many of the vertical bars have been removed, I assume by someone trying to steal a bike, or perhaps they just fell off.

I don’t know if Eastside Marketplace owns the property, or rents it from another company. However, I am certain that you would never allow your parking lot to deteriorate to a similar condition. I hope that you will consider installing a new bike rack that will allow your customers to properly park their bikes. Please take the time to consult with someone who rides a bike before choosing a new bike rack.

Ah, that’s a thing of beauty, isn’t it? Probably one of the best screeds I’ve ever written, and now I don’t even get to send it. Did you see how I casually mentioned that I’ve driven a car there? That’s to show that I’m not some lunatic who only rides his bike everywhere. Of course, I fail to mention that I drive a car there maybe twice a year nowSpeaking of lunatics, I saw these two parked at the farmers’ market the other day.

That’s the rare, elusive “shopper” version of the Elliptigo. Here’s the sporty version, captured on Blackstone Blvd.

Think I could mount my panniers on that?

One more post about bike parking, then I really need to move on.

So… I’ll keep this short and sweet.

I was up at the Seven Stars on Broadway a couple weeks ago. They have two hitching post bike racks at this location, for which I am very grateful. This time of year, they tend to fill up, so I had to park at a street sign a few feet away. I’m not complaining about that though, I’m just happy that they have racks.

But what would this blog be without complaining, right? After all, just like Joe Namath said, “A successful blog is 1% inspiration and 49% perspiration, and 50% kvetching.” So I’ll complain about this poorly-locked bike:

A couple of posts ago, Amanda suggested that I pixilate any future barely locked pictures, for the sake of the children and those reading my blog while goofing around at work. So here goes.

That should at least protect the bicycle’s identity. I can’t really pixelate the “naughty bits” on a barely locked bike, or you couldn’t tell in what manner the bike’s owner improperly locked their bike. That would make it much harder to make fun of them.

As the red arrow points out, this bike is locked by the seatpost. Although it’s not a quick-release seat post, all someone would have to do is undo the hex bolt on the seatpost clamp, lift the seat past the lock, re-insert it, and ride away. This is probably not very likely to happen when the bike is parked right next to a window of a busy coffeeshop (that’s why I was furtively lurking around the corner so no one would catch me taking pictures). But really, the top-tube is right there, mere inches away from the seat post. Couldn’t the cyclist have just locked to that instead?

I guess I should be realistic, it’s not like he was going to leave his bike there for decades, allowing the bike rack to grow around and subsume it like this:

Those trees are dangerous.

*Update! After reading Jef Nickerson’s comment, I can’t believe I didn’t include the picture below, originally part of the post titled: Passive Aggressive Signs: Locking to Trees

Obviously, it’s more like “The young bikes won’t survive a growing tree’s hunger for steel (or aluminum or carbon).”

Spouse reports from the Upper Midwest

While I’m out-of-commission, bike-wise, I’ll be relying on some reports from the field by fellow Car-Free in PVD staff members. Staff Member #1, of course, is Spouse. Spouse recently returned from a visit to Madison, WI and Minneapolis, MN. Minneapolis was named bike-friendly city #1 last year, so I was curious to hear about what she saw on her trip. Unfortunately, Spouse still stubbornly refuses to buy a folding bike, so she didn’t get to experience Minneapolis’es bike-friendliness first hand. Instead, she sent me this picture:

This is from the middle of the University of Minnesota campus where a well-marked (and evidently snow-plowed) bike path runs right through the heart of campus.

Meanwhile, back in Providence, I’ve been reduced to taking pictures of Hope Street’s non-existent, non-cleared bike lanes:

Of course, these are not actually bike lanes, they are parking lanes on a signed bike route (Mark Dietrich at RIBike addressed a similar issue recently). It is now April, weeks since the last snow storm requiring salt & sand, and we still have giant sand piles on all of our streets. Just to mock me, Spouse sent me a picture of a Madison bike lane:

It’s a left-hand side, debris-free, non-sandy bike lane, with no parked cars in sight. Damn, that thing is beautiful. Due to the harsh upper-midwestern winters, I’m sure they sand their streets in Madison, so evidently, the city cares enough about cycling that they actually use street sweepers on the bike lanes. Imagine that. We have a left-hand bike lane in Providence – on Promenade/Providence Place and last time I checked, it was still covered in sand. Some people prefer left-hand bike lanes because they allow motorists to pass cyclists in a way where it is easier to see how much room they are giving the cyclists. Also, cars tend to not park on the left-hand side of the street.

Pictured above is a bike lane on an otherwise one-way street. Spouse titled this image “making salmon safe and legal.”

Bicycle Parking Dignity on State Street in Madison, WI

Madison provides excellent bike parking facilities in the State Street area. There’s also specific moped parking spaces. Spouse described State Street as being the equivalent of Thayer Street in Providence (close to the campus, full of restaurants, shops and bars catering to the university and young-adult population) except that it is completely closed to cars. Meanwhile, Thayer Street has ZERO bike parking but several sections of street reserved for motorcyle parking. I will revisit this topic later in the year when we are in the thick of motorcycle season.

Cyclists in Madison are even allowed to make left turns when cars are banned from doing so. However….

…sometimes, even when there’s special bike infrastructure (such as this bike box), the cyclists still like to bend the rules a little bit.

Any idea on when Providence puts out the street sweepers? I recently saw this on Twitter:

That's Matthew Coolidge of the excellent GCPVD.org blog

Time for Providence to catch up with Warwick. What’s that? There’s no money left? Oh well.


The Indignity of Bike Parking: A gordian knot

As you surely know from my recent post, I broke my collarbone riding on the flattest, smoothest section of the East Bay Bike Path. My left arm will be in a sling for the next 4-6 weeks which means that i can only type with my right hand. While some people may enjoy one handed typing, i find that it dents my productivity like a poorly designed bike rack dents an aluminum frame (not that i’m bitter, MOUNTAIN EQUIPMENT CO-OP IN EDMONTON!) It also means that i’m going to have a more casual relationship with capitalization, punctuation andd typos. In fact, i’ve updated my email signature thusly:

Due to a broken collarbone, I am typing with one hand. Please excuse the brevity, typos and apparent rudeness in my emails until late April. At that time, I’ll go back to being a jerk just for the hell of it.

But will this temporary handicap keep me from writing in this blog? HELL NO! (the caps lock key seems to work fine, hey?) I’ve got plenty of things to write about, lik my favorite topic: bike parking! Here’s the rack at my office several months ago on an usually busy day:

The big yellow arrow is pointing to a black Raleigh road bike (ca. ’84?) that has been sitting in the rack for over a year. When I returned to work on tuesday, i was greeted with this sight:

Only two abandoned bikes plus the p-far. Well, I can’t really call the green felt curbside abandoned, because i’m sure it will be ridden again. i’ve even seen its owner riding down the street once. The old p-far does look rather lonely down there on the end without my cannondale to keep it company.

To be filed under “bike parking dignity” – these pictures sent to me by a reader from her recent trip to Berkeley:

This was evidently part of someone’s “yarnbombing” project. I almost want to take up knitting just so I could improve some of the racks around here. However, I think that my time would be better spent installing some racks in the neighborhoods that lack them completely. By the way berkeleyites, portland did it first:

One last bike parking item to file in the “we do it to ourselves” folder. One of the rules of locking up your bike is to never lock it to a sapling. An enterprising bike thief could just cut it down and take your bike. As you can see in the image below, the bike in the background is securely locked to a handrail (in fact, i suspect it is abandoned), while the bike in the foreground avoided locking to the sapling and instead locked to one of the sapling’s supports:

And the top of that support is blocked only by a knot:

the owner of this bike better hope there aren’t any boy scout-trained bicycle thieves in the area. or someone with a knife. or someone who can pull the support out of the ground.

Spring is Here!

Well, Spring is kind of here. It’s been raining more than snowing, so at least we’ve got that going for us. My cycling miles have picked up a bit as well in the last couple of weeks. As previously mentioned, I’m back on the Cannondale for most of my trips (after a month exclusively on the Raleigh), but I still manage to get some time in on the old 3-speed due to all of the rain. Let’s compare January and February.

That’s a lot of walking! A good chunk of it came from a trip to NYC in the middle of the month. I always seem to walk the length of Manhattan while I’m there. This trip also accounts for the large number of “transit” miles. Maybe I shouldn’t count “taking Amtrak to New York” under transit, but hey, I’m making up the rules here so… too bad. I got rid of “total cycling miles” as an automatic category and replaced it with “SmugMiles” so I could directly compare the total of walking, cycling and transiting with the total of miles spent in an automobile. Also, this method allows me to feel more smug, and that’s really what this whole exercise is about. Now, I have to do a little spreadsheet addition (that is, shift-selecting a few cells) in order to find out how many miles I’ve traveled by bike. And that’s a round-about way of saying that for January, it was 130.2.

For February, I biked just less than 180 miles. I believe that there were only about 25 cycling miles out of both months that could be considered purely recreational (although I managed to squeeze in a trip to Wal-Mart on that ride). I’ve also noticed that I haven’t been on the Jamis in almost 2 months! I just don’t feel like taking it out on the sand and salt covered roads.

Let’s take a look at the big board:

This is a running total from 8/21/11 which as a faithful reader you recognize as the one year anniversary of my car-freeness. It’s interesting to see that over 1/3 of my walking miles came in January. I hope to see these numbers really take off once the roads clear a little more and I can get out for some rides on the weekends.

Along with increased mileage for me, another sure sign of spring is the increasing number of cyclists I see on the roads. It’s been very noticeable in the past week as I see more sidewalk riders, stop sign runners and everywhere I turn: salmon, salmon, salmon! Seriously, I can kind of understand going the wrong way on a one way street. People have a mistaken perception that it slows them down too much to go around the block, but if you are going to bike up on the wrong side of Hope Street at night with no lights, maybe you would just be better off on the sidewalk (actually, you would be better off on the right side of the road with lights). I haven’t yelled at a salmon yet. I’m not sure it would really do much. I just grit my teeth and remind myself that I used to do it too and one day they will understand that it really doesn’t save them any time.

I recently went to the South Side Community Land Trust Urban Agriculture Spring Kickoff at the Roger Williams Park Botanical Center. There were talks on composting, urban chicken raising and other things to help increase one’s smug quotient. Despite the fact that there was no bike rack, there were many bikes parked at the event.

My silver steed is on the far right, and the third from the right is a classic Bridgestone CB-1 with a milk crate to make it look more stealth. Also spotted:

A bike from famed bike collective: Troy Bike Rescue, almost 200 miles away. Evidently it is owned by a recently transplanted Trojan. Let’s hope he joins us at Recycle-A-Bike. Speaking of Recycle-A-Bike, we recently had a work party, tearing down the shop in preparation for our big move to a new location.

The uninsulated, unheated shop just wasn’t working out so well since it meant that we pretty much had to shut down all programs for at least 4 months. But even though the shop has been shut, one of our mechanics has been very busy rebuilding bikes to sell to help fund operations. And even though it was a miserable winter, he’s managed to sell a few bikes. You can find some more at RAB’s goodsie shop. There are some good deals there, far better than what might come out of some guy’s basement and end up on Craigslist.

Alas, not all bicycles can get the tender loving treatment that Recycle-A-Bike gives to the bikes that come into our bike shelter. Some bikes are abandoned on the streets by their owners. It makes me so sad to see perfectly good bikes left outside to the elements for months at a time.

There’s nothing too special about this red 3-speed Schwinn.

But does it deserve to be left to rust in front of a police station?

And this Raleigh, outside in the rain, slowly oxidizing, its leather saddle crumbling like the caked sands of Death Valley.

It even has a rack and front basket that would fit well on my Raleigh (grumble grumble).

And finally, for weeks this Bottechia road bike was buried beneath a pile of plowed snow. Now it has emerged with a completely rusty chain, but all it needs is a little bit of TLC to get back on the road.

I took the picture about late last week and when I went by this evening, I found this:


It could have been transportation for someone, but now, it’s just junk on the sidewalk.