Bike Parking in the City: Issues and Etiquette
Bike parking in the city can be a tricky business. Many parts of the city (at least the ones I visit in the District) do not have enough racks to accommodate all the bikes of those who want to park in the area.
Bikes get crowded onto racks or, if those are not available, we seek out other alternatives such as locking to a parking sign pole or other pieces of metal that look sturdy and theft-proof.
I don’t drive in the city, but I suppose that bike parking is far less of a problem than car parking. It’s certainly much cheaper! Even so, D.C. is not a bike parking paradise– not yet, anyway—which means we often end up parking in uncomfortable proximity to others. Drop bars intertwine awkwardly with flat bars. Miscellaneous pieces of metal from one bike sidle up to those of another.
I think that a general lack of decent bike parking is my main issue with “art” bike racks. If the city already had ample racks for bikes, I would think they were a fine addition to the city. However, unless an artsy bike rack can fit bikes like a basic inverted “U” rack does, I do not see their value.
An art bike rack is not going to inspire more people to bike, and I don’t think they add that much to the aesthetic of the city, just as an inverted U rack does not detract from it. But I digress.
I accept that uncomfortable bike intimacy is the result of life in a city where people are riding more and bike parking is limited and deal with it every day on my commute.
However, one day I went to retrieve my bike and discovered that someone’s extrication of his or her bike from the work rack caused my bike to fall on the ground. It was just lying there, poor dejected bike.
Because of the way I had parked the bike I know that the only way it would have fallen over was from an external impact like pushing the bike out of the way, say by shoving the handlebars.
Later I accepted that I had potentially contributed to the situation by only locking the bike by the down tube, which left it less stable than if I would have locked the front wheel and the down tube together to the rack. Doing that would have made it tougher to knock over.
I had always thought that if my bike fell over that the cyclist who helped it get there would pick it up. Who knows, maybe this has happened to my bikes many times in the past, and I’ve not even been aware of it.
I thought it was part of the code—not the Bike Commuter Code, but one of its subparts, the Bike Parking Code—to pick up someone else’s bike if you had a role in knocking it over. That’s what I do. I thought it was what everybody did.
Being a Midwesterner, where there seems to be more personal space for everyone to move about, these types of issues can really get to me. Crowding can get on my nerves. Most times I shrug it off and think of it as life in the city. But seeing my bike disregarded and flopped on the ground hurt my feelings, especially when I am 98 percent sure it was a fellow cyclist who helped cause my bike to fall.
What do other riders do? If someone else’s bike fell while you were removing yours from a bike rack, would you stop to upright it? Or is there no established etiquette for this sort of thing?
If your bike fell over in front of me, I would pick it up. I promise.