Monday, June 8, 2009

Are bike racks installed and used incorrectly?

I had a paradigm shifting experience recently when I saw a bike locked to a standard "circle on a post" parking area that has me wondering if the majority of these 2 bike racks aren't oriented and used incorrectly.

Almost invariably, I would have said invariably before last week, what you see is a bike locked to one or the other sides of the rack parallel to the metal hoops that extend to make the circle. I've often found that if someone is already using the other side of the rack, there is no choice but to move their bike a bit in order to get clearance to thread the lock through rack and to take care not to accidentally create a knot of interconnecting locks.

My eureka was in seeing a a bike locked perpendicular to the extension, thereby placing the bike a little way from the post, and leaving a wide unobstructed half circle extending in the opposite direction for another person to use, without needing to in any way be concerned about the existing occupant. This seems a much more intelligent and correct way to use the rack for a number of reasons and I'm embarrassed to say that I never even thought of that, even when parking at an unoccupied rack. Another advantage is that the extended hoop gives something to lean the bike against, in the case that it doesn't have a kickstand, and that doing that lean isn't going to impede another person using the rack, or require them to touch someone else's bike and/or lock in order to park.

I suspect that part of the reason is that the racks are installed in corners and adjacent to streets with the circle jutting out in parallel to the street or wall. This doesn't leave enough space for a bike to be locked perpendicular to the rack. Add to this a conscientious cyclist who prefers to park their bikes out of the way and don't want them extending perpendicular to the curb or wall into a pedestrian walkway.

While I'm on the topic of racks, have some lovely photos of a bike rack that is too close to a wall, though of a different type, and what has got to be the worst bike rack design out there, as you can see from the bikes parked already at the on on the right. Positions are too close together, not designed for getting anything other than a cable lock (hope you have a long one) through it with whichever wheel you trust to it. I try to park outside the rack on the ends and lock the frame to it when I can, otherwise, rear well goes in to get the frame closer to the rack.

Images from Flickr/SteveVance

After doing a quick search, lots of people talk about the correct things to lock up and and how on the bike to a (semi-)permanent object, no one says how to actually position the bike with respect to a rack.

Oh, and to make this even a little bit relevant to locals, does anyone trust the new racks (parallel to the curbs!) installed around Kennedy Plaza that appear to be bolted to the bricks adjacent to the parking lane and sidewalk ramps on Exchange Terrace?