In many cities, particularly examples like Louisville that aren’t quite as far along on bike infrastructure as the usual velo-havens (Portland, Minneapolis, et al), you don’t have to look far to find bikes locked up outside businesses, but lacking a real bike rack. These bikes are usually latched to anything in sight: parking meters, trees, hand rails, exposed pipes.
Some places will take the initiative and install a bike rack, or petition the city to have them installed. Most just sit around and do nothing. Apparently, the YMCA of Greater Louisville is one of the latter.
I go past the Downtown Y nearly every day, and, without fail, there are always at least half a dozen bikes locked up to random objects within a 20 foot radius of the front doors.
On the bus ride home recently, as I passed Chestnut and 2nd streets, I tweeted:
I had little hope of this having any effect, but after Branden retweeted it from @brokensidewalk, several readers did the same, amplifying the message. As a result, the YMCA wrote back:
While the Y does have a couple bike racks tucked away somewhere inside of their huge parking garage—I couldn’t find them on a cursory look around the ground floor—this picture is a clear indication that they aren’t doing the job.
If the YMCA, an organization whose mission is based on encouraging active lifestyles and healthy living, won’t take action on their own despite bikes strewn about left and right, there’s not much hope for places that don’t have a vested interest in getting people out of their cars.
Earlier this summer, I visited Burger’s Market in the Cherokee Triangle on my bike ride home to St. Matthews. The small store is surrounded by ample parking, but there isn’t even so much as a handicap parking sign—generally my go to option—to lock my bike on. After consulting for a minute, I was able to finagle my lock around the frame of my bike and the water meter on the side of the building. I went in to shop for groceries and when I was checking out said, half-jokingly, “You know, you all have everything here, except a bike rack.” The woman checking me out, looked at me disapprovingly and said, dismissively, “yeah, huh.”
Why don’t more Louisville businesses get the hint that bike racks can be as important as a parking space? Only in the most traffic choked areas of the Bardstown Road/Baxter Avenue corridor can you find bike parking with any regularity, and it is still scarce considering how dire the auto parking situation is on a Friday or Saturday evening. Business owners in the Highlands or Bonnycastle wouldn’t scoff when a customer complained about the difficulty finding a place to park their car. So why, when I make a friendly request for a bike rack, do I so often get the cold shoulder?
Bike parking is vital to business. While
cyclists do spend bikes generate slightly less per capita vehicle, based on the average occupancy of vehicle trips, when visiting a business, when you consider that you can typically park as many as 15 bikes in the size of one typical parking space, area devoted to bike parking generates far more revenue than does space allocated to car parking. In fact a study in Melbourne, Australia found that each square meter devoted to bike parking generated 5 times the revenue of a square meter of car parking.
What’s more, I’d venture a guess that the average cyclist is more concerned with buying local and supporting local businesses than your average driver. I mean, how many people bike in from Bullitt County to go to Wal-Mart?
Since Louisville has run out of federal funds to supply bike racks upon request, and the “21st Most Bike Friendly” city has decided not to commit any local resources to expanding bike parking options. I think it’s time for local business associations to work with their members to make the city’s shopping districts more amenable to visitors on two wheels.
In Washington, D.C., many of the local Business Improvement Districts have held competitions to design unique bike racks branded specifically for their districts. Incidentally, those that have done this are districts that I and many of my bike-riding friends frequent most often. Until Louisville businesses make this same connection, the city’s bike friendliness—and consequently the number of people who actually ride bikes—will continue to stagnate.