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The fence looks like a good place to lock a bike. Better than most bike racks actually.

I meant to ask you about the bike stolen thing... at the very least it might mean putting the lock on the front wheel and frame to deter theft...

I had some extra time to kill recently at the West Falls Church stop, which I don't normally frequent (my friend picking me up was WAY late, so I wandered), and I noticed at the bike parking area somebody had stenciled on the pavement the words "Theft Zone." I took a couple of pictures on the scene on my cellphone, and meant to put up and entry about it on my cycling team's website, but never got around to it. In any case, I thought it worth sharing here. At the time, there was one bike parked there (it looked complete). Closer to the the station's main entrance, there were several more bikes locked to the fence. It made me wonder if the people parked their bikes to the fence because a) the stencil told them the bike parking area wasn't safe; b) they didn't know there was a bike parking area; c) the fence was more convenient; or d) because the bike parking area truly IS unsafe. I have no idea idea myself, but I thought it interesting.

Thanks Richard. It wasn't my front wheel that was stolen (just my front light), it was Jeff's. I usually try to lock both the frame and the wheel.

As for the parking pictured, I think nice is too generous. Adequate, maybe. Here are my problems.

1. It's not covered. Most bikes do not do well sitting in the sun, rain and snow for 8+ hours a day. They weren't made for that. It breaks down rubber, weakens metal, rusts chains etc...

2. It's not as secure as an inverted U (iU). My rule is that when someone steals my bike I want my lock to be the weak point. I want them to have to break that (because the lock is "guaranteed" and I might be able to get money for my bike from Kryptonite). I think this fence is weaker (square thin tubes, joints and welds) than my lock (and a standard iU). I suspect most people given a choice would choose the iU over this fence.

3. You know how I feet about things being used for purposed they weren't designed for. Parking meters, fences, street signs, etc...all work most of the time, but they aren't ideal. You can drive your car on the sidewalk, but you shouldn't have to.

4. The sign by indicating where a bike should be locked up, indicates where it shouldn't. They shouldn't have to do that. They should make an area so inviting - secure, covered, accessible - that no one would consider parking anywhere else.

5. The sign makes Metro look bad. They won't let you take your bike on during rush hour. They won't provide adequate parking. They won't provide enough bike boxes. When asked for more parking they throw a sign up next to a fence and say "let them eat cake."

OK, five reasons for bike rack, and only two of them -- the first two -- are remotely practical. The remaining three are entirely symbolic. This is what bicycle advocacy has come to? Arguing for the appearance of facilities?

So would it be better to have a bike rack that worked no better than that fence -- or even worked worse -- but at least looked like a bike rack? Because that's what most of the racks I see are like. Hence my earlier comment.

I just don't understand the fixation with racks. I bike everywhere, I rarely have trouble finding a place to park, and I almost never use bike racks. In fact, one of the joys of cycling in the city is that parking is so much easier than when you're driving. Almost always you can just ride straight to your destination and park at the closest solid object.

That's why I listed them first and I think 3 and 4 are not symbolic. Aren't you the one always complaining that people will try to take away our places to park? don't you think signs like this could be a step on that process? That's what I meant in 4.

You're right about #5 though. It is only symbolic and we all know that symbols have no value.
That's why companies, schools and sports teams don't bother to trademark their symbols, because they're worthless.
That's why the image of Dukakis in a tank was never shown on TV, because it had nothing to do with policy and was only symbolic.
That's why the flag raising at Iwo Jima and the Emancipation Proclamation have been forgotten because they were symbolic gestures with no power or value.
I actually had someone on this blog present this on their Wish List
"5. Just once, have a Post transportation writer admit that cyclists are actually allowed to use the roadway -- the part of the road to the left of the white line." which you and I know would be a worthless, empty, symbolic gesture. This is what bicycle advocacy has come to?

Entirely symbolic? The whole world prefers to operate almost exclusively in the realm of the symbol.

WC makes some excellent points, especially #4 and #5. Too often, bike accomodations (racks, lanes, etc.) are simply PR lipservice whose chief function is to appear concilatory. SOMEthing is being done for cyclists, nevermind that it's crap.

As for #3, well, I've nothing against locking up where you please--to me, it makes the (symbolic) statement that bikes belong everywhere in this world every bit as much as anything else. The more bikes scattered randomly about a city (and not concentrated in a small space), the more dispersed (and thus more effective) is the (symbolic) visual cue that a lot of people ride bicycles; that it's a legitmate form of transportation, that it's fun.

There's a little bit of deja vu to this conversation, but I guess I'll add to that. While I do think the reliance on bike racks can be over-done, I would fall just short of what Contrarian is saying. I can think of at least one place where, though there are a number of places where there are "solid objects" at which one could lock up one's bike, I observed cyclists being chased away by security for trying to lock up at those spots. To make matters worse, when I was at those location, all of the parking meters on the street where being used by bikes. And, there were plenty of good spots in this large open area where a bike rack could easily be added. I'm talking about the "alley" leading into the movie theatres and restaurants between Verizon Center and the new building next to it. I posted something about this on my team's website some time ago:


Now, of course, the answer to the problem could be to just let people at that location lock their bikes up wherever they want. But I can see the management of the location wanting to control the "clutter" factor - though never in a million years would I call my trusty bike ... ahem, "clutter." ... so the obvious solution is to install a bike rack.

When the new Giant grocery store was built on Arlington Rd in Bethesda a few years ago, they didn't provide any bike racks at first. This was a problem because the only upright structures were massive concrete columns too big around for even a long cable, not that you'd want to lock your bike to something so abrasive, anyway. [The old building at least had some kind of railings to lock a bike to.]

After requests to the management by myself and other bikers, they finally installed two bike racks in convenient locations. I don't know why adding bike racks wasn't an automatic part of the remodelling process...

You'd think it would be easy to park a bike in the suburbs, but unless racks are provided, it can be difficult: you have to find a tree of the correct diameter or a post that is not flimsy or too near a travel lane or in the way of pedestrians. For quick stops to my bank, which has no racks, I just bring my bike inside with me and they don't seem to mind [but if they ever say anything I'll ask them where their bike rack is].

There is a process by which one can request to have a bike rack installed in Montgomery County [you just name tell them the business or address where you wish the rack to go], but that doesn't guarantee that the rack will be placed in an intelligent manner. In front of the Hard Times Cafe, for instance, there is an inverted-U rack which is right next to an on-street parking spot in the passenger's door zone. The tree is a safer bet in that location.

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