Walgreens: A Great Store With Not-So-Great Bike Parking

Oma locked up in fronnt of the Walgreens store in Wicker Park

Oma locked up in front of the Walgreens store in Wicker Park

While I’ve stuck to writing about bike parking issues as they relate to grocery stores in Chicago,  I’ve decided to branch out a little and call out one of my otherwise favorite stores on their inconsistent bike parking facilities.  Recently I had to stop by my neighborhood Walgreens store – I will out-and-out say I love the store because they stock at least one of almost everything.  I can’t tell you the number of times over the years that I’ve needed something at the last minute and thought – “I’ll just run into my local Walgreens and I’m sure I’ll find it”.  I don’t think  I’ve ever been disappointed.  A few of their competitors in Chicago and other parts of the country have often disappointed me though.   And, I would be remiss in not mentioning their super pharmacy staff  – always first rate and helpful – even at 2:00am.

The Walgreens store in Wicker Park,  (1372 N. Milwaukee Avenue to be exact) is one I’ve frequented for years.  I’ve become used to it’s lack of bike parking – no racks of any kind. It does however have barriers to prevent carts from leaving the immediate area outside the store entrance and cyclists have been locking our bikes to these for years as well along with the parking meters that once lined the sidewalk around the store.  Recently though,  as I pulled up to the front of the store I noticed that a bike rack had been installed – it may well have been there for a while since I don’t frequent that store as much as I used to,  but I do know that it has not always been there.  Perhaps they installed it when all the parking meters were removed – a thoughtful but useless gesture for cyclists. It is one of those ‘grill-style’ bike racks, which are fairly useless for most adult cyclists because most bikes are too large to fit their front wheels in between the grills which is the most secure way to lock a bike. These types of rack are useful only for bikes with 20-inch wheels – kids bikes.  In order to utilize this sort of rack you  have to put your bike over the top of the rack . Sadly, my Omafiets and many other city bikes are  far too heavy and cumbersome for such a maneuver. Also, not everyone is tall enough or strong enough to lift their bike over the rack.

Insufficient bike Parking at the Walgreens store in Wicker Park

Insufficient bike Parking at the Walgreens store in Wicker Park

Even this bike cannot fit into the rack AND they placed the rack so close to the pillars that another bike cannot fit on the other end. There is no room for Oma on this rack. Would they really expect 5 bikes to squeeze into this rack? Five bikes loaded with panniers or baskets to cart home their purchases?   The bikes  would completely block the entrance. In the meantime their is a large swath of sidewalk space just across from this bike rack, just outside their cart barriers where Walgreens could ask the city to install some U-racks or even do it themselves.

Sidewalk space where bike racks could be installed

Sidewalk space where bike racks could be installed

Some of their stores in Chicago and around the country have great bike parking – they were very proud of their store in Mira Mesa California when it opened because it was the nation’s first LEED certified drugstore and what do ya know, it has bike parking! Got this picture from Google Street View by the way.

Bike parking at the Mira Mesa Walgreens

Bike parking at the Mira Mesa Walgreens

They opened their second LEED certified store in Chicago, in the Logan Square neighborhood – again to much fanfare. No mention of bike parking in that press release, and I’ve not been up to that location to check on it. That will be next.   I do know that their store on Halsted Street in Greektown has a couple of city-installed bike racks out front.  And don’t forget that the city of Chicago requires a business to install bike parking when car parking is provided. What gets me is that here is a national chain with the power and resources to make something as simple as bike parking a standard for every store they build,  and for every store that they renovate. Just think of the PR bonus – how healthy and environmentally happy is that?  They could have all sorts of family-based bike-riding promotions, etc. And in cities like Chicago, where we have a city-wide program for bike rack installation,  they would not have to even pay for the racks or installation themselves but simply coordinate with the city.  Double bonus! C’mon Walgreens, keep on being my favorite store – lead the way and become a national retailer that has a corporate policy on bike-parking.  And by the way if you want some suggestions, I can name a couple of local bike-aware urban planners that would be more than willing to help you out – see  SteveCanPlan and  ThePlannersDreamGoneWrong.

Now, I’ve started the ball rolling for them by requesting that the city install bike racks on the sidewalk outside their entrance – you can do this too by filling out the form here – a page that has all the information any city business or citizen needs to know to go about getting a bike rack installed.  And Walgreens, if you’re reading, you should also checkout the links at the bottom of this page on the City of Chicago’s website – they describe best practices for businesses and bike parking, as well as all the specifications for proper bike racks and bike rack installation – i.e. the proper spacing required for effective bike racks.  As I’ve been writing this  post I’ve also decided that I’m going to steal an idea from  my favorite Chicago bike information resource – thechainlink.org  and start my own bike parking hall of shame – most likely with a weekly feature.  And yes Walgreens, I ‘m sure a few of your stores will be featured down the line.

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  • juanrcm

    Hey, I know the Mira Mesa Walgreens. It’s right by my dentist! Had no idea it was LEED certified.

    • http://www.dingdingletsride.com Samantha

      Guess they need to make their signage a little more prominent – ha!

      “Signage posted inside the store will inform customers about the features that make this location unique,” said Sesto. “We want people to feel good about shopping here and maybe even be inspired to live greener lives.”