Bike Parking Hall of Shame: Good Bike Racks Stuck in Bad Locations

Hello winter-weary readers! It’s Friday and that means it’s time for another entry in the Bike Parking Hall of Shame. This week the focus is on stores that have good bike racks but render them unusable by burying them behind shopping carts or other equipment. A big thanks to one of my readers, Matt G. for sending in the following photos and descriptions of the Home Depot store on North Avenue  (the photos further down, from the Target store on Elston,  were taken by me).

As you can see by this picture from Matt, The Home Depot does have good bike racks – the narrow wavy style racks.

Home Depot - bike racks

Unfortunately,  the store doesn’t seem to understand that in order for patrons to use the bike rack, there has to be room for their bikes.  This means that shopping carts and other gear should not be piled up around the bike rack, preventing cyclists from being able to lock up their bikes.

This is what Matt saw about two weeks ago:

As I rolled up, I had to negotiate a moat of frozen, icy slush impregnated with discarded cigarette butts. Yuck. Strike two was the enormous shopping cart and cables carelessly abandoned on one side of the rack. When bike racks are blocked by shopping carts, it is a sign of contempt for the idea of bicycle commuting itself. Strike 3 was the melting ice from the roof dripping on to my back as my prepared to lock and unlock my ride.
These factors conspired to create a truly depressing experience. On the positive side, however, once I survived the crossing of the moat of gray icy slush to get to the rack itself, I was on dry land. The Home Depot deserves credit for apparently clearing the snow from last week’s blizzard from the general area surrounding the bike rack.
Home Depot bike racks

Matt told me that he was back at the store yesterday and while the ice in these pictures was gone, there were “about 500 shopping carts surrounding the bike racks.”

The Target store on Elston Avenue has a similar problem.  The Target stores in the Chicago area in general, get very good marks for providing good quality bike racks (bollard style) within 50 feet of the store entrances – note their ratings on Steve Vance’s bike parking survey. Unfortunately, bollards are smaller and not as highly visible as larger wavy bike racks and are easy to miss if they are at all hidden.  If the store allows employees and/or customers to pile up their shopping carts around the bollards, then cyclists can’t see the bike parking and may not even realize those are actually bike racks. One or two signs indicating where the bike parking is located might solve this problem by calling attention to the fact that these are parking areas and not cart corrals or locations for trash bins.

A bollard-style bike rack at the Target on Elston
A bollard-style bike rack at the Target on Elston
Hidden bike parking at the Target store on Elston
Can you find the bollard? It’s behind the carts. Guess the cyclists couldn’t find it either.
Obstructed bike racks at the Target store on Elston
Two more obstructed bike racks at Target

Below is a picture of the fourth or fifth bike I saw that night locked up to something other than one of the bollards at this Target store. The bike rack would have been a much more secure and much safer place to lock up one of these bikes than say this signpost right along the front drive of the store.

bike locked to a signpost at the Target store on Elston
If you’re a business that has good bike parking for your patrons, first let me say “Thank You!!”.  May we also ask that you keep the area around your bike racks clear of equipment or debris so that your cycling patrons can actually lock up their bikes to your bike racks? If you’ve installed racks that sit back in a corner or alcove, perhaps you could install a sign indicating the location of the bike parking as well.  If your cycling and non-cycling customers are aware of the location of the racks, the racks have a better chance of  staying clear and full of bikes.
If you are a business and you have yet to install bike parking, check out the links to information on bike parking laws in the city of Chicago, as well as information on best practices in bike parking, on my Bike Parking Hall of Shame landing page.
If you’re a cyclist riding around the city of Chicago and you come across a business that lacks good bike parking, take a picture or two and send them my way (  I’ll be sure to feature you here in our weekly series.

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