Bike Parking Hall of Shame: Riverfront Plaza on Elston

Happy Friday everyone! You made it through the week just in time for another installment of our Bike Parking Hall of Shame. This week’s entry is a bit of a mixed bag, since we’ve got some great bike parking mixed in with some abysmal bike parking all in the same location.

Last week I stopped by MicroCenter on my way home from the office one night to pick up some cables for Mr. Ding. MicroCenter is located in a large strip mall on Elston Avenue in Chicago — one of the major diagonal streets that cut through the city. ¬†Along with MicroCenter the Riverfront Plaza has a PetSmart, Jo-Ann Fabrics, The Room Place, the Strack & Van Til grocery store, as well as another 5 to 10 small shops and of course, a Starbucks. It’s not a small strip mall. As I rode into the parking lot from a side street, I looked around to see if there were any parking islands in the giant parking lot with bike racks on them. Nope, there were none. So I rode towards MicroCenter and found a handy, covered bike rack in front of the store! I parked and locked Oma to a rack that actually could handle an adult-sized bike. Kudos to MicroCenter!

Bike parking at MicroCenter in Chicago

After I was done with my shopping at MicroCenter, I unlocked Oma and walked down the sidewalk towards the grocery store to pick up a few items. On the way past more stores, I spotted another bike rack similar to the one outside MicroCenter. Unfortunately, no one had thought enough of us cyclists to shovel it out.

Riverfront Plaza Bike Racks covered in snow

Interestingly, right around the corner from this bike rack was a bench framed with outdoor ashtrays for smokers. It was quite clear of snow and very easily accessible.

Riverfront plaza  - smoking benches

As I made my way to the Strack & Van Til grocery store, I noticed they had two sets of bike racks. One poor, useless grill rack, and one perfect wavy “U” Rack.You can guess which one I locked Oma to.

Riverfront Plaza - perfectly useless grill-style bike rack

This grill rack is too small for most adult-sized bikes to fit into. If the bike is small enough to fit in between the grills, the rack is still too close to the wall to allow enough room for a bike to slide into with enough room to lock some part of the frame to the rack. And it’s backwards – that bar in front makes it even more difficult to get a bike through the grill if you even wanted to try. A great example of a useless bike rack.Next to this rack though was the following very usable bike rack.

Riverfront Plaza great Wavy-style bike racks

As you can see I did enough shopping to load up both panniers on Oma before starting my ride home. As I rode out of the parking lot I rode over by the PetSmart store to see if they had any bike racks on that end of the mall. Turns out there was a bike rack. Unfortunately it was one of those dreaded tiny grill racks, and installed in an almost unusable spot.Riverfront Plaza - PetSmart Bike Rack

Yep, there aren’t many bikes that could actually fit into that rack, and since it’s up against the wall, only one end is free for an adult bike to lock to — as this cyclist has done.With that pillar right there, more than one bike would be a tight squeeze.

I’m not sure who is responsible for the bike parking at Riverfront Plaza , the property management company or the stores themselves. If it’s the property management company I want to say thanks for getting it half right – now how about shoveling or plowing the rest of your bike racks and getting something useful over on the PetSmart side of the mall. If bike parking falls under the purview of the individual stores then a big hand goes out to Micro Center as well as Strack & Van Til. The rest of you have some work to do.

If you’re a business owner in Chicago and are interested in improving the quality of your bike parking, the city of Chicago has a lot of resources available to you, including some free consulting.You will find links to their various programs and information here on my bike parking page, as well as additional information regarding overall best practices in bike parking.

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