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Businesses And Bicycles

By Cindy of Stone Marmot

May 10. 2009

I usually do two approximately 60 mile bicycle rides a week. Towards the end of each ride, I like to stop for lunch somewhere, since, after riding 60 miles, I'm really not in the mood to cook something (Actually, I'm seldom in the mood to cook).

A major consideration in choosing a place to eat is whether it has a safe place for me to lock my bicycle. You may be surprised how difficult places like this are to find.

As a minimum, I want a place where there is a solid pole or similar structure that I can run my bicycle cable or chain around and still go through both wheels and the frame of my bicycle. Running the cable through both wheels and the frame of the bicycle is the minimum necessary to secure it. After all, how many times have you seen a bare frame or just a bike wheel locked to a post? With a typical wheel with tire on a good bike costing at least $200, there is much incentive for thieves to take just the wheels.

The trend in today's architecture is to have very thick (like 18 to 42 inches across) support pillars or no pillars at all for the overhangs outside these restaurants or strip malls. The thick pillars are often too big for a bicycle cable or chain to wrap around and still go through both wheels and the frame of a typical bicycle. Even the light poles in parking lots are often thick concrete now instead of metal or have very tall concrete bases.

The pole should also be such that the potential thief can't just lift the bicycle and chain over top the pole or break the pole.

The place for locking the bike should also not be such that the bike can be easily hit by a motored vehicle. Spaces in parking lots are usually not too good as drivers can easily back their SUVs or trucks into the bikes, causing hundreds of dollars in damage to the bicycle and little or no damage to the motored vehicle. The motorist may not have even realized he hit something.

The bicycle should also be easily visible from the windows of the restaurant. It is not necessary to sit in the restaurant so that you can always see your bike, but things are less likely to happen to the bike if others in the restaurant can see the bike, especially since anyone near the bike would not know if one of those by the restaurant windows is the bike owner.

Those things many people think of when someone mentions “bicycle rack,” that is, those contraptions made of usually metal bars that you are expected to stick a bike wheel into, are not bike racks. They are actually potentially very damaging to most bike wheels. Bike wheels aren't designed to withstand a lot of pressure from the side. If I find myself forced to use one of those things, I never stick any of my bike wheels into the bars of those racks. I always try to set my bike just outside one end of the rack and lock to the rack there.

Ideally, there is also some cover over the bike to protect it from rain. Here in Florida, most of the year this isn't a big concern. But from the end of June to the beginning of October, our rainy season, it is not unusual for the day to start out perfectly clear, suddenly cloud up, rain extremely hard to 10 to 15 minutes, and then be clear again. I have often ducked into a restaurant that had a safe covered place for me to lock up my bike and had an early meal while waiting out the rain.

A relatively new problem I've been encountering a lot recently is that all the good places to potentially lock up my bike are already taken – by restaurant employees!! More workers are riding bicycles to their jobs, which is good! But I would think the restaurant could provide a safe place in back for employees to put their bikes and leave the choice spots in front for customers. Many restaurants have a fenced in area in back where they keep their dumpsters and other stuff. This seems like a better place for employees to lock their bikes. I have been forced to find another place to eat at least three times in the past three weeks because of this problem.

Over the years I, and other bicyclists, have noted the places that have safe places for us to lock up our bikes. These are the places that get our business. These are the places we tell other bicyclists about and take them to. And more people are riding bicycle these days out of necessity or environmental concerns. With the economy as slow as it presently is, the last thing a business wants to do is drive away potential customers. So, business owners, think about how you could easily accommodate us.

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