Office bike parking explained for the non-superstitious.

How are things with bike parking there where you work? Around my way, things haven’t been perfect. But that’s good. If the whole world were perfect I would have nothing to write about, would I? Then this would be one of those boring bike blogs with happy nice photos from Holland contrasting mean ugly photos from England, and my only readers would be neckbeards like Sheldon:

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Okay. Office bike parking. Some employers are getting it right, like Google in Amsterdam…

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…and another tech company, Quirky, with their new office in New York.

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Bike parking where bike riders want it! Really, how hard can it be? Quite hard it seems, judging by the prevailing confusion surrounding the issue. One way of cutting through the confusion is with a simple analogy.

Temple goers in Asia have a shoe parking problem. To preserve the temple as a rarified space where prayers are answered (Krishna, give me more money!) the shoes in which you have been traipsing in evil are demonstratively left at the door. It’s a slight sacrifice, but you get a reward: (Yes grasshopper, here is some money).

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Now, some offices, it is true, are rarified environments. The Queen’s. Rumpole’s. The Athenaeum Club:

Interior of the Library of London's Athenaeum Club

But since the rise of creative industries and the ballooning of the so-called “creative class” that we make up, offices have become humble affairs. If not literally a converted factory, your office probably has concrete or rubber flooring. In it, you want to wear practical clothing, and keep your shoes on. That way you’re ready for spontaneous trips in and out, dressed in Rapha, Outlier, Mission Workshop, or now Search and Slate—you know, like an urban guerilla. It is quite inconceivable that an employer would ask you not to wear shoes in the office, or ask you to dress like a dandy. It would not be efficient.

You only have to think of the inefficiencies inherent in outdoor bike parking, bike sheds and bike basements to see why bikes should be treated like shoes. If I can wheel (or even ride) my bike to my desk, I will never waste a second locking it up or removing my pannier bags from it. My trips to the printers or public library all will be faster. I’ll be able to make it to more meetings elsewhere in the city. I’ll be like the Road Runner, Flash Gordon and Speedy Gonzales all rolled into one.

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I’m sure there are other benefits, like my alertness after a healthy commute or whatever. The proofs for those take time to absorb. My point with this blog post can be tested in 5 or 10 minutes. Just time me with your stopwatch as I run an errand.

bikes and shoes left outsideIn conclusion, if you are creating a rarified office environment, like the Queens, where people come in the hope of having prayers answered, then by all means exclude bikes, shoes, and practical clothing. But if you are creating an efficient work environment, let bikes be an asset to your operation by bringing them into the building. Not only is this the cheapest solution in the short term, but it’s the one that will make your staff happiest in the long term.

6 Comments

  1. Daniel Oakman says:

    What is fascinating is how often you hear people describe racks of bicycles (or even a single bike locked to a pole) as unattractive, messy, or even ugly. (i.e. at my workplace). A huge wasteful carpark, on the other hand, is a work freakin’ art.
    Totally baffling. Some kind of deeper anxiety at work, clearly. Someone should do a PhD on it !

  2. nikdow says:

    Here in Prague, a terrible place to try and ride a bicycle, there is almost no-where to park in the street. So I’ve been taking my bicycle inside and getting myself thrown out of lots of places. However, when I visited the AU consulate the building reception were very friendly and let me take my bike up in the lift! On my second visit, they let me park it in reception while I waited for the consular staff to come down.

    When I was being thrown out of a large department store, I pointedly asked “where is the bicycle parking” (lots of people speak english). Much to my surprise there was a rack not far from the front door, which I was happy to use. It was empty of course. On an average day I see 2 or 3 other cyclists.

    The apartment building I’m in here forces you to take your bike into your apartment because there is no parking for bikes anywhere. This is despite the perimeter block leaving unused, relatively secure space behind the building. Prague is built as though bicycles don’t exist.

    • Steven says:

      I’ve never been there myself and admit to not even having a mental image of the place. Perhaps it’s like Naples: no leadership, no police and no social contract.

  3. ryan says:

    At times I treat my bike as the equivalent of a pram or trolley. It takes up the same amount of space and I can wheel it though supermarkets or the library piling up the panniers with items to buy / borrow. I’ve taken it into uncrowded places such as banks, cafes / pubs, the other day the mobile phone shop. No-one’s ever expressed any concern or annoyance in these settings. My bike is however unloved on trains (even if not crowded / outside of peak hour), people glare and mumble 🙁

    • Steven says:

      Ryan, I think you are a champion. If you have a friend who can surreptitiously photograph you, I could make great use of those pictures!

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