It’s Not About U

Two practical bikes jammed onto a U-rackWhile I am nearly delirious with pleasure over the steady proliferation of sidewalk bike racks in LA, I do regularly encounter a problem with them: the standard U-rack does not make it easy to attach a practical bike to it. A naked bike, no problem. But, if you have a basket, or a saddlebag, or panniers, or any combination thereof, it’s pretty hard to lock your bike to the usual U-rack, or the nearly-identical “staple” rack. You have to angle it out, thereby either hanging your rear wheel mighty close to the curb, right where drivers often overrun the sidewalk as they try to parallel park; or, you have to block part of the sidewalk itself, which is not very civil.

And if you are parking two practical bikes, as shown in Gina’s photo of our bikes at coffee this morning, it becomes a real contortion act. There were plenty of bikes at the coffeehouse today, and we didn’t want to take up two racks for two bikes.

This happens to us all the time. We use our bikes as much for shopping as for dining or just pleasure riding, and we often carry extra clothing for changes in the weather. Not to mention tools, locks, pump, et al.

A practical bike is a bike you can use in any weather, day or night, for whatever task you may want. And that means some sort of luggage carrying capacity.

Old rack, new rackBut when you’ve got bags on your velo, those two-bike U-racks become single parking spaces. So all of a sudden we aren’t really getting so many bike parking spaces as we’d thought. At least not if we’re using them as they were meant to be used–for shopping, chores, work, or other life tasks that require us to carry more or less stuff around.

So here’s my “Someone Oughta” statement: someone oughta make an offset sidewalk parking rack such as I show in my cheesy little illustration here, so that it would be easy to park two practical bikes to it, and thus make it easier for people to ride their bikes for shopping trips.

I thought, I really thought, I’d seen such a design online, but I’ve just looked at the websites of six different parking rack manufacturers without seeing anything similar. (If you know of a manufacturer who makes one, please post their URL in a Comment below.)

Maybe the LADOT could commission a run of these for the city’s use, and–why not?–sell them to other cities for a little spare cash to use to support our own bike parking program.

It’s not a radical idea–just a bent metal tube–but it could make practical bicycling a lot more practical than it presently is in LA–and that, my friends, is a radical idea, and one we’re all trying to promote!

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