Thursday, April 14, 2011

On bike racks and friendly merchants

I've been using my bike, La Chica, as much as I can for everyday errands in order to rack up the mileage on the Bike Garden Challenge, and in doing so, I've learned some interesting stuff:

1) I tote up a lot of mileage this way, which leads me to suspect that when I'm not on my bike, I'm burning a lot of fossil fuel just do some pretty inconsequential stuff*;


2) Safe, non-paint-scratching places to lock your bike are not to be taken for granted.

About this last thing, I'd like to give a shout-out to those merchants in town who have paid heed to the desperate pleas of commuting cyclists. Like this very nice man--let's call him "John" (since that's what it says on his name tag)--a store director at Market Street:

Upon being told by a cyclist (me) that the bike racks were put in too close to the store after their recent renovation (making it impossible to hook a wheel over the rack in order to lock the bike), he promptly had the racks re-set at the proper distance. (Seriously, he had them re-set within a week.) There are two racks at the store, and they were both set too close, and he had them both fixed. This is the way they look now:

Notice that I can loop the front wheel over far enough to put the lock through the frame. And yes, yes, I know that I should really lock the back wheel up as well, and blah, blah, blah. We live in LBB, people, and I was only running inside the store for a few minutes--my point here is that I could do that if I wanted to because the rack is set up properly.

I can imagine that this actually cost Market Street some money, since the racks were set in concrete (as all racks should be). And yet, when a customer explained what the problem was, John took care of it. He didn't say (either out loud, or as far as I know, to himself) "Silly hippy cyclists! There aren't that many of them, anyway. What's the big deal?"

Instead, he took me at my word that it was a problem and fixed it right away.

Every single time I ride my bike to Market Street now and lock up at the rack, I smile. Every single time. I also tell all my friends about it. That's a lot of customer goodwill, my friends.

When I don't shop at Market Street for groceries, I'm just around the corner at our neighborhood store, Lowe's. This shop has been a mainstay in the neighborhood for many, many years, and for just as many of those years, we who rode our bikes to the store had to lock them to posts along the breezeway. Recently the store underwent renovation, however, and when the dust had cleared, here was what we found out front:

Chapeau to you, too, Lowe's.

Finally, though I don't have any pictures to show you, I recently asked the people at my favorite prairie park, Lubbock Lake Landmark, if it would be possible to move the existing bike rack from the parking lot on top of the hill, where it was out of sight, down to a place that was closer to the entrance of the visitors center, where bikes could be more easily monitored. And guess what? The last time I was there, that is exactly what they were in the process of doing. I love those people. Seriously love them.

Compare these examples to a local megabookstore (whom we shall call MBS) and mall (hereafter called SPM). On a few occasions, I've found myself riding to MBS for this or that, only to find that there isn't a bike rack anywhere to be found. This leaves me in the awkward position of having to lock it to the only available structure in the vicinity, which happens to be a handicap parking sign. For a variety of reasons, this makes me squirm, not the least of which is that I think it is actually illegal to do it.

So a couple of times, I've asked the clerks at MBS to ask their management to put in a bike rack, to which they always reply, "Oh, that's the responsibility of the mall owners."**

The last time they told me this, I went looking for the SPM owners, and found their office, hidden in dark, labyrinthian recesses of the mall. I walked in with my helmet and my sack, with the MBS logo stamped prominently on it, and said, "I'm here to put in a request for a bike rack."

The SPM receptionist, who was very, very nice***, took note of the sack and knew immediately just where I wanted that rack to be located. She said, "Oh there used to be one there, but it got removed during construction, and just hasn't been put back in yet."

Yet? Yet? The construction of the new MBS storefront was completed, what, two years ago? I'll tell you what, y'all provide the rack, I'll be down there on Saturday with a couple of friends and an impact drill with a concrete bit, and we'll put that rack in for you. Better yet, I'll get John from Market Street to arrange it.

We'll even paint it Empire Green to match the MBS flagship colors.

The receptionist did point out that there were two bike racks on the mall premises, and she showed me on the map where to find them. I only went looking for one, and here it is:

What is wrong with this picture? Discerning cyclists will know that 1) it is tucked away, at the back of the mall, out of sight (a perfect opportunity for thieves to have their way with your bike, at leisure) and 2) it is too close to the wall. In this situation, one has to turn the bike sideways to get some purchase on the matter (notice that this renders the rack useless to any other cyclists who might want to use the lonely rack):

Also, please notice that I did a little better job of locking up, owing to my worries about the location of the rack.

So to summarize:

1) Market Street, Lowe's, LLL = smiles and good will when I ride up = loyalty.

2) MBS and SPM = not so much.

To be fair, perhaps the People Who Matter at SPM simply are not aware that I'd like a bike rack at MBS. I'm not sure how many people I have to tell it to in order to get to the Top Person In Charge of Putting In Bike Racks. Perhaps I've been spoiled by my experience with Market Street, where I only needed to say to a clerk, "Hey...," and the next thing I knew, an entire store director was listening to my concerns, taking them seriously, and doing something about them.

And in return, I know where I'm doing my shopping.

*Most days, this is around 6 miles, but I've even had some days where I've ridden 15-18 miles, just doing errands.

**Yes, but don't you think that if MBS, which is the really, really, really big 800-pound gorilla on the block, said, "Gee, a bike rack would be nice," that SPM would scramble to put one out there for them?

***Actually, she was very helpful and kind, though I didn't get any sense that any immediate action in re bike-rack-putting-in was going to occur, owing to the fact that whoever was supposed to be in charge of such things was, literally, out to lunch.


  1. wow, I want some bike friendly merchants like that! :(

  2. I wonder if you post this on the SPM Facebook page and your own if that would result in action? Just wondering???? The Ant

  3. Ant--Not a bad idea, since you'd think they might put it together that someone who blogs and is on FB could just as easily shop online, where there is no need for a bike rack at all.

    If they were to do something that inspired customer loyalty, on the other hand...

  4. WTG, Market Street! And Lowe's That's brilliant. I had noticed that about their (MS) bike racks before.

    And there was a bike rack in front of MBS before construction? Really? I'm totally wracking my brain (ha, ha) but can't remember it. I used to hook my bike to any available railing when I went to SPM, and it always made me squirmy, too.

  5. See this is one of the great things about blogs. You just educated me on the power of the people (which can be limited at times) and bike racks. I never knew so much about them. Living 20 miles out in the rural countryside, I don't get to run many errands with my bike, but we do ride all over our neighborhood. Thank you so much for the info Susan. Now, I'll look for bike racks wherever I go.~~Dee

  6. It's called customer service!! More shops are going to need to remember to satisfy their customers if they want to stand above the big box stores. Great Article.

  7. hats off to YOU for taking the time to ask the management to improve their bicycle parking options. as you've shown us, just because they have a bike rack on the premises doesn't mean it's properly sited or convenient to those who need them most. speaking of bike racks... are you familiar with david byrne's creative improvements on their typically hum-drum form?

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