The exception is at coffee shops, where staff readily point out spots where people can lock up. Even when there is no bike rack nearby, they offer alternatives like railings, signposts and trees. Why would baristas be aware of bike parking when the manicurist next door has no clue?
I had filed this away as a vaguely interesting sociological observation, only to have the implications crystallize in a recent discussion with other advocates. The topic was how to engage local merchants in efforts to improve bicycle infrastructure by adding bike lanes, bike parking, and traffic-calming measures—and removing street parking spots. This can be a tough sell. Understandably, some merchants are concerned at measures that seem to reduce access for their core customer base in the name of attracting some mythical unicorn of cyclist-consumers. As far as they know, “Not many people come here by bike.”
But it’s probably more than they think.
I am a cyclist too. But usually I don’t look much like the exuberantly dressed riders at Peet’s. Most of the time I ride in street clothes (often with bike shorts underneath); it is a relative rarity for me to wear my Lycra on the outside. When I walk into a shop, nothing really marks me as a cyclist. And so that merchant doesn’t know that cyclists are already part of his clientele—and would be even more likely to frequent that business if it were welcoming.
I’ve tried for years to be as visible as possible when I’m riding my bike. In traffic, surrounded by sometimes inattentive drivers, that visibility is a survival skill. Now I am working to make myself more visible OFF the bike as well.
Lately I’ve started carrying my helmet with me instead of leaving it with the bike, so that people can ask: Oh, did you ride here?
“Why yes,” I say, “I did. Hey, I didn’t see a proper bike rack out there. Any plans to put one in?”