Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Racks and Hard Places

So, you invest in a high quality locking device, a chain and good lock, maybe even a U-Lock, too. You’re prepared to use some security-best-practices like being sure to minimize spaces where leverage can be applied and include both wheels when lacing the chain through the frame as you lock your ride to the bike rack. But . . . uh . . . there’s no bike rack to which you can fastened your high quality chain and U-Lock. Hummmm.

This is a bike friendly town; even “Bicycling Magazine” says so. There are bike lanes and paths and most people avoid running into you. The topography is great. Weather is outstanding, especially this time of year. Even when drivers fail to signal turns and deliver close calls because they are texting a significant others it’s a great place to ride because it’s pretty damn nice here. Problem is, when you get where you’re going you can’t settle into whatever you intended to do because of uncertainty that your trusty ride’ll still be waiting for you when you’re done doing whatever you intended to do.

The Center for Problem-Oriented Policing offers a lengthy and informative guide regarding bike theft and security (Bicycle Theft, Guide 52 (2008)). They identify bicycle theft as a prime example of opportunistic crime and place initial responsibility on bike owners. If you don’t secure your bike with an adequate device (or secure it at all) you have enhanced the opportunity. Beyond that, having an adequate place to secure the bike is essential. Ok . . . so what? Having an adequate means for securing a bike becomes significantly less useful if the place to secure it is inadequate or missing. Both HOW and WHERE matter.

There are lots of different WHEREs  for securing bikes ranging from task-specific bike racks to what is referred to as “flyparking” which is using signs and non-bike-specific fixed objects. You might presume that an actual rack would be the superior option, yet within the set of racks variability is vast. Shape, size, construction and location all bear upon their usefulness. Sometimes, flyparking is the better option. Often, it is not. Once a rider settles upon a locking-best-practice the focus falls upon where to lock the bike. The above mentioned Guide 52 talks extensively about Locks and Parking Facilities. If you care about security, read it.

Before I go on, care enough to read it . . . Guide 52 can be read online or downloaded as a PDF or as an Ebook.

So, now what? Well, recently, as I began to pay more attention to where I secure my bike, I thought about the qualities that make me feel better about leaving my ride unattended. There are several variables here, too. I’d like to park in an area of high traffic, but not where it is so high that a thief becomes anonymous. A rack within sight of the entrance to a business makes me feel better. Being able to see the rack from inside the business feels pretty good. Sturdy construction improves my state of mind. If I am forced to flypark the same concepts apply. Can someone pull that sign out of the grown or lift my bike off of it? Would someone be carrying a saw to fell that tree?

One place I visit frequently is my local grocery store, the Publix in Tower Plaza at SW Archer and Tower Roads. There are two racks, one each to the left and right of the store’s entrance, where they are out of the way, but readily visible. They are not especially sturdy racks; bolted together and to the concrete. I’d prefer immovable and heavier, but in every other way they’re adequate for the time I spend shopping.
Publix at SW Archer and Tower Roads
The oldest Burger King in Gainesville is located on NW 16th Avenue. Its bike rack offers considerable security of mind because of location, construction and visibility. Not everyplace you go can meet these standards, but as a starting point I tend to judge every bike rack by this one. The rack is in close proximity to the business and its entrances, of heavy duty construction, set in concrete and readily visible from inside. How cool is that! Give the King a Crown!
Burger King, NW 16th Avenue
Inside Burger King, NW 16th Avenue

I’ll continue to look at bike security more carefully and critically, if only to make myself more aware. Will I stop going to places where my bike’s security is reduced by poorly placed or nonexistent racks? Possibly. . . if an alternative exists.

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