Tag: 50 feet rule

Bike parking distance being put to test in Tucson

Work is underway to implement strict (but appropriate) rules about where Tucson, Arizona, businesses must install bike racks. This news comes from Tucson Vélo. It first came to my attention in May when I was creating and expanding my definition of Bike Parking Phenomenon A, which I now call the “50 feet rule.”

3 of4 bikes are parked on hand rails within 20 feet of this Seattle Whole Foods entrance while one bike is parked more than 50 feet away at the City-owned bike rack.

I left this comment on yesterday’s article from Tucson Vélo:

“Distance is more key to bike parking usage than the quality of bike parking fixture. Bicyclists prefer to use an easily removable sign pole that is closer to final destination than lock to a permanent bike rack further away.”

Some businesses there are complaining that devoting room in front of their business to bike parking removes space available for selling goods. I encourage everyone to support rules requiring bike parking within 50 feet. If installed further away, it simply will go unused.

I’ve written about distance parking many times:

After new bike racks were installed within 10 feet of the Logan Square Chicago Transit Authority entrance, no one parks at the original spots. See how the foot makes a difference?

Successful bike parking

UPDATE, 04-23-10: I start to further address distance in the discovery of “Bike Parking Phenomenon A.” Also on my Master’s Project website.

Not every concept, skill or tool can be further and further simplified. Does anything really take just 3 steps?

1. Set it, 2. Forget it, 3. No third step! (This article is about bike parking, not Ron Popeil’s Showtime Rotisserie!)

I believe I can simplify bike parking. Here are my two rules to have successful and well-used bike parking:

1. Put bike parking as close to the front door as physically possible. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen bicycle riders use a substandard sign pole or tree instead of a high-quality bike rack because the bike rack was an additional 20 feet from the front door. UPDATE: As Dave Reid points out in the comments below, close parking increases security. Additionally, I’ve now written about the phenomenon where people lock to inadequate fixtures when high-quality bike parking is nearby, what I call “Bike Parking Phenomenon A” or the “50 feet rule.” Every foot makes a difference!

The bike parking in this photo sits only 20 feet away from the front door to a popular Chicago, Illinois, restaurant.

The bike parking in this photo is too far away from the store entrance for bicyclists to consider using it.

2. Choose the right bike rack. How do you know? Give bicycle riders a bike rack that’s easy to use and secure (i.e. don’t let the bike rack be the weak point in the bicycle’s security).

Six u-racks (also known as inverted-u, or staple racks) line the sidewalk in front of Kuma’s Corner in Chicago, Illinois.

If these two tips aren’t good enough, read through the online brochure, Bicycles at Rest, from the Capital Bike & Walk Society, in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

Bad and great bike parking

How can you tell the bad and good of bike parking?

By inspecting a few examples! Check out my photos and descriptions of good and bad bike racks and parking spaces. I took all photos of bike parking in Chicago, Illinois, except where otherwise noted. I’m the expert because I’ve installed hundreds of bike racks for my employer, where I also developed an innovative web application, and I’ve locked up to to so many bike racks over the past four years I’ve lived here.


Bike parking is best installed within view of a business entrance, and within 50 feet. If the bike parking is too far away, bicyclists tend to lock their bike to the closest object which isn’t as suitable as a heavy duty U-rack. The U-rack is a great bike rack: it supports the bicycle at two points (no kickstand or juggling necessary) and and users can lock the wheels and frame easily; square tube is best. See the action at Kuma’s Corner, in Chicago, Illinois.

Near the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota, bicycle riders will spot these decorative, but still useful, bike racks in front of a large office building. The post and ring style can still accommodate locking the front wheel and frame. Users should use a second cable or lock to grab that rear wheel.

Indoor bike parking is always the best! This surface-mounted U-racks (arranged in a parallel series on rails) and the wall-mounted bike rack provide multiple options at the Skokie Yellow Line station in Skokie, Illinois. When installing wall-mounted bike racks, always install surface-mounted bike racks because some bicycle riders cannot lift their bikes.

See plenty more examples on my Flickr. UPDATE: Check out John Luton’s collection, Bicycle parking 101.


It’s hard to tell, but this round-tube wave rack is installed too close to the curb at the base of this wall, preventing a bicycle rider from using a U-lock to grab the bike rack, front wheel and frame. Most bike rack types should be installed at least 3 feet from any obstructing object.

The grill rack (typically seen at elementary and middle schools) is the worst bike rack available. Bicycles fall over. The design prevents users from locking their frame and front wheel to the bike rack. The tubes for locking have a very narrow diameter and thickness. This photo shows the odd ways people use the grill rack – thankfully, everyone locked their bicycles correctly, but not according to the bike rack’s design!

A garbage bin is not a good place to lock a bicycle. The bicycle will likely be in the way of pedestrians or people who want to throw away garbage. Also, as you can see in the photo, bicycle riders can only lock the frame to the garbage bin. This particular location is a strip mall in Chicago, Illinois, that does not provide any bike parking for the thousands of customers each day (a small portion of which would like to ride their bicycles).

There might be more examples of bad bike parking than good. See more photos here. UPDATE: Check out John Luton’s collection, Bicycle parking 101.