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Monday, May 19, 2008

Chain Your Bike to the Convention Center, Get the Boot

posted by on May 19 at 12:24 PM

A bicycle-riding Slog tipper writes that last Thursday, he* was attending an energy conservation conference and discovered there were no bike racks available in front of the downtown Convention Center. Not wanting his bike to get stolen, he chained it to a railing—one he says seemed to be “out of the way [of] pedestrian movement in and out of the building.” But when he got ready to leave, the biker writes,

I went out to my bike, unlocked it, and as I pulled it away from the railing it gave a strong counter-pull. Confused, I looked at the bike and noticed that SOMEONE PUT A FREAKIN’ BIKE BOOT on my bike. No note, just a lock and cable around my frame. Assuming it was the convention center staff, I went inside and it took about 20 minutes for any staff person to know what was going on — to be able to say, “Oh yeah, security does that.”

After about half an hour, the bicyclist says, he managed to hunt down a security guard, who took the lock off his bike.


The two-wheeled menace

A minor inconvenience? Maybe. But completely out of step with Seattle’s supposedly bike-friendly ethos. “Here we are,” the cyclist notes,

in the city led by the mayor who has been preaching to all other cities in this country that we need to take the lead on global warming. And there I was, parking my bike at one of the locations most visited by people who don’t live in Seattle, attending an energy conservation conference. And here it is, bike to work month. So does the convention center call the city to request a bunch of free bike racks to be installed out front to show to the world that Seattle supports biking? No, they boot bikes.

A spokesman for the Convention Center says security are instructed to lock bikes only when the bike is blocking access, making it impossible to empty trash, or causing damage to the building. None of those circumstances seemed to be in play in our anonymous cyclist’s case, though, although of course I only have his photograph to go on. More important, the Convention Center could easily fix the problem, by simply increasing the number of bike racks. Given the choice between lugging a bike around, parking far away, or chaining it to a trash can, what cyclist wouldn’t choose the latter?

As it turns out, I’ve noticed this problem frequently myself. I often ride my bike to the gym at the convention center, and I’ve managed to identify exactly two piddly bike racks for the whole facility—a facility that attracts thousands of people every day. One is under the big glass awning (near the geometrical water sculpture) and one is in the underpass that leads to Union Street. (A spokesman for the Convention Center says he doesn’t know exactly how many bike racks there are, but points out one rack I was unaware of, in the Convention Center parking garage.) Used strategically, each rack could probably hold a total of four bikes. If you’re the unlucky fifth biker to arrive at a Convention Center bike rack on a busy day, you’ve either got to take your bike with you or risk getting the boot.

At no time is this problem more obvious than when the Convention Center hosts “green” events—like the Seattle Green Festival earlier this year, when bikers poured into the Convention Center by the hundreds. Although the Convention Center did provide a “bike check” service, plenty of bikers clearly weren’t aware of it (or weren’t comfortable leaving their bikes with an unknown Convention Center staffer. Here’s what the Convention Center looked like that Saturday afternoon:


Bikes on trees, bikes on garbage cans, bikes on every available railing.

What does the Convention Center have against cyclists? Nothing, the Center spokesman insists. “We really are aware that people do ride their bikes into town. There isn’t [a policy] that actually says we don’t want bikes here. We just want [riders] to chain them here, not here—that’s all we’re trying to say.”

So why not just install more bike racks? Money can’t be the issue. The city pays for all bike racks on public property (including sidewalks), so all the Convention Center has to do is ask.

Is it that bikes are unsightly? Maybe, but bikers have to park somewhere. Is it really better to have bikes clustered on trees and on heavily trafficked stairways than tethered safely to a bike rack tucked away from public view?

So in that spirit, Anonymous Biker has a suggestion. “Clearly, the solution is to have as many bicycles, preferably complete pieces of shit, locked to the convention center with whatever cables, locks, or other heavy-duty apparatus can be found. So what do you think, May 27th as “Lock Your Bike to the Convention Center Day”? June as “Lock Your Bike to the Convention Center Month”?

Think about it. At worst, the Convention Center will lock up your bike. And at best, a mass two-wheeled protest could convince Convention Center management to pick up the phone, call Seattle’s bike program, and get a dozen new bike racks installed all around the Center.

Are there other locations around town desperately in need of a bike-rack intervention?

* I’m assuming our anonymous tipper is a he because, well, his/her bike is mighty manly. I’ve sent him/her an email and I’ll correct if my guess was wrong.

RSS icon Comments



That's a pretty loud assumption for you, Ms. Barnett. Cheers for hypocrisy!

Posted by Mr. Poe | May 19, 2008 12:31 PM

Why are your blog entries so long?

Posted by Mike | May 19, 2008 12:31 PM


I mean the part I read about security booting the bike is hilarious. I didn't read the whole thing of course. I'm assuming the factual part was followed by a stream of nonsense and half-truths, but life is too short to find out.

Posted by elenchos | May 19, 2008 12:35 PM

But Seattle has PLANS to be "bike friendly". Trust me, there is no effort to actually BE "bike friendly". And if you have a plan for bikes then you just have to be green!!

Posted by Cato the Younger Younger | May 19, 2008 12:38 PM

elenchos @3, most people who read slog understand that you can't stand ECB, which is your right, but when you continually attack her not for what she actually says but what you believe she probably would say, it just makes you look like an asshole.

Posted by PJ | May 19, 2008 12:41 PM

I'm all for locking my bike to just about anything bolted down, and do, but NOT a handrail on a stairset. Should be common sense not to do this.

ADA (American's with Disabilities Act) compliance is a very, very, VERY big deal to some people - especially something like a convention center, city hall or courthouse. So before you go ahead and piss off one of the most powerful group of lobbyists around who would just as well ban bicycles from even being walked on city sidewalks, I'd work with the city to get more bike racks first.

Posted by Dougsf | May 19, 2008 12:42 PM

The protest could go one more step: people could take bikes they don't want to keep, old beater ten speeds, or even just bike wheels and frames that are junk, and lock them to the railings and trees around the Convention Center. And leave them. Don't even try to get them unlocked. If people have enough spare bikes for Ghost Bikes at accident sites, there's enough around for this.

Posted by Bill | May 19, 2008 12:43 PM

Seattle will become bike-friendly when more than HALF of the city council and mayor's office use bikes and bus lines to get to work.

Until then they'll just give it lip service.

Want change? Insist they provide and USE bikes to get to/from work and downtown events - and then you'll see real change. Otherwise, they'll just treat you as third class steerage.

Posted by Will in Seattle | May 19, 2008 12:48 PM

It's not as bad of a problem but I've been annoyed with the bike rack situation at the Roosevelt Whole Foods for years now.

Their main bike rack is underneath the elevator (that goes up to the Bartell area). On nice days this rack will be overflowing.

They do have a rack in the underground garage but who wants to bike down into the SUV world and deal with all that?

They finally put a new rack into the south end of the parking lot, but 1) it's not obvious to many bikers that it exists, 2) I've noticed that shopping cars often hide it and/or brush up against the few bikes there.

The landlord refuses to install any racks on the sidewalks on that square block. However, if you look at other places on 65th in the Roosevelt area, you'll see lots of rail-type racks. Ideally WF would install some of these but they refuse to do so. Check on the east side of WF sometime. There's lots of empty space that could easily accommodate a rail-type rack.

So I (and others) often lock our bikes to the few traffic signs right outside the main entrance. It may be slightly blocking things, but perhaps they'll eventually get the message that more racks (and/or better signage) would be welcome.

(And for comparison, check out the bike parking situation at the downtown Portland whole foods.)

Posted by stinkbug | May 19, 2008 12:49 PM

Security doesn't want the bike there, so they lock it down, which results in it being there longer that it would otherwise. A note ("Please don't park on the handrails.") would make the point and be less work for everyone.

Posted by pox | May 19, 2008 12:50 PM

He picked a lousy place to park - period.

Could I have an extra helping of entitlement with that, please?

Posted by Mr. X | May 19, 2008 12:53 PM

I have BEGGED that during our next Mayoral Debate that the moderator challenges the candidates to turn over their car keys for 7 days and be forced to commute by bike/bus and a limited amount of ZipCar to get around Seattle.

I wonder if that would encourage them to do something about transit options in Seattle. Yet, that challenge will NEVER be made and taken seriously. Mabye $10.00 a gallon gas will?

Posted by Cato the Younger Younger | May 19, 2008 12:54 PM

I LOVE the "Lock your (shitty) Bike" protest ... but honestly, we should give the Convention Center a couple more pokes to get some real, and real convenient, bike racks installed before we cause some havoc.

Erica, could you post about this again around June 15th to see if Convention Center staff have made any progress on getting racks?
If not, I'll cart my broken beater bike down and lock it to the door handles. :-P

ok, maybe not the door handles...

Posted by treacle | May 19, 2008 12:57 PM

elenchos - do you go to the Slog Happy events? If so, are you embarrassed by what a dick you are on Slog? I mean, it's one thing if you just want to be some random anonymous Internet dick, but it does seems like there's a bit of a community here on Slog (that you seem to be a part of).

So, it's a little puzzling to me that someone would be that much of a dick if, you know, they actually have met the people concerned in "real life". But, maybe you're just a dick at heart.

Posted by Just curious | May 19, 2008 12:58 PM


Maybe I am an asshole, PJ. Ever think of that? Maybe my posts are an accurate reflection of reality. Unlike some people I could name.

BTW, I already called 911 about that a fixie with no brakes in that second picture.

Posted by elenchos | May 19, 2008 1:01 PM

@14 Just Curious -- I think your comments apply to Mr. [sic] Poe too.. and remarkably, I have seen him at Slog Happy events.

I suspect that people who are true asshats are too iggerant to recognize their asshattery. Oh well.

Posted by treacle | May 19, 2008 1:01 PM

In my experience, the city has been responsive to me when I reported a site that needed more bike racks. You can find information about how to file a request here:

Posted by chaingrease | May 19, 2008 1:08 PM

The other question here is what authority is there for these people to lock up someone's private property? There isn't any. It's not illegal. There's no crime committed. But it's not authorized by law. There's an old tort: trespass to chattel. So sue the bastards.

Posted by Algernon | May 19, 2008 1:08 PM


I think you're the iggerant [sic] asshat. I also think I'm cooler than you. And smarter. And hotter.

Posted by Mr. Poe | May 19, 2008 1:09 PM

My bike got the boot at Westlake Center last Friday. Luckily there were like 5 security guards standing by the Starbucks where I locked my bike. I chose the railing next to the Starbucks to be as much out of the way as possible because I didn't see any racks in front of the mall.
The guard told me legally there's nothing they can do to the bike, they just boot them to let the bikers know there are racks on 5th Ave. There should be racks on Pine and 4th so we don't have to be informed of where the racks are.

Posted by Enigma | May 19, 2008 1:11 PM

#3, the entire article actually was good this time.

#14, ECB doesn't go to Slog Happy, so it's ok. That and you're taking his comment a wee bit too seriously.

I don't mean to be an ass, but this idea for a "protest" is supremely ignorant. Why is it that when some people don't get their way, instead of going through the proper channels, they decide they will obstruct something as much as possible like some kind of toddler throwing a temper tantrum?

Why does the tipper and ECB assume is it the Convention Center's responsibility to get bike racks? It took me 5 seconds to find this:

Racks are installed at the request of citizens and business or property owners or managers.

And this:

How to get a Rack

First review the rack location criteria above to determine if your location qualifies.

E-mail the Bike Spot Program with the:

1. Address of the proposed bike rack location.
2. The name of the business.
3. The name of the business owner or manager.
4. The day phone number of the business owner or manager.
5. Your name.
6. Your address and zip code.
7. Your day phone number.
8. And any other comments you would like to make.

If everyone who wants to take part in this "protest" would actually do something constructive instead of obstructive and email the Bike Program about having more racks installed, it would probably happen.

Ohhhh, but that wouldn't be clever!

Posted by w7ngman | May 19, 2008 1:17 PM

In fairness, it does look like Anonymous Biker chained up right in front of the main entrance to the Center (it looks like that crepe stand is in the upper left-hand corner of the pic). Not exactly "out of the way of pedestrian movement in and out of the building"; however, it is directly within the sightlines of the security desk inside, so perhaps not too surprising that he was caught.

...And isn't it odd that he just took a random picture of his bike sitting there before any of this occurred?

Posted by Matty Worth | May 19, 2008 1:17 PM


But w7ingman, you're forgetting the purpose of protest: it's someone else's responsibility to achieve your own ends! You know, the people who don't care? The people that aren't responsible? The people who shouldn't care? Yeah. Them.

Posted by Mr. Poe | May 19, 2008 1:22 PM

ECB, don't worry about riding your bike to the gym at the Convention Center anymore. It's closed. That place was a pit anyway.

Posted by rb | May 19, 2008 1:24 PM

"completely out of step with Seattle's supposedly bike-friendly ethos"?

I don't think so. Ever tried to park your bike at westlake center? It's had an anti-bike policy for over a decade, partly because it used to be a messenger hang out in the 90s before they drove them away. And it's not the only one that will lock your bike down even if you haven't obstructed any pathway.

Posted by Trevor | May 19, 2008 1:27 PM

He didn't take the pic before this occurred. He took it after he realize his bike had been booted.

Posted by Dan Savage | May 19, 2008 1:32 PM

@14 and 16 - Oh, stop. Snark is the language of the internet, get over it. Both Poe and elenchos are perfectly nice, charming people.

And I have to agree with Matty @22. That does not look like the most out of the way location. I suppose to an extent it's subjective, but in front of the main entry is definitely not "out of the way".

Posted by Hernandez | May 19, 2008 1:38 PM

I just re-read my last post and was a little cryptic I think, here's what I meant to say: Don't lock your bike to handrails. Handrails are to assist people walking down stairs. Many people require them. It is an aspect of public architecture that is very closely monitored and regulated.

Yes, more legal bike racks are needed, just about everywhere. Call or email the city until you get one where it is needed.

Posted by Dougsf | May 19, 2008 1:43 PM

#21 Right on.

"Clearly, the solution is to have as many bicycles, preferably complete pieces of shit, locked to the convention center with whatever cables, locks, or other heavy-duty apparatus can be found."

Why is the first response always a ill-advised and half-assed protest? How about this?

"Clearly, the solution is to call the Convention Center Staff and City Transportation department and ask them to install more racks"

Posted by gillsans | May 19, 2008 1:53 PM

@27 I was going to say "Oh for fuck's sake this is Slog, not high tea at the Empress, polite discourse is not guaranteed." But yours was nicer. Add me to the asshat column I guess.

I have nothing salient to add to the bike topic. Though I'm in the middle of reading "True Enough" so I'm wondering if this post is an illustration of selective perception. Or strong consonance.

Posted by PopTart | May 19, 2008 2:02 PM

I don't expect "polite discourse" on Slog, I'm just wondering aloud if some of the people who are assholes here are actually assholes in real life. And I would think the whole Slog Happy thing would make people less inclined to be assholes to people they had actually met.

But, that's just me. I only like being an asshole to people I hate.

Posted by Just Curious | May 19, 2008 2:23 PM

Yet as w7ngman @21 proved, I was totally right. ECB's post was wrong and useless, and it was a waste of time to read past the part where she reported that the bike was booted. All the correct and helpful information was in the comments.

Posted by elenchos | May 19, 2008 2:31 PM

lotta angst around this post today...I think its got something to do with ECB's initials; understandable. lame and boring though.

MPLS just got one of these on our bike highway, the lock up is free and encouraged...go ride your bikes lameos!

#6 had a good point though. they enforce that here too. Thats what handrails are on stairs for.

Posted by ZWBush | May 19, 2008 3:19 PM

@26: My bad, Dan; at first glance I mistook the "boot" for his own lock.

I do want to add my congrats to the other posters (especially w7ngman @21) for fleshing out what should've been ECB's approach to this piece: namely, how to get more bike racks installed in all areas where they're needed.

Maybe you guys should be hiring your "reporters" from the Slog Happy events.

Posted by Matty Worth | May 19, 2008 3:22 PM
Think about it. At worst, the Convention Center will lock up your bike

I think you have serous lack of imagination; What if they impound the bikes? sure it won't matter for the junk bikes, but what if they get a few good bikes too, or make it SOP in the future?
@18 might have a point for the first picture, but for the second picture with bikes ON the stairs the point made by Dougsf @6 (and @28) is much stronger, and they are depriving the owner of the hand rail use, so it would seem @18's point applies as well in the other direction. I sure wouldn't want to be the owner of one of those bikes if someone falls on the stars.
What if the city tries enforcing traffic laws for bicycles for a while to send a message to the rebels? How about mandatory bicycle licensing? and once you can identify the bikes owner, how about parking meters for bike racks? hey, someone has to pay for the things.

Posted by Epimetheus | May 19, 2008 3:26 PM

@21 - Not only not clever, but totally not Seattle! Don't you know that we're incapable of 'working with the system' because The System is totally trying to keep us down, man!! We can only protest = stamp our feet and hold our breath till we turn blue, just like any spoiled toddler anywhere. Yeah, that's right -- Seattlites = spoiled toddlers. Why? Because it's more fun that way.

Posted by merry | May 19, 2008 3:40 PM

Look, you assholes, I'm the only real asshole around here, and I'm not too happy at the way you're usurping my role here.

Posted by Fnarf | May 19, 2008 3:40 PM

@35- The guard at Westlake told me legally they can't do anything to your bike but boot it. He even encouraged me to continue locking my bike there because I would know there's two locks protecting my bike. Unless the bike is truly in a dangerous spot for pedestrians or traffic I'm pretty sure it's safe from impounding.

Posted by Enigma | May 19, 2008 3:58 PM

Fnarf, you're only an asshole to WiS.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | May 19, 2008 4:03 PM

No, sometimes he does that with other people too.

Posted by Will in Seattle | May 19, 2008 4:10 PM

I have never been an asshole to WiS. He has received only treatment far more gracious than he deserves.

Posted by Fnarf | May 19, 2008 4:14 PM

@37 What, is this an asshole dictatorship? Perhaps we should have some sort of Slog asshole election. Watch out for hanging choads though.

Posted by PopTart | May 19, 2008 4:57 PM

They like me! They really like me!

In all seriousness, I probably wouldn't want to write for Slog. I prefer to just kvetch in the comments.

(For what it's worth, elenchos and Poe are both prefectly nice)

Posted by w7ngman | May 19, 2008 4:58 PM

Why is the European Central Bank worried about bikes?

Posted by King Rat | May 19, 2008 5:53 PM

Death to anyone who chains a bike to a railing.

Posted by umvue | May 19, 2008 6:07 PM

I've never thought Poe was an asshole. He says asshole things to be funny and over-the-top... elenchos seems to just enjoy being an asshole. Since I won't be going to Slog Happy events, I'll just have to take your word that he's not a complete dick in real life.

Posted by Just Curious | May 19, 2008 6:36 PM

For you, I AM A DICK. Always. Go away. You are not funny. You are boring.

Posted by elenchos | May 19, 2008 7:09 PM

Just Curious is above teh Slog Happy. Please make a note of it.

Posted by Mr. Poe | May 19, 2008 8:14 PM

There should multiple bike racks on every fucking street. I just don't get it - new construction projects have parking spot minimum requirements for cars. Streets are lined with parking spots for cars. We have parking lots and parking garages up the ass. How fucking hard and expensive is it to put bike racks everywhere - by businesses, parks, homes, hospitals, museums, etc!?! We spend all sorts of money on infrastructure for bloody cars and guess what...people drive. How about we spend some doh on bike infrastructure so people ride? And while the city's at it, fix the shitty streets!

Posted by Dance Fever | May 19, 2008 10:19 PM

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