City Chain Your Bike to the Convention Center, Get the Boot
posted by May 19 at 12:24 PMon
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.