Posted by Becky Jo (Columnist) on February 11th, 2020 at 9:20 am
“I chose safety and my burrito.”
I was sitting outside a taqueria, waiting for my to-go order as we do, and I saw, or rather mostly heard, a kerfuffle over bike locks. I wasn’t quite close enough to see exactly what the scenario was for myself, and as it was two people getting a bit heated, I wasn’t about to physically insert myself to get details, but the scene was:
Guy One comes out. Goes to get his bike, and finds another bike is locked to it. Stands confused.
Guy Two comes out, says something about Guy One being a jackass and not leaving any space on the rack for anyone else, so he locked his bike to Guy One’s bike.
Guy One says things.
Guy Two says things back.
They part ways grumbling.
I apologize for not having a photo or close-up of this exchange, or even how exactly this happened – I chose safety and my burrito. But it got me thinking of all the ways cyclists lock-up their bikes.
To research, I started shooting photos of people’s bikes on racks: how they lock-up their bikes, what it looks like when it gets crowded, the different locking-up styles, different locks, even how differing techniques seem to emerge at different times of day, and so on. I even occasionally go to the Bakery Blocks and they have bike storage on different floors, but it’s just a walk-in-closet-type-thing that’s open for tenants to use. I’m always a visitor, and I honestly don’t know how to use one of the lift-up locking racks, so I always lock-up outside. If you’ve gone to Cup & Bar on NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, they have a few wall-mount bike racks just on the walls. Those of you who’ve been doing this awhile can imagine how curious it is to me, a newcomer, to find all of these different options and styles of bike parking etiquette. For instance, I went to a bike-social function a week ago after dark, and I noticed everyone took in their lights… so I figured I better do the same.
After all I’ve observed, I have even more questions than answers:
- Do you lock front or back, or center? I see people who are definitely rear-lock, and wheel, if they can get it. I see plenty that are front and/or mid locks, and they both seem to have made a decision about this choice of where to lock. Why?
- What’s the etiquette around a crowded rack? I’m certainly not going to lock my bike to yours… that was an extreme observation I hope, but what do you do? How many to a rack? Should bikes be parallel to the U-shaped racks or perpendicular, and jutting into the sidewalk? What do you do when there’s no place to lock-up? Are street signs fair (legal) game?
- When/why do you decide to take in your lights with you? Do you lock your helmet to your bike?
And this may or may not be related/applicable but I have questions about bike storage on-site. Like the Bakery Blocks open-closet type things, or these lockers at Fred Meyer that look like they could be a scene in the latest Netflix thriller. Some of which are open with locks on them.
- Do you use bike lockers?
- Do you use an on-site bike closet? (Do they have a more official name?)
These all seem like things that are simple to figure out, but I feel like when one really starts observing behavior, there’s a lot of idiosyncrasies. These may seem like silly questions to some, but the last thing a new person to any venture wants is to bring down the wrath of the already initiated. Please enlighten me lest I have someone lock their bike to mine and keep me from my burrito.
— Becky Jo, @BeckyJoPDX
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Becky Jo lives in North Portland with her husbeast, four children, two cats, and has packed more fabric into their modest house than anyone will ever know. While she knows her way around a sewing machine, cycling is new, filling her with great wonder, confusion, and occasionally panic.