Destination Reached: Bike Parking & Locking

Understanding where and how to park your bicycle once you have reached your destination is as important as learning to ride safely to your destination as a utility cyclist. If you are riding your bike to complete errands or if you are using your bicycle to commute to work, knowing how to find bike parking and how to lock your bike will provide you with confidence and security as a cyclist.Increasingly, businesses and employers are acknowledging the benefits of providing bicycle parking for patrons and employees. Not only is bike parking more space-efficient than car parking, but also encouraging community wellness has far-reaching tangible benefits. The Portland Bureau of Transportation even offers to install free bicycle racks in businesses parking lots upon request. However, bicycle parking is still far from perfect in many neighborhoods, so knowing what type of structure to look for can allow you to secure your bike in a variety of scenarios.

Image Credit: Sunshine U-Lok
According to the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (APBP), the rack element, or the portion of the bicycle rack that supports the bike frame, should have two points of contact and should allow the cyclist to lock the frame and at least one of the wheels. The inverted U and the post and loop designs are ideal rack structures. A comb-shaped rack, or a rack that is a series of vertical posts designed to receive one wheel of the bike, is not ideal, as it is difficult to reach the frame of the bicycle with a U-lock, and the bikes are not as stable in this type of rack.It may not always be possible to find a bike rack where you want to park. There are a few key elements that you should look for if you are stuck in a no-bike-rack situation. Of course, your lock needs to fit around the object and your bicycle frame, so common backups are parking meters and sign posts. However, be sure that the post is very firmly rooted in the ground, and that the top of the post is too large to allow a potential thief to lift the bike and lock over the top of the sign. Finally, avoid any areas that would put your bike or others in harms way; do not block sidewalks, entrances or exits.
Image Credit: Cycle Toronto
The lock or combination of locks that you choose is also critical to ensuring that your bike will be where you parked it upon your return. Where you park your bike is a factor in what level of security you need, but it is better to be safe than sorry. The three common types of bike locks include chain locks, U-locks and cable locks.
Chain, U and Cable Locks

  • Chain locks: The most impenetrable type of lock is the chain lock, including the On Guard Beast and the Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit. These locks are constructed with hardened steel and include serious locking mechanisms.
  • U-locks: These locks get their name from the shape of the steel shackle, which fits neatly around the bicycle frame and, in most situations, one wheel and the bike rack. U-locks provide ample security in most urban settings and are easier to manage than a chain lock. Cyclists can choose from various U widths and lengths as well as different levels of locking mechanism security. Many U-locks are also sold in combination with a cable, which can be used to secure the wheel that does not fit into the U.
  • Cable locks: For more secure areas, such as a monitored garage or a remote beach resort, cyclists can use lightweight and flexible cable locks. These locks are also great for securing bikes on a car rack while traveling and in combination with a U-lock in urban areas. While cable locks are generally the easiest lock to carry and the least expensive lock to purchase, they are also the easiest locks to cut.

Bike parking and bike security does not need to be a deterrent to riding a bike for transportation. Check with your local bike shop or advocacy group to find out what type of lock they recommend, and ride by different grocery stores and shopping areas in your neighborhood to find out where the most accommodating bike parking is located. And, if they dont already provide it, let your favorite establishments know that bike parking would be great for you and great for their business.To find out more about installing useful bike parking, refer to APBPs Bicycle Parking Guidelines.

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5 thoughts on “Destination Reached: Bike Parking & Locking”

  1. Logan says:

    Great round-up!

    I would also suggest folks check out purchasing locking skewers for wheels & seat-posts. Cable locks on the wheels are effective but clumsy to implement & carry. I’ve tried this method and also noticed how much time it took to complete this task every time I parked. With locking skewers all you need is a u-lock.

    Another great tip I learned from a messenger turned mechanic is to put beeswax & a ball bearing into the recesses of the bolts on the bike. The wax takes too long for would-be thieves to extract.

    Cheers! 🙂

  2. I think that automated locking systems (with tokens) installed on bike parking racks would be a far better idea for bike safety.

    bye 😉

  3. Paul S. says:

    @Bike Parking Racks.

    Great idea, just difficult to execute.

    I’ve seen these years ago when I was a kid. They did not work well. It’s possible something new would work much better, but there would have to be some serious work to make it better than it did when I last saw it..

    Also, the biggest problem with the token system is that people park their bikes all over the place. Unless such a system was similarly ‘all over the place,” you still gotta bring a lock with you. Ubiquity would be the key to making it worthwhile.

  4. Commuterjohn says:

    Pitlock make locking skewers and bolts to secure all the parts of your bike to the frame and use a special socket tool to remove them.
    I use them on my bikes and find them 100% effective.
    It is always preferably to lock your bike with 2 locks to avoid the bike being picked up and twisted of it’s lock, but with Pitlock it makes locking the bike with one good lock a much more secure option if you don’t have the an ideal place to lock the bike using 2 locks.

  5. Matt says:

    Something I learned from a bike messenger friend in NY is to put a regular padlock through the chain rings and over the chain, it adds a little time if they try to get your bike and ride away.

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