Bike America in South Florida offers an incredible array of awesome bikes. But they also know how important it is to lock those bikes to a secure bicycle parking rack. That is why they decided to become a dealer/reseller for the Bike Rack Co.
Gary Mercado and Steve Barnes, the owners of Bike America, own shops in East Boca Raton, West Boca Raton, Boynton Beach, West Palm Beach, Quiet Waters Park, Coral Springs, Sunrise and Pembroke Pines.
When you walk into one of their stores, unlike some other bike shops, you are immediately impressed with the cleanliness and sparkling array of all types of bikes, from Fatboys to Cannondales. They cover the bicycle gamut: road, mountain, cyclocross, commuter, comfort, cruiser, fitness, BMX and the hot new popular electric products.
“We have bikes for everybody,” said Steve.
Each employee wears a Bike America shirt and the bike repair area is up front, so you can see how well it is organized and the care the crew gives to each bicycle. All of that attention to detail gives visitors an impression of professionalism and pride in their work.
There’s also a complete selection of bicycle accessories and clothing for men, women and children. The company also offers bike repair and bike rentals. In addition, there’s a nice selection of helpful guides on their site – www.bikeam.com such as “How to Pick the Best Bike for You.”
Steve and Gary owned a hotel in Fort Lauderdale and after selling the hotel, started this chain of bicycle stores and repair centers.
According to Steve, the two are fitness buffs and “leisure cyclists” who always incorporated the health benefits of bicycling into their exercise regimen.
“Cycling is a fantastic way for anybody of any level to get fit and get moving,” he said.
The two also know the importance of bicycle parking. Bicycling is now growing as an activity around the country. In fact, some experts call bicycling the “new golf” now embraced by the large swell of retiring baby boomers with aging knees who want to stay fit and active.
As bikes fill the streets, more bicycle parking racks are required
While bicycling is booming, but Steve and Gary agreed there still seems to be a tremendous shortage of proper bicycle parking racks for the public. That’s why they are now offering bike racks from Bike Rack Co.
“There’s still an obvious need for an easy way to find bike security,” Steve noted.
Locking a bicycle, especially one that costs a few thousand dollars, to a tree or sign post is risky for bike owners for a number of reasons.
For one, there has been an upsurge in bicycle thefts by low-level criminals who now roam the streets looking to make a quick buck with a stolen bicycle. The FBI estimates more than 1 million bicycles are stolen every year.
To get to a bike, thieves have no problem cutting down a tree.
Clever crooks are also known to create “sucker” poles where they will dig up a sign that is a popular parking space for bikes. Then will then place the sign back into the ground loosely. An unsuspecting bicyclist will lock their bike and then walk away. The thieves wait anxiously around the corner, yank the pole out of the ground and then take off with the bike.
While in the hotel business, Steve said people would constantly come up to him and ask, “Where can I lock up my bike? Where is there a safe place?”
Bike America is a Bike Rack Co. reseller for Wave and U-Shaped bicycle parking racks that can accommodate up to 15 bicycles. They can also provide themed bicycle racks in any shape or with any artwork such as coffee cups, slices of pizza etc.
One item they are very excited about is the custom bike rack (see the Bike America custom bike rack above). With these custom and artistic bike racks, a business or organization can create a bicycle parking fixture with their logo or whatever artwork their imagination can come up with.
Steve says this has two benefits to a town – for one, it provides more secure parking for bicycles. The second benefit is the ability to add more aesthetically attractive features to a downtown area or sidewalk.
“Adding a bike rack is obviously great, but a bike rack with art is even better,” he said.
For businesses, a custom bike rack with their brand and logo is also like providing a mini-billboard that is visible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Research shows providing a commercial bike rack in front of a business is a savvy marketing strategy. More than 50% of business owners say it increases their visibility to the public.
A study funded by Portland State University found that 67% of business owners say commercial bike racks increased foot and bike traffic in front of their location. Researchers also found that consumers who can easily reach a business by bicycle also tend to visit more often. Over the course of a month the study reported bicycling consumers will spend more money than a customer in a car.
As for bike paths, a study by the New York City Department of Transportation found that protected bicycle lanes lead to a 49% increase in retail sales at local businesses.
Steve and Gary both acknowledge that as the popularity of bicycling grows, the importance of adding more bike infrastructure and bicycle parking is critical. This is where bicycling groups and bike shops can become strong advocates and work with their local municipalities to ensure there is an adequate number of bicycle parking racks downtown, parks, stores, restaurants, etc.
There’s nothing sadder than seeing a youngster or adult come into a bike shop to purchase another bike after their bike has been ripped off. Or a bicycle that is damaged because it was not supported properly with the right type of bike rack.
Bicycle parking can also be a great way to cut down on traffic. If you make it convenient for people with adequate and protected bike lanes and bicycle parking, they will ride their bikes downtown to a store or restaurant. Another great benefit is to provide bicycle parking racks for events where traffic is always heavy and city streets are clogged for hours. Cities are finding great success with offering alternative means of getting to concerts or arts festivals.
According to the league of American Bicyclists, there is an 800% increase in parking availability when you replace two car parking spaces with a bike corral.
If you are a bicycling enthusiast or someone who is just curious about the sport and you happen to be in the South Florida towns listed above, check out Bike America. With their spotless décor and incredible variety of bikes and bike products, you will be impressed. It’s like visiting the Neiman Marcus of bicycle shops, but with very reasonable prices. And they will be glad to answer any of your questions, no matter how minor or how technical.
Steve, Gary and their crew know bicycles and they know the different levels of bicyclists. They want their stores to be seen as a resource for everybody and not just the elite bicyclist.
One thing a person is sure to know after they do visit, these guys are excited about the benefits of getting a person out of cars, off their feet and enjoying a spin around town on a bicycle.
Photo Caption Above: Gary Mercado and Steve Barnes, owners of Bike America, with a custom bicycle parking rack
There’s something about bicycling that creates a sense of community. Perhaps it’s because when people ride around town on a bicycle, you can actually see them as a real person instead of a shadow hiding in a big motorized box.
Maybe it’s also because all bicyclists are propelled by their own sweat and muscle power. There’s nothing elitist about that.
It was this allure of a common man with a broken bicycle that inspired Jack Hairston of West Palm Beach, Fla., to assist a bicyclist one day in front of his house.
Jack went into the garage, got some tools and started working. He fixed a bike and made a friend.
After that, several people came around Jack’s house seeking help with their bikes. Or advice and help on other matters.
Jack then realized how much of a need existed for just a simple bicycle for many families as their primary mode of transportation. He started fixing up old bikes and giving them away. He eventually filled up his entire backyard with bicycles and parts.
“I just wanted to make the community a little bit better,” he said.
A few reporters heard about his donations and covered the story. One gave him the moniker, “Jack the Bike Man.”
Fast forward 16 years later and Jack now circulates more than 5,000 bicycles from an enormous industrial warehouse, filled to the ceiling with bicycles of all types for his children’s bicycle charity. The facility also has a repair area, office, store and racks upon racks of tires and parts.
The bikes keep pouring in, he says. Every morning people will drop off a handful after cleaning out a shed or a garage. He has four full-time employees and a huge team of volunteers who then repair the bikes or dismantle them for the parts.
All year his team gathers bikes, repairs them and sells them. This activity is mainly conducted in anticipation of one day every year, just before Christmas, when hundreds of children get the opportunity to own their own bicycle for free. Jack and his crew will give away more than 1,000 bicycles that day.
For the event (he keeps the date confidential to limit the size of the crowds) he has a huge group of volunteers who help him. Many are local retirees. They match the children with the right bike for their size and then adjust it so it rides perfectly.
Jack the Bike Man works with churches and non-profit groups and counts on them to help determine the low income families and children who are genuinely down and out. He’s had people drive up to his warehouse in Cadillacs and Escalades asking for bikes, but prefers to reserve the gifts to the underprivileged who can’t afford a bike, let alone a car.
At times, when impoverished families can’t come to his place, he’ll go to theirs. One time he made a delivery of 30 bikes to children in Indiantown. He had information about the children prior to his visit so he was able to find the appropriate bicycle for their height and weight and he even added a tag with each of their names on the bike.
“We try to do it just right,” Jack said. He pointed out that the children really when thrilled when they saw a bike with their name on it. Made it a more personalized, special experience for them.
It’s not just children and teens who receive Jack’s bikes. If a homeless person or a grown-up from a halfway house comes up asking for a bicycle to get around town, Jack offers them one. As long they spend time working in his shop to repair or clean bicycles.
Some youngsters just walk up and say, “Hey, give me a bike.”
Not so easy. Jack tells them first they will need to work on three bikes. One is for the warehouse. Then Jack asks them if they have a friend who might need a bike. The second bike repaired will be for that person. The youngster then gets to keep the third one after he’s earned it.
Jack also makes a point to teach children how to maintain their bicycles and make simple repairs.
“The idea is that they will then take care of it a lot longer,” he explained.
Generally once a year Jack the Bike Man receives coverage by the local newspapers and TV stations on the day of his massive bike giveaway.
But when you visit his warehouse, you can see that it takes quite a bit of effort every day of the year to make this happen.
Space is always a concern. Jack is constantly on the move, trying to find adequate storage for all the bicycles that are donated. He once kept them in his backyard, but then people kept hopping over the fence and stealing the inventory to sell for drugs.
He’s moved around town a few times. Sometimes he finds cheap space in places, but they are generally in areas with high crime rates. One day, he was attacked after receiving a call that people were breaking into his warehouse. He suffered a broken nose, broken wrist, lost a few teeth and a pair of glasses.
But that didn’t stop him.
Raising money is the big challenge
While people donate many bikes, many of them need repairs. That requires a paid staff. Jack also buys thousands of new tires every year and thousands of bicycle helmets. You can repair most old bikes, but you really can’t repair worn out tires.
The kids need helmets. As any bicyclist knows, it can be dangerous out there. Florida streets are some of the worst in the nation for injuries and the state leads in the number of bicycle deaths.
Jack said, “I’m just tired of all these (bike) accidents.”
The charity also supplies locks. There’s nothing worse than seeing the joy in a kid’s eyes when he or she gets a bike, only to have it disappear when the bike is stolen later.
To generate funds to pay for all this, Jack sells many of the bicycles.
He’s got quite the inventory too. Not just used beat-up bikes, but some genuinely great cycling treasures. There’s a whole row of cool vintage bicycles, like a 1950 Raleigh or an antique Huffy. While there, a repairman was seen refurbishing a gorgeous, classic Schwinn.
There is also an array of quality mountain bikes, beach cruisers and some high-end racing bikes – even with titanium and carbon frames. Fantastic stuff!
Another way Jack the Bike Man brings in revenue is to provide bike repair services. He’s open seven days a week and a steady stream of supporters continually bring in their bikes to be fixed.
No one including Jack knows how long he will keep this up. He’s certainly touched a lot of lives. While there are plenty of hardship cases for bikes in a county of 1 million residents, Jack has also donated hundreds of bicycles to people in places like Haiti or Guatemala. People around the world all have a need to get around.
He’s also touched the lives of many people who have come to work for him in the warehouse. In a way, it’s become a home for people uncertain about what to do with their lives. Jack welcomes them in and gives them a job to occupy their time while they sort things out.
“What else would I be doing?” he asked. “I might as well help the kids. I’m broke so I don’t have any money to spend on anything else. This keeps me busy.”
As bicyclists know, there’s something magical about a bicycling community.
Jack the Bike Man, who you could say has a wizardly look about him, has been on one heck of a ride providing wheels and pedals to thousands of people who can’t afford a bicycle. There certainly is something enchanting about that.
To learn more about his non-profit bicycle charity, to donate a bike or to buy a bike (again, there are some real finds in his shop), go to www.jackthebikeman.org. His number is 561-832-0071.
(Top Photo: Pictured above is Jack Hairston (left) and Patrick Halliday of The Bike Rack Co. The Bike Rack Co. donated three bike racks to the “JackTheBikeMan.org” charity.)
Bike thefts are on the rise. Bikes are an easy target for street thieves. Placing bike rack parking in a highly visible location can deter thefts. So can a huge pair of eyes.
First the bike rack parking strategy. Thieves are always on the lookout for easy prey. That is their nature. If they see a bike locked to a fence in back of a business or sitting behind a fence in an open yard, they are going to strike.
The solution. Secure, sturdy bike racks. Placed in highly, visible locations.
Sure, it may be easy for some customers to lock their bike somewhere behind a business. Attach it to a water meter or a fence or a tree.
But when that customer’s bike gets ripped off, they are not going to be happy. No business wants unhappy customers. No one wants an unhappy customer who vents his frustration on social media and tells all his friends how his bike got ripped off behind Cindy’s Cappuccino and Cupcakes Shop. In their mind, Cindy’s is no longer the place to go.
But what if Cindy installed a wave bike rack for five bikes in front of her business? Less than 50 feet from her front door. In line of sight for people sitting down to have a caramel cappuccino and coconut cupcake.
Wouldn’t that create a pleasant and welcome experience for bicycling customers? Wouldn’t a wave bike rack attract bicyclists to park their bikes in front of Cindy’s Cappuccino and Cupcakes Shop? And since they are now parked, why not stop in for a cup of coffee before they venture elsewhere or when they return.
Not only is bike rack parking good for bicycles, they’re great for businesses. Consider this as well – you can fit about 18 bikes in a single car parking area. That’s like adding a convenient way for dozens of customers to frequent your business. And bicyclists are a tight knit group. They are going to tell their friends about the bike rack parking at Cindy’s coffee shop.
However, there still is the problem of stolen bikes. Perhaps you can’t locate bike rack parking right in front of your business. Or perhaps, you manage a university where there are hundreds of bike racks and still there are hundreds of bike thefts.
Arizona State University for example, reported that 503 bike were stolen on campus in one year. Repeat that same scenario across hundreds of universities in this country alone.
Most bike thefts go unreported. The FBI estimates the real number of bicycles thefts is about one million annually. That’s indicative of a MAJOR crime wave.
Put a pair of eyes overlooking bike rack parking
So here’s one more strategy to consider. If you can’t put a live pair of eyes watching the bikes from a storefront window, consider adding a poster with a big pair of eyes staring down.
In a two-year experiment, the security manager at Newcastle University in England placed a poster with two huge watchful eyes looking over nearby bike rack parking.
Researchers who participated in the experiment reported that thefts at the bike racks dropped a whopping 62%. More than a three/fifths decrease. That’s huge.
Conversely, bike racks where the eye posters were not located, saw an increase of 63% (how’s that for a coincidence?).
Okay, we’re going to say it – “the eyes have it.”
Doesn’t have to be an eye. Why not use an “electronic eye” and place a camera with a sign over the bikes? A big sign. You don’t have to tell the thieves this. But you could try this approach without even hooking up the camera to a computer monitor or recorder. Make it a fake eye.
Now, with visible, sturdy bike rack parking in plain view coupled with a pair of eyes, on a poster or in a webcam, you have a major deterrent to bike theft. The bikes are no longer easy prey.
While thieves are getting greedier and more clever with their lock-cutting tools, police are also getting more vigilant. So are groups of bicyclists.
For example, in New Orleans, there’s a Facebook group called Stolen Bikes NOLA that posts pictures of stolen bikes and more brazenly, mug shots of arrested bike thieves.
In fact, acting on tips, this group has even tracked down houses that served as chop shops for stolen bikes and reported them to police.
There are also many Twitter sites devoted to posting stolen bikes and recoveries. Like Stolen Bikes Indy here. A fantastic use of social media.
Groups have also met with police to make sure they pay attention to this growing trend of walking away with someone’s else’s bicycle. Again in New Orleans, advocates have asked police to tighten up their bike sale laws.
For example, if someone sells a bicycle to a bicycle shop, all the shop owner has to do is ask for a name and address. Imagine how many “R. U. Kiddings” and “GoodLuck N. Kathchinmes” wrote down their names and disappeared.
Bike advocates want the shop owners to photocopy a driver’s license or photo ID as well. Put some teeth in that requirement.
Another suggestion is to ask police to conduct stolen bike stings from time to time. They usually know where the thefts occur (or tell them). Thieves generally return to the same spots for easy pickings. Nail them in the act.
Ironically, in one town, a thief brought in a bicycle to a local bike shop to sell, only to discover the bicycle was owned by one of the employees who just reported it stolen. Thank you very much.
Bicyclists are fed up. There is something really personal when someone steals a fellow human’s bike. I imagine in the Old West days, it was similar to stealing a horse. People get attached to their bicycles. Thieves care less and will take a very good and expensive bicycle and dismantle it for parts…and a few measly bucks.
Fight back. Get your town and local businesses to install commercial-grade bike rack parking. Put eyes on those bike racks. Be sure the police have officers dedicated to tracking down bike thieves. Organize fellow riders to watch for missing bicycles.
You worked hard to acquire a bicycle that is a perfect fit for your needs and tastes. These strategies work in stopping criminals from deciding they want to own that bicycle as well.
People for Bikes, Advocacy Advance and other groups are drumming up support for an important piece of the federal budget that will help bicyclists and this country move away from dependence on oil and cars and open the way for alternatives.
That legislation is aptly called the Transportation Alternatives program (TAP) and is part of the Department of Transportation MAP 21 highway funding bill.
Like any item in the federal budget, this expenditure has its supporters and its detractors.
There is no question the country’s highway system needs repairs. Bridges need to be refurbished, highways expanded, etc.
But the purpose behind the Transportation Alternatives program is to fund projects that move people around that are not just automobile oriented.
In case anybody has noticed, this country certainly has plenty of automobiles. According to People for Bikes statistics, there are FIVE vehicles in the US for every FOUR drivers.
With America’s banking system, it is very easy to get into a car. Some car manufacturers offer leasing rates for $150 a month or less.
Owning a car is a great resource for citizens who now have access to more options for employment and education.
Congested highways are extremely wasteful
Unfortunately, all those cars also create gridlock on American highways. In 2001, the average American spent 64 minutes daily in a vehicle.
According to People for Bikes, in 2009, congested highways wasted nearly FIVE billion hours of productive time, burning nearly FOUR billion gallons of fuel. Talk about inefficiency.
What causes that congestion? Consider this – 76% of workers drive to work alone. That means there is a massive number of huge metal boxes, mostly empty, filling American highways every day.
So, some advocates for the highway bill say all of that money should be spent on repairing and expanding highways.
And they say those Transportation Alternatives program funds for bike and pedestrian infrastructure should be cut. Allocate those funds to build more roads.
It is motorists – truckers and commuters, who pay the transportation taxes anyway, they claim.
But here’s the big catch. If you expand the highways, with all the car owners in America, you are just going to create bigger traffic jams. There will just be more people sitting alone in their Fords and Toyotas, filling up the roads. This time instead of six congested lanes, there will be seven or eight.
Transportation Alternatives program offers other solutions that work
That is why there is a thing such as the Transportation Alternatives program – to seek strategies to replace this motorized madness.
Think about all the congestion that can be reduced by adding more bike lanes to cities. Build it and they will come. Ask most people if they would rather pedal a bike to work than sit in a car crawling in traffic, and they will choose the bicycle.
Europe gets this notion. In some major cities such as Copenhagen or Amsterdam (photo above), as much as 50% of the working population rides a bike to work. Imagine if you put all of those people into a car. What would happen in those cities? Actually, not much would be happening, because all those people would be spending countless hours stuck in gridlock.
In 1990, the average urban American drove nearly THREE times as much as a European living in or near a city.
Yes, Americans have a love affair with their automobiles. Every other commercial on television is for a car. But that love is getting to be overwhelming.
Many people don’t want to hear the climate aspects of automobile use. In a nation with low activity rates, there’s also a huge health benefit to bicycling as well. Let’s set aside those points for now. Consider the economic benefits of bikes versus cars.
One mile of a road costs approximately 1,300 times more than the construction of one mile of a protected bike lane.
You can also imagine what it costs to build one mile of a rail or subway line.
Why not try a different approach? Saturate major cities with protected or adequate bike lanes, safety features at intersections, and plenty of bicycle parking racks. See what that does to reduce traffic and congestion.
What will an extra lane of a highway do? Waste gas. Create more gridlock. Keep consumers stuck in cars instead of working or spending money at local restaurants and shops.
What’s included in the Transportation Alternatives program benefits bicyclists
Here are some of the types of programs that are funded by the Transportation Alternatives program. The key here is that these projects are decided at the state level with matching funds. Local citizens have input in determining the best use of those funds.
For pedestrians and bicyclists, the money can be applied for sidewalks, walkways, curb ramps, bike lane striping, wider paved shoulders, bicycle parking racks, bus racks, bike and pedestrian bridges, new or reconstructed off-road trails, etc.
There are many success stories. For example, in Miami, Fla., a bicycle and pedestrian path connected Dadeland South with Dadeland North to Metrorail stations. The project involved the construction of a trail, bridge, lighting, signage and fencing that helped facilitate the rail’s bike and ride program.
That project spurs more use of mass transit and less reliance on motorized transportation. This results in fewer cars on already crowded Miami streets. That’s certainly a win and a smart use of those funds.
Imagine if there were parking lots located outside major cities connected to bikeways leading downtown? Commuters could park their cars (or ride a bus) to these locations. Then they could rent a bike from a bike sharing program or take their own bike and pedal a mile or two into town. Think how that would alleviate downtown congestion and make a city more walkable….and enjoyable.
Transportation Alternatives program funds can also be used to convert abandoned railroad lines to trails, the popular rail-to-trail projects that are gaining popularity across the US. (Think about it, the land is already available. It’s not used. Easily converts to a bike trail).
Opponents of TAP complain of dollars spent on bike paths running through meadows, etc.
They are missing the point.
Bike tourism is becoming bigger along with the growth of the bicycling culture. Build a very cool bike path and people will come. Towns can promote this amenity to attract tourists. Opening up bike attractions also attracts locals who will spend their money at businesses nearby – restaurants, shops or bike repair stores. These bike paths, which just replace rail lines, are relatively inexpensive to build and last forever. What a great way to spur economic activity (and healthy activity).
For example, the 25-mile High Trestle Trail in Iowa is a huge rails-to-trails success story.
Transportation Alternatives program dollars are not only available to local governments, but also to regional transportation authorities, transit agencies, public land agencies, tribal governments and school districts.
Research shows fewer kids today ride their bikes to schools. Think how schools can use this money to encourage more youngsters to hop on a bike. Maybe create a new protected bike path. Or install some cool-looking custom bike racks shaped like dinosaurs or school mascots, whatever.
This would certainly help with the inactivity/obesity problem facing young people today AND with all the congestion caused by moms dropping off and picking up their kids.
Several groups are pushing hard to generate support for the Transportation Alternatives program. The challenge for bicyclists and pedestrians is that they don’t have the same lobbying muscle as say the construction or auto industry. So it’s a struggle to keep that allocation intact.
You can download a tool kit from Advocacy Advance with details about the Transportation Alternatives program and how to persuade your fellow citizens to support it.
People for Bikes put together a very simple form you can fill out, complete with a ready-made letter than can be sent to your representative. You can find that here. Takes seconds. Could be the easiest way to help the bicycle movement in a big way.
Europe has gone bicycle and mass transit and that system works.
If America was really smart, the order for funds in the transportation bill would be reversed, with the billions going for bike and pedestrian infrastructure and less for highways.
There’s a gigantic resurgence of bicycling in this country. More and more effective expenditures for moving people around such as the Miami bike trail to the Metrorail are coming to the forefront.
Get your fellow bicyclists to contact their congressman to secure these Transportation Alternatives program funds and continue advocating different modes of transportation for our jammed cities and towns.
Success will help pedal the way to more success.
The FBI says that in the three seconds it takes you to read this, a bicycle is stolen in the US.
With the proliferation of bikes in America, especially the high-end, expensive types, thieves are now constantly checking every bike parking rack and other areas for easy pickings. (Be sure to watch video below).
Many are savvy on how to cut or break a lock quickly and arm themselves with tools that can get through chains, trees or even the most expensive locks.
The inherent problem with bicycle theft is that the loot also acts as the getaway vehicle. Leave a bicycle unlocked in front of a store and it can literally disappear in five seconds.
One major problem is that most bike owners right now are still making it too easy for the thieves. They either don’t lock their bikes to a bike rack or lock them improperly.
It would be great if all bicycle enthusiasts got together and just made bikes an unwelcome target. Here are a few tips on how you as a bike owner can fight back and protect your possessions against these malcontents with no respect for bike owners.
Ways to secure your bike properly to a bike parking rack and other anti-theft tips
– Rule No. 1, always lock your bike to a sturdy bike parking rack. As we said, it takes seconds to steal one and a bicycle conveniently comes ready-made as a way to flee the scene quickly. Read first-hand accounts from thieves. They will tell you they watch locations where people think they can just park their bikes for a second and run into a store. Then they strike.
– Get the right type of lock. Most experts out there will tell you that a U-lock is the best lock and the hardest to break. Crooks have learned how to cut chains and cable locks. The tools they need are easily obtained. They also have learned how to break padlocks. (Here’s a photo of one prolific bike thief in Portland showing off his bolt-cutters. The police know him and continually arrest him).
Be aware, even the strongest U-lock can eventually be cut. That’s something to consider if you are leaving your bicycle attached to a bike parking rack overnight or for a few days. Better to keep it locked inside somewhere.
– Use more than one lock. A thief walks up to a bike parking rack. He’s got a cutting tool. He’s going to be looking for two things – the nicest bikes and the ones that are the easiest to rip off. If you have two locks on your bike and everybody else has one, then your bike is the least likely target.
Also, mix the locks up. Use a U-lock to lock the frame and back tire and a cable lock for the front tire and frame. This way a crook needs two different types of tools. Plus it will take him longer to cut both looks. Time is the enemy of thieves. So make stealing your bike a time-consuming endeavor.
– Find highly-visible bike racks. As we said, just because you locked your bike to a stable and secure commercial bicycle rack doesn’t mean your bike can’t be stolen. The ideal location for a bike parking rack is in front of a busy store or restaurant, out in the public view. Those bike racks should be no more than 50 feet from an establishment.
If there is a store, coffee shop, book store, restaurant, bar, etc., that quite a few bicyclists seem to frequent, talk to the business owner about adding commercial bike racks. Explain to them that there is a great return on investment with bike parking. Studies show consumers who bicycle tend to visit a business more often than motorists and spend more money over the course of a month.
Also, if a business adds a 15-bike wave bicycle rack for example, in essence they are creating 15 parking spots in front of their business. A customer rides a bike to their business or rides a car, doesn’t matter, a customer is a customer.
Tell this to businesses. If you belong to a local bicycle club or have friends who bicycle, let that business owner know you will support that business if they provide a bicycle parking rack. There are also options to add custom bike racks with a business logo or promotional message. That’s like having a mini-billboard 24/7 promoting their business 365 days a year.
– Find a thick bike parking rack. The old-style grid bike racks are generally meant for short time bicycle parking in high-visibility locations. Look for a bike parking rack made with thick piping. This is the popular type of bike rack you now generally see in many locations.
– Try to only lock your bike to a heavy-duty commercial bike rack. You’ve seen it. People will lock their bikes to just about anything. But there can be consequences. For example, if you lock a bike to a tree, a thief with a saw will just cut the tree down. Nobody wants that.
Some people will lock their bikes to railings. Their bike then gets in the way of pedestrians. People can get hurt.
Others will lock their bikes to signposts or parking meters. Well, guess what. Some cities actually have fines for doing this. Forget the thief, city workers will cut the lock and confiscate your bike.
Another sneaky practice is the use of “sucker poles.” This is where thieves pull a sign out of the ground and make it easy to remove. An unsuspecting bicyclist will lock their bike to the sign and walk away. One yank and the sign is out of the ground and the bike is gone.
– Go high-tech with GPS. There are now companies out there that sell GPS devices to track your bicycle should it be stolen. Some of those companies are BikeSpike, Lock8 and Helios. Kryptonite, popular sellers of U-locks, also has a GPS product. LoJack, the GPS recovering device used in cars, once had a product for bikes and motorcycles but discontinued sales. They say they might bring that product back.
– Be prepared if your bike is stolen. Stuff happens. You can have your bicycle parked out in front of a busy restaurant, under a street light, locked to a sturdy bike parking rack, secured in the front and back of the bike. Someone could jump out of a van with a high-tech cutting tool and still rip you off.
But you can be ready for them. For one, get the serial number from your bicycle. There usually is a number at the base of the bike under the crankset where the pedals are located. You probably have to turn the bike upside down to find it.
You can also find a hidden spot to scratch your own identification marks. Another trick is to tape a card underneath the seat or hide a piece of paper inside the handle bars.
Take a photo of your bike. Shoot a photo of the identification numbers. Include photos of any unique characteristics.
Another smart move is to register your bike with local registries. Most police departments now have forms you can fill out that will be stored in their database. Sounds like a pain to do. Not really. Will literally take you less than 30 seconds.
But this will give you tremendous piece of mind. For one, police departments frequently recover a bunch of stolen or abandoned bicycles. Some thieves might just steal a bike for a one night joy ride and then ditch it on the side of the road.
Secondly, if you come across your bike at a flea market, used bike store or a pawn shop, you are going to need proof that you own that bike. Once you can show this to police, they can then yank it out of the hands of the person who stole it, or bought at a steal of a price.
What to do if your bike is stolen from a bike parking rack or elsewhere
If you happen to walk out of a store and find your bike is gone, don’t just grieve and give up (as most people do. Most bike thefts go unreported). Be proactive.
Immediately report the theft to police. They are usually in tune with who is currently stealing bikes to support drug habits or careers as small-time criminals. Also, they will periodically come across bike chop shops where bikes are disassembled and reassembled for sale. If you have the identification marks and the bike registered, you can still recover the frame or other pieces.
If you have a high-end bike that is stolen, be on the lookout. Check out Craigslist and EBay. Visit a few flea markets. Used bike shops. Pawn shops.
Thieves generally have a few spokes missing and are not in the brightest demographic. They might not sell your bike down the street from where it was stolen, but they probably won’t go further than the other side of town.
– Insure your bicycle. There’s a common misconception that bicycles are covered by homeowner insurance policies. That is not necessarily the case. You need to check with your insurance agent to be sure. There might be hidden riders. Get bicycle coverage in writing.
You need to check what your deductible would be as well. A $200 bike might be covered by your insurance policy but if your deductible is $300, you are out of luck.
Also, when you buy a lock see if there is a warranty in the event the bike is stolen. Kryptonite has a bike protection plan. Visit their site for more details.
Finally here’s a bit of advice that is funny and sad at the same time.
Some experts actually suggest you make your bike look ugly or artsy. Paint it with some crazy colors. Add some funky decals or decorations.
This has two purposes. For one, if your bicycle is positioned next to a nicer one at a bike parking rack, then yours is less likely to be stolen. If the thief is acting alone, he can only steal and ride one bike at a time. (Anytime you see someone riding down the street riding a bike and pulling another bike, might be a good time to call the police).
Secondly, a thief is not looking to stand out when they steal a bicycle. If you have an outrageously decorated bicycle, no criminal will want to be seen riding that thing down the street. And no purchaser of stolen goods will want to buy a bike that draws attention like a purple dinosaur.
Bike theft is a stark reality in these times. Thefts are on the rise. It is estimated one million bicycles are stolen in the US every year. Crooks actively check a bike parking rack or other locations for a quick score. Don’t let them make you their latest victim.
Finally, here’s a YouTube video of a woman who is not going to let anybody steal her bike and puts the hammer down on a theft in progress.
Is it possible we are seeing the end of the automobile as a popular mode of transportation? Will we see more self-driving cars instead of SUVs, more bicycle parking racks than parking garages and more people on buses than in BMWs?
Look around. Put your ear to the ground. What do you hear? It’s not car tires. It’s the sound of bicycle tires, light rail and footsteps walking to the curb waiting for an Uber.
This car-less preference is definitely taking place now in cities. There’s been a flurry of articles or newscasts recently about Copenhagen or Amsterdam and how those cities have replaced the car with the bicycle. Other cities around the world are taking notice.
They had to. Metropolitan areas are choked with too many cars. Commuters are sick of all the congestion. Residents are sick of the pollution.
To put a twist on an old Yogi Berra saying, “People aren’t driving there anymore. There’s too much traffic.”
Many are opting to pedal instead. According to the American League of Bicyclists, from 2000 to 2013, the number of people bicycling to work has increased by 62%.
In bike-friendly cities, that amount rose by a whopping 105%.
Millennials prefer bikes and bicycle parking racks
But here’s the real trend that will mean a sea-change in America when it comes to automobiles. It all has to do with Millennials, the iPhone generation, the next generation to take the reins.
Driving by young people dropped 23% between 2001 and 2009. From 2007 to 2011, the age group most likely to buy a car was not newcomers to the work force, but people in the 55 to 64-age group.
According to a University of Michigan study, in 2010 only 69.5% of 19-year-olds in the US had a driver’s license compared to 87.3% in 1983.
What happened? Getting your driver’s license used to be a rite of passage. Now, not so much. That milestone has been replaced by one’s purchase of the newest iPhone or smartphone.
Young people are more interested in technology than they are in automobiles. They’ve see the long commutes their parents drive, they see the escalating cost of buying and maintaining a car, they see how hard it is to find a parking space.
“Meh,” they might think. “I’ll hop on an Uber instead.”
Or, if there is an adequate bicycle infrastructure with bike lanes and bicycle parking racks, “I’ll just ride my bike there.
That’s because there’s an attitudinal shift with young people today regarding transportation. They just want to go from A to B and they don’t particularly care if they do it in a $40,000 Lexus or someone else’s $25,000 Prius.
In 15 years the market for self-driving cars is expected to hit $87 billion. It’s not just Google looking at this technology; all the big automakers are jumping on board. They have to.
Another trend that is monumental is the Millennials shift to the cities instead of the suburbs. In the cities, you don’t need a car at all.
Last year Americans took 10.7 billion trips on mass transit modes of transportation such as trains and buses, up 37% since 1995.
Stung by the Great Recession, Millennials are moving to the cities because that’s where the jobs are. Once there (and paying skyrocketing rents), they will forego the idea of a car. A bicycle is more appealing – healthier, quicker and creates less pollution.
And a big plus, it’s cheaper – there’s no car insurance, expensive gas, costly maintenance, exorbitant parking fees or rising tolls.
Finally, consider this: an automobile is a very wasteful investment; it’s a huge metal appliance that sits idle for most of the day and night. Fills up an entire space in a garage.
If anything, the younger plugged-in generation is all about efficiency. Why write a letter when you can email? Why call when you can text? Why contact a friend when you can tell all your friends what you are up to all at once on Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat. Why own a car, when you can bike or hop on a train?
People in bike-centric cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam not only own bicycles because they like to ride. They own them because it is the quickest and cheapest way to get around.
Americans had a big love affair with automobiles. But we’ve peaked. The next century will be a period of mass transit, bicycle parking racks, bike lanes, bike sharing, car-sharing and driverless cars. People prefer to spend less time driving and more time doing something else. The world is changing to meet that demand.
How do you create a bicycle friendly business? The reason why is obvious. People today love to bicycle. They’re going to love (and frequent) businesses that cater to them.
So, just how do you appeal to cyclists? One obvious way is to provide secure and convenient bike parking in the form of sturdy, high-grade commercial bicycle racks.
But there’s much more that can be done, including actually paying employees to bicycle.
We’ll get into that in a minute. But let’s get back to bike parking. Because, that’s where it all starts. If you want somebody to bike to your business on their favorite bicycle, you’ve got to make sure that bike is safe. Whether it’s for a consumer or an employee.
Bikes today are not cheap. They can get expensive. (Like the Cannondale SuperSix EVO Hi-Mod Dure Ace D12 which sells for $11,650. Some consider it to be the best bike in the world).
More importantly, people become emotionally attached to their bikes. They spend quite a bit of time researching which bike to buy. They spend quite a bit of time riding that bike. Their bike is a reflection of their personality. So help them protect it.
Sturdy high-grade, securely mounted commercial bicycle racks are a must. Make sure you have plenty of space for cyclists to park. You can install a long 15-bike wave style rack or several u-shaped bike racks that will hold a few bikes each. Depends on your space limitations.
But remember no bike lock is completely secure. When you install the bike rack, make sure it is visible from the business. If it is near a restaurant, don’t tuck it around the corner and in the back. Put it within 50 feet so people can see it while they are inside. Place the rack where there is frequent foot traffic nearby. Consider using a car parking space.
If the commercial bicycle racks are for employees, same thing. Keep them visible. Near the front entrance. Where workers are able to look out or down and see no one is trying to rip off their bike.
Discourage employees or customers from attaching their bikes to guardrails, trees or sign posts. For one, they get in the way of pedestrians. For another, objects other than bike racks are generally not very secure at all. Signs can be pulled out of the ground, trees cut, bikes lifted up over the top of poles.
Post helpful information at your business about bicycle safety. Provide maps of local bike lanes and paths. List a few bike repairs shops nearby that are reliable. Perhaps ask them to offer a discount for your employees.
If there isn’t a bike lane in front or near your business, get involved in the local municipality with other businesses to request more bike lanes and a better bike infrastructure. Some cities will actually install a bike parking rack to businesses that request one.
Here’s the pay to ride part. There is actually a federal tax credit under the Bicycle Commuter Act where employers can reimburse employees up to $20 per month for reasonable expenses incurred if they commute to work by bicycle. Ask your accountant about it – it’s in the IRS Code 26 sec. 132 (f).
These bike amenities will also help employees save money on gas. Or parking if they have to pay for it.
Another major benefit for becoming a bicycle friendly business, especially for employers, is the health benefit. Bicycling is certainly 100 times better than driving a car. Healthier employees mean fewer employees using the company insurance and taking days off.
Finally, there’s a major morale boost with employees for any business that is bicycle friendly. Being able to ride your bicycle to work is a major perk for most people. In today’s day and age with companies competing for talent that makes your business a very cool place to work.
The League of American Bicyclists has an actual Bicycle Friendly Business program. To date, they have awarded 950 businesses with their BFB designation. They actually have different levels of recognition – Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum depending on the depth of bike friendly amenities provided.
This organization is the nation’s oldest bicycle advocacy group and its simple philosophy is: “We believe that when more people ride bikes, life is better for everyone.”
For their BFB program, they check on how a business is involved in four bike-related activities: Engineering, Education, Encouragement and Evaluation (and Planning).
Achieving this designation from the League could be a major asset to any business. Think of all the thousands of bicycle riders in your city. Think how you could promote this designation to all of those bicycle riders – either as customers for your business or potential employees.
Also think of how this designation makes you an outstanding member of the community – obviously, a business that cares about cutting automobile congestion, reducing pollution and promoting a healthy lifestyle for its citizens. People notice this. It is great public relations. Something the news media will cover.
The bicycle-friendly status isn’t just for small businesses either. The League reports that 28 of the Fortune 500 have achieved BFB status. These are major corporations. They obviously see the value.
Here’s the bottom line. A business can look at a BFB badge two ways. One, it’s a burden. Just another thing to do.
Or they can be smart and just do it. Because the reality is, it’s a relatively easy task to complete. Add a few commercial bicycle racks. Create a bicycle advocacy program. Meet League criteria.
For employers, designate an employee to promote bicycling to the staff and explain what you are offering as a business. It’s a great perk. Saves them money. Boosts their morale. Keeps them healthy. (Come on, Google gives employees free lunches, free snacks, foosball tables and pods to nap in.)
As a retailer or restaurant, it’s a simple, yet highly effective marketing strategy. Promote your BFB status to the public. Use social media. Contact bicycle clubs. Sponsor some bicycling events. Word of mouth will spread about your business. That part is free advertising.
As you can probably know, bicycling is great for America. It’s a positive lifestyle choice for its citizens. Bicycling can also be very rewarding for businesses as well.
Businesses all over are discovering the value of the bicyclist. They should. Because there are 60 million bicycle enthusiasts in the US and every time a town improves their biking infrastructure, more consumers hop on their bikes.
When a business caters to bicycle riders, for example by providing secure commercial bike racks where they can park, they will be rewarded.
Previously, businesses were opposed to removing parking spaces to make room for bike lanes or for bike parking corrals. But study after study has shown that when you cater to the bicycling consumer, they will tend to flock to you area.
In NYC, after adding bike lanes on Ninth Avenue, the Department of Transportation found that retail sales shot up by nearly 50%.
On First and Second Avenues, bike traffic grew 177%, more stores opened, and empty storefronts dropped as a result. That’s a model for other downtowns to emulate.
Officials in North Carolina’s Outer Banks reported their one-time investment of $6.7 million for bike infrastructure has resulted in NINE times the return as bicycle tourism became more popular.
One study by Portland State University tried to determine the real benefits of bicyclers on a granular level. The research was funded by the Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium and really tried to dig deep to discover the impact from bicycle riders compared to other modes of transportation.
To do this, researchers conducted short surveys of actual customers as they left bars, restaurants and convenience stores.
What they uncovered was that while bicycle riders did not spend as much per trip as people who arrived at the destination by car, they visited the businesses MORE OFTEN and at the end of the month, SPENT MORE OVERALL than auto drivers.
Here’s the breakdown of Trips per Month, Dollars Spent per Trip and Dollars Spent per Month.
Auto – 4.5 trips – $13.70 per trip – $61.03 per month.
Bike – 7.1 trips – $10.66 per trip – $75.66 per month.
Transit – 5.7 trips – $10.15 per trip – $58.16 per month.
Walk – 5 trips – $11.25 per trip – $66.22 per month.
This flies in the face of conventional wisdom held by most local business people. Yes, someone coming up to your business on a bicycle might not buy a bunch of stuff at one time (one issue is, how would they carry it? Yes, there’s more space in a car).
But, that person is more likely to return to your business more often on a bicycle (hopping on a bike is certainly easier than driving a car, especially when it comes to finding a dreaded parking space).
When it comes to restaurants and bar, it’s a no-brainer. Ride a bike to eat, then work it off on the way home.
Ride to a bar, then you don’t have to worry so much about a DUI (although you can get a DUI for riding under the influence on a bicycle).
For many cities, parking and traffic are the main issues. Just think, remove one parking spot for one car and add commercial bike racks. You then create a bike corral that can accommodate around 20 bikes.
That’s a 2000% increase in the number of customers you are attracting to your business. Got to run quite a few ads to accomplish the same thing.
Congestion caused by cars is a deterrent for most people. But with a bicycle, there is no issue.
The other fantastic benefit of giving bicycles access to a business district is the pace at which consumers drive by. In a car, drivers whiz by on their way to their destination and can’t stop, less they get harassed by the honking horn of the driver behind them.
But with a bike lane in front of a business area, consumers can come and go freely. They are able to take the time to discover what each business is all about.
Then consider the price of gas. Sure it’s less than $3 per gallon now and was headed south for a while, but then it mysteriously shot back up again. Consumers know they are never going to win that battle. Better off using people power instead. Every calorie expended is money not spent at the pump.
Savvy business people are actually now offering discounts to bike riders. Give them 10% off if they visit your business by bicycle. This has several benefits.
For one, bicyclists feel they belong to a select community and your business obviously is acknowledging this group. Secondly, word will spread through that two-wheel community about the discount.
Third, that bicycle rider will not be taking up a valuable parking space that might attract a customer by car. A deluge of people swamping an area can scare customers away. Remember that old adage by Yogi Berra, “People don’t go there anymore. It’s too crowded.”
Clever businesses are now even offering valet bike parking. Pedal up, get off, and a valet will secure your bicycle at nearby commercial bike racks for you.
This appeal to bicycle riders doesn’t just apply to retailers and the hospitality industry. Smart real estate developers are now making sure they add first-class commercial bike racks, bike storage and other bicycle amenities to their projects. They advertise those benefits because they know it creates one more reason why a renter or condo buyer will want to locate there.
To encourage businesses to jump on the bicycling consumer bandwagon, the League of American Bicyclists even launched a Bicycle-Friendly Business program issued to businesses that make the effort to accommodate bicyclists by providing such items as secure commercial bike racks (more detail on that in another blog).
Business would be smart to wear that BFB designation as a badge of honor. More importantly, use it as a billboard to attract customers. Post it on the website. Promote it on Facebook. Announce it frequently on Twitter. Add it to every email blast. Show photos of bikes parked at your commercial bike racks on Instagram and Pinterest.
Sure, this is the age of the iPad and the smartphone. But guess what? More than ever, people want to ride their bikes. Persuade town officials to add more bike lanes in front of business districts.
Add the right amenities such as commercial bike racks to create the right atmosphere for the bicyclist as a consumer. Add reaching out to this group to every marketing plan. It’s a fact. When people stop pedaling, they start spending.
IT’S AMAZING HOW MANY PEOPLE FAIL TO SEE THE POINT WHEN IT COMES TO BICYCLES. Bicycling is BIG business. We’re so focused on giant highway projects, massive train upgrades and huge airport expansions we tend to overlook bike lanes as a major economic strategy.
Bicycling in America generates $133 billion dollars annually. That’s goods and services used by a record 60 million bicyclists in the US.
Those bike dollars support employment for 1.1 million Americans.
Tax revenue created by bicyclists on the federal, state and local level is about $17.7 billion per year.
Think about all the positive implications of a bicycling nation.
In our economy, the public mostly has sedentary jobs. They sit in front of computer terminals all day long. Bicycling gets those legs and hearts pumping. Burns up calories. Moves muscles.
We also tend to drive our cars a lot. Everywhere. Riding a bicycle to work, or to a store or a restaurant cuts down the number of vehicles on a street. Traffic is a major nightmare in every city and town across America. Building trains, adding buses and licensing more cabs is not the only solution. Give people an option to bike instead.
That massive number of cars we drive continues to create a massive amount of pollution. Especially in cities. Creating ways to get more people on bicycles certainly puts less carbon into the atmosphere and cuts down on that brown haze overhead.
Add bike sharing stations near train and bus terminals. That encourages more people to use mass transit because they know they can hop on a bike to reach their destination.
So, why isn’t this nation focused on building more bike lanes? Adding more bike parking racks and sprucing up our bicycling infrastructure overall? People for Bikes reports that 47% of American say they want more bike paths in their community.
Sure, it always comes down to money. But in this case, the money works in our favor.
Consider the economic impact from bicycling in the following states. (Source: Study by the League of American Bicyclists and Alliance for Biking & Walking).
Colorado – this state is gaining a reputation as THE BICYCLING STATE. The Colorado Dept. of Transportation said that back in the year 2000 bicycling contributed $1 billion to the economy. This state is in gear when it comes to promoting bicycling as a lifestyle and a vacation.
Wisconsin – a study four years ago said bicycling contributed $924 million to the state’s economy. This state, by the way, has 20% share of bicycling manufacturing in the US. That’s nearly a cool billion generated from a simple two-wheeled device.
Minnesota – the spending generated by bicycles is estimated at $261 million.
Vermont – they estimate that biking and walking creates at least 1,400 jobs, $41 million in paychecks and $83 million in revenue.
Maine – this is a one of the top ten bicycle friendly states in the nation and their efforts paid off as it generated $66 million in 2001 with their popularity as a place for bicycle tourism. Imagine how much that annual revenue has increased in the past 14 years.
Oh, there’s more. While some states are not pedaling to success, many cities and town are jumping on the bike path on their own. And it’s paying off big time for them. Build a bike path, people use it.
Portland, OR, officials said when they did a study in 2008, the found that bicycles generated about $90 million in economic activity from retail, rentals and repairs.
Boulder, CO, estimates that bikes generate $52 million annually in just that one mid-size city alone. That’s incredible.
In New York City, after the Department of Transportation added protected bike lanes along Ninth Avenue, retail sales went up 49%. Wow. What a great and inexpensive way to stimulate an economy. (By the way, if you have people bicycling past your business, it’s smart to stick a bike parking rack out front to get their attention…and spending dollars).
Don’t forget the enormous dollar savings in health benefits. This is another major factor that needs to be taken into consideration. More people bicycling makes for more healthy citizens and fewer citizens in hospital beds.
Businesses are starting to get it. Want to immediately draw people to your business? Place commercial bike racks out front. Take away a parking spot or two and add a bike corral. When consumers park in front of your business, they are very likely to spend money at your business. Studies show a 15%-25% bump in sales.
Bicycle tourism is booming. What a simple way to attract tourists. Ski resorts get it. Many are adding mountain biking trails. Some states get it. Iowa’s 25-mile super cool High Trestle Trail is a perfect example of how to create a biking destination.
Europe is much older than the United States. Yet they still bicycle everywhere. For example, some experts say 50% of the people in Copenhagen bicycle to work. One out of two commuters. Why? Because it’s the most efficient way to get around.
The Department of Transportation had a $77.2 billion budget for 2014. How much of that money goes toward creating transportation systems using bikes? Probably not much. Heck when providing transportation for bicyclists, unlike trains or buses, they don’t even have to supply the seats. American bicyclists will take care of that.
You can see the economic benefit. It’s there. Time to get civic leaders on board, or better yet, on a bicycle. Use all those studies that are available to get the word out about the benefits of bike paths, bike parking racks and a bigger bicycle infrastructure.