Tag Archives: locking

Why is locking a bike harder than locking my car?

In Copenhagen, parking my bike is fantastic- at least from the cyclists’ perspective. No one locks their bike ‘to’ anything. They just roll up to their destination and flip the integrated lock on the back wheel. This can be a hassle for pedestrians, handicap, elderly and shop owners if it blocks the sidewalk, shop windows etc. so that is still an issue. But people pretty much just want to park as close as possible to their destination, preferably about less than 50meters/yards. If there are racks and they aren’t full in Copenhagen, people will usually use them. But if they are farther away or full then people generally won’t use them.

In the US, bikes are typically more expensive (more commonly designed for recreational use, though this is changing) and theft is higher. People want to lock their bikes to something. But there is often nothing to park to. So people park to meters or have to get more inventive.

Even if there is something to park to, you often end up scraping the paint off the bike, fighting with mis-sized pole/lock combos, pushing around other bikes attached to the same post, getting grease on your pants and hassling for a long time with your cable. And then what do you do with the helmet? Take it with you or lock it with your bike?

Let us imagine a comparable situation in a car. A person rolls into a parking space, only it’s not a ‘space’ it’s just some spot on the sidewalk wide enough for a car and there’s already another car next to it. There isn’t enough room for both really, so they have to get so close that they actually scratch the paint off a  door. The guy squirms out the passenger door and then spends the next minute crawling around on the ground trying to attach his front wheel to a parking meter with a chain so no one steals his tires. He gets dirt and grease and junk all over his professional clothing. It’s a bit farther than he thought though and the cable doesn’t reach so he has to move the car another foot, scratching up his car and the other car more. This whole time, people are watching and getting annoyed. He goes back in the car, takes out ‘the club’ and attaches it to his steering wheel. He then gets out of the car and locks the door. He walks off, exasperated. Pedestrians and grandmothers can’t walk down the sidewalk. The other guy comes back and gets pissed that he’s ‘parked in’ and the door is scratched. Plus the guy accidentally locked his wheel too.

Can someone make a rough approximation of this into a catchy video?

###

Here are some good ideas for bicycle locks.

bike lock frozen so I had to take transit. yucko.

Yesterday my bike lock was frozen so I couldn’t unlock my bike. It was -5C. I poured boiling water over it which worked. But then when I went to leave the university, I couldn’t even get my key in because some water had gotten in and frozen solid. So I had to take the metro, which was annoying because I was going to go to two different events in two parts of town and it was freezing cold out.

The ticket machine at the metro was broken so I just got on the train. Guess what? Two seconds after I sat down, the guards checked me for my ticket! I explained to them that the machines were broken and they were fortunately nice enough to let me punch my ticket at the next stop. Spared a $100 spot fine but score major minus points for transit for the stress and crappy experience.

Then on my way to the second place, I took the metro to a bus. There was probably a better way to go but I don’t really know the bus lines that well since I never ride them (and I can’t take my bike on them) and I don’t have internet on my phone.  The bus was of course 5 minutes late and there were about 100 people getting on it because their bike locks were probably frozen too. It was freezing to wait and I had to stand in the packed bus. My girlfriend also had to wait for me at the other end for about 10 minutes, and that was including stopping back at the bar on the way because she forgot her hat. Again, twice as long, twice as cold, twice as expensive (actually infinitely more since biking is free).

On my last trip home, I decided to just ride on the package carrier of my girlfriend’s bike. Not so comfortable and probably the coldest way since I was just sitting and moving with frigid -10C (at night) air blowing on my face. But probably still better than waiting for and paying for the bus. I offered to pedal but she refused. I think because she knew it would be colder to sit!

Overall, taking transit took twice as long as biking, cost several times more and was actually colder. Walking to and from the station is colder than biking because you are less active. Maybe we need some indoor bike parking so we don’t get this problem!

Locked tricycle

I got this shot just across the bridge on the canal near my apartment in Amsterdam. I always think it’s amusing to see little kids’ bikes locked up outside.

Trust and leaving your bike unlocked


A few days ago I was in southern Sweden in a small coastal town called åhus in Skåne and I came across this unlocked bicycle. Apparently, the guy who owned it was working in the boat at the dock just beside it, but I think it is still quite cozy to be in a town where you can leave your bike unlocked.

People tend to be looser with locking when they are watching, but in cities like Amsterdam or Copenhagen people still often lock up even if they are having a coffee just next to their bike.